This is a quick post to collect my thoughts on the excellent Brighton UX conference. It was my first time at Brighton UX (although I was attending with some seasoned Brighton UXers), and I really enjoyed it - lots of good talks, and a good vibe all-round.
This was the standout talk of the conference for me - engaging to watch, straightforward to understand and absolutely grounded in the practicalities of conducting UX research.
To summarise, Gerry's method revolves around the following processes:
- Finding out what all of the possible tasks a customer or user of a product may feasibly be trying to complete when using the product or service.
- Asking a representative group of customers to rank their 'top tasks'; those that are most important to them, or which they most use, culminating in the creation of an overall league table for all tasks.
- Select a small group of the crowdsourced 'top tasks', then hold moderated sessions where used are asked to complete the tasks (while being observed or recorded).
- Record success rates and time to completion metrics for each task to use as baselines, then start documenting the positive and negative outcomes in order to identify opportunities for fixes to be implemented (or 'positive' behaviours to be encouraged).
- After implementation rinse and repeat stages 3 and 4 to produce further iterative enhancement oportunities.
As can be seen, this is a really good example of using actual customer feedback in a really practical and accessible manner in order to drive improvements that are truly important to the consumers of the product or service.
It's so self-explanatory that I don't really have much to add apart from that I'm really looking forward to trying it out!
As a bit of an arty type myself, I found this talk really interesting.
There's so much crossover between technical design and traditional art - both are of course intensely creative disciplines, with constant re-invention at their cores. Only the highest quality or strikingly innovative examples from each domain are ever likely to stand out from the crowd, which is a great thing really - it keeps people on their toes, constantly trying out new techniques and approaches.
Alexsandra talked quite a bit about a pitfall that many people face when trying to come up with new solutions, and one which I recognise myself - the trap of relying too much on observing other people's work in order to inspire their own. We're not really talking about plagiarism as such - rather, it's the phenomena of being unconsciously led or anchored by another person's approach.
Let's first recognise that there's definitely a time and a place for taking inspiration from other people's work. In the arts, Monet took inspiration from Renoir, and in turn inspired the post-impressionist movement. Half the musical world takes inspiration from Prince, David Bowie and Aretha Franklin. In technology, many modern apps and websites are inspired by Google's Material Design principles. All of which is good, and the world is a better place for it.
However, I absolutely agree with Alexsandra insofar as when are are trying to be 'blue-sky' creative or innovative, being influenced by the work of others can sometimes be a hindrance. We find ourselves bound to the mental models of others which, once anchored, are hard to slip away from.
As a technology consultant, I'm frequently introduced to the new concepts, domains and problems by clients who are (for the most part) keen to implement high quality / innovative solutions. Up until now, my own method for dealing with this issue (which, while effective, is hardly elaborate) has simply been to ensure that I start building my own mental models and proposed workflows/enhancements before I move onto any competitor analysis. This way, I avoid getting trapped inside someone else's solution.
What Alexsandra has done is to take this a step further - she has developed a set of 'triggers' that she uses to make sure that not only is she viewing the project outside the boundaries of existing solutions, she is consistently examining each and any project using a defined, wide-ranging array of creative approaches.
It's a great idea, and one that I'll try to incorporate into my own workflow on future projects.
It'd be great to hear from anyone who has had experience using either Gerry's or Alexsandra's approaches in practice - if you have, please leave us a comment below to let people know how it went!