UX Australia thoughts and highlights

This week I was lucky enough to attend the UX Australia user experience design conference in Brisbane. I decided to attend based on a recommendation from a colleague and the interesting array of practical and aspirational talks and workshops. Usability is central to everything in the intranet space (where I am focused) and while I don’t have a UX in my title I could see the benefit in spending a few days deep-diving on the topic. Here is a very high level overview of my personal highlights from the conference.

Before the conference even began I spent a day filling my head with gems of information about making highly usable and effective forms. Wonderfully facilitated by Jessica Enders of Formulate the day balanced practical and theoretical, had many useful real-life examples. Not only did I take away pages of my own notes but Jessica supplied handy note sheets with key information. I am looking forward to getting back in the office and applying the four Cs of form design in my work: clear, concise, clever and cooperative.

Certainly the keynote from Bill DeRouchey, who sought to enlighten us on The Power of “Why?”, was a stand out. The takings from Bill’s entertaining presentation were that being a good usability designer is about asking “why?” and doing so with compassion and curiosity.

Bill  asserted that designers need to be tenacious and to have a genuine interest in connecting with people to work on solving their problems. He empowered us to all be evangelists, to live to 90, question everything and then redesign it all.

Presentation slide: Live to be at least 90 years old. Practice asking Why? Really connect with people. With Compassion. With Curiosity. Question everything, small and big. And then go redesign it all.

An unexpected highlight for me was The design anthropologist’s mindset from Stephen Cox. Stephen’s presentation was clever and humorous, breaking down a complex subject into something interesting and surprisingly emotional. He showed us the linkages between design and anthropology and that ultimately it was about improving humanity.

Just before the closing keynote we were treated to a live version of ‘What the #$%@ is UX Design?’ by Matthew Magain of UX Mastery. Which I have embedded here for your viewing pleasure.

The conference was wrapped up with a truly wonderful keynote from Tim Horton on The rise of the design-smart city which left us inspired and hopeful for a future where usable design experience is embedded in the way the infrastructure that supports society is built.

Special mention goes to Teale Shapcott and James Robertson for flying the intranet flag and advocating for the enterprise usability experience. Teale talked about Combining Agile, Lean and Usability within Suncorp and James gave us the best of the Intranet Innovation awards.

As my twitter feed will attest I have not touched on all of the presentations I was able to attend, covering them all would be an epic blog post indeed. I will post a link to the speaker slides when they are released and perhaps discuss some of the other presentations in future blog posts.

Through all of the presentations common threads emerged around the intrinsic connectedness of usability to humanity, in that ultimately usability is about improving our experience of being human; and about the nature of being a usability professional, that it is about compassion and probing questions and that we should share this with others. For me this was an affirmation and an inspiration, that I am not alone in keeping a steadfast focus on doing what is best for the user.

Well done to Steve Baty and Donna Spencer for pulling together a great conference with a fantastic line up of speakers. I look forward to next year’s conference which will be in Melbourne, a little closer to home.

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