The UXPA 2016 Conference was a whirlwind of excitement, networking, information overload (in a good way), and UX inspiration. This was my first time in Seattle and I was told multiple times how lucky I was for the hot and sunny weather (thanks Seattle)! During my time there, I had a great time listening and learning from other UX researchers and designers, attending the powerfully spoken keynotes and useful sessions, as well as touring the amazing city of Seattle.

Some of my favorite moments from the conference via Twitter included: Discussion of the RunPee app to see the future, the #UXCupofJoe at Starbucks Roastery, the talk of women dominating the UX scene in 2016, UX researchers voicing their pet peeves, some UX drinking games were played, lots of talk around UX for change (which I love), and many, many UXPA takeaway sketches.

There were so many insightful sessions presented at UXPA 2016. Although I wasn’t able to attend all of them, the sessions I did attend provided great content, quality insights, and useful takeaways. Here are my highlights from my favorite sessions:

Women of UX panel

As a woman in UX Research, this session was inspirational to say the least. There were six distinguished UX professionals that sat on the panel including: Tamara Adlin, Tammy Snow, Sylvia Olveda, Ashby Fiser, Susan Motte and Rebecca Destello. The discussion revolved around how they got into the wonderful field of UX, their career progression and how being a woman has impacted their career and any struggles they have had along the way. The panel allowed plenty of time for questions and dialogue with the audience and overall it was a very inspiring and thought provoking session that I’m glad I attended.

15 Killer Lessons Learned from 15 Years of UX Research

This session was fun to attend and gave many useful nuggets to walk away with. Beth Toland and Leah Rader spoke on the 15 lessons they’ve learned from collaborating on design research during the past 15 years together. Some of the lessons they spoke on included:

  • Make models, make friends. They emphasized the importance of creating models to tell your UX research story. Models and stories are tools for thinking and discussion. Models can help you tell stories and stories form models in your mind.

o   Recommendation: Read Hugh Dubberly’s article, “Models of Models” and practice visual modeling.

  • Know who should care and what to do about it. Think of the core project team (enduring understanding), stakeholders (important to know), interested people (worth being familiar with) and then everyone else.

o   Recommendation: Map your organization/teams to this model.

  • Practice Sherpa Synthesis. Think about after each session:

o   What new things did we notice?

o   Any patterns or familiarity?

o   Improvements in the process?

  • Mine your mind. Design your work process to maximize subconscious contributions.

o   Recommendations:

    • Best for hard problems: If you see problems at night, solve them in the morning after sleeping. If you see problems in the morning, solve them in the same morning.
    • Best for easy problems: If you see problems in the morning, solve them later that evening. If you see problems in the evening, solve them in the same evening.
  • Plan backwards. Borrow from the curriculum development theory called Backward Design and plan your UX research projects from end to start. From experience, this helps you cover your bases. Think of it this way:

o   End goal/result > Timeline > Approach/Methods > Begin!

Product Content Strategy

Alaine Mackenzie spoke on exactly how she put together the content strategy for Shopify. This session was interesting as she walked through how she came up with the plan, how she executed it and how it performed.  Below are Alaine’s recommendations for building a content strategy:

1. Get to know people.

  • Try to get to know everyone in the office or the company you are building the strategy for. Ask who they are, what they do, what do they want, what are their challenges. Make sure to listen in this phase, and try not to talk.

2. Focus on quick wins.

  • An example she gave of this is writing a blog post. Alaine would sit down with whomever was supposed to write a blog post and help them write it for one hour of the day. This started to build relationships and trust with others in the office.
  • Recommendation: Focus on training others on the strategic aspect of content.

3. Do things, tell people (all the time).

  • Don’t be afraid to be a broken record and talk about the importance of content all the time. Talk relentlessly about content and become part of the culture. Try to always be at company events.

4. Educate and empower (don’t take over)

  • Focus on training and self-serve resources.
  • In-person training is very effective. For example, every new person at their office now does a 30 minute training session with the content team and receives “top 10 tips for writing content”.

5. Provide self-serve resources.

  • Examples of important content resources:

o   Voice and tone guide

o   Editorial style guide

o   Vocabulary list such as hyphenations and capitalization rules

o   Automated testing of style guide standards (pass or fail before launching)

o   Content templates for common UI elements

o   Content playbook with processes and tools (knowing when to talk to content strategists and what kind of problems they can solve)

Journey Mapping with Legs

This session was presented by Jeanne Turner and Julie Francis and covered how to structure a productive journey map kickoff, research methodologies that reveal the most useful insights, what features make a great journey map and how to maximize the impact of your journey map. Here are some of the tips and best practices they provided:

Best Practice 1: Collaborate. Do not create a journey map on your own.

Best Practice 2: Focus. Think of a journey map as anything you want it to be. Focus on the outcome.

  • Involve key stakeholders in the interview process.
  • No matter how beautifully designed the journey map is, it needs to have stakeholder buy in.
  • Think of the why. What is the reason you’re creating a journey map?
  • Think of who the audience is that the journey map is for.
  • Determine the scope and the timeframe.

Best Practice 3: Research Based. The research will help you find your blind spots.

  • Know your audience and how to speak their language.

o   Peek End rule: People judge their experiences on the peek or the end of their experiences.

o   Need to understand how their emotions are changing throughout the experience.

o   Example: Think of how Ikea has the treats (e.g. rolls, ice cream) next to checkout lines

o   Give stakeholders something to do to help with the process such as letting them sketch the map.

o   Triangulate the data.

o   Make sure you appeal to right brain and left brain – qualitative and quantitative.

o   Know your internal customers and speak their language.

o   Perform qualitative research for journey mapping.

Best Practice 4: Customized. Customize the journey map to meet pain points.

  • Don’t try to visualize the map until you’ve finished synthesizing the research.
  • Aim for low-fidelity design and high-fidelity ideas.
  • Examples of journey map visualization:

o   Map Inset: Show the complete journey and parts of the journey

o   Interactive Map: Click to show more detail of each step of the journey

o   Scrappy Mapping: Post scrappy post-its on the wall to organize your ideas and capture what you’re learning.

Best Practice 5: Integrated. Integrate the journey map into the business.

  • “Don’t sell it, don’t pitch it, weave it into your culture”.
  • Use the journey map to create road maps.
  • Create a workshop and pre-recruit users to take the findings, create a scrappy road map, identify pain points, and design scenario to ensure journey map is being used.
  • Treat it like public art like the Chicago bean – display it prominently for all employees to see.

Check out the majority of the session slides here from UXPA’s LinkedIn Slideshare using the UXPA2016 tag. There were also a lot of helpful resources shared that you should check-out if interested :

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