Unfortunately I missed last year’s UX Australia conference in Sydney, so I was determined to attend this year even if I had to pay to fly myself over from New Zealand … which I did.
UX Australia this year felt less like a UX design conference and more like a conference for UX designers. What I mean by that is there were several prominent presentations that weren’t about UX but were obliquely relevant and inspiring.
I think of Stephen Cox’s talk on design anthropology and Bill DeRouchey on compassion and curiosity that drives designers to ask “Why?”. These presentations where not restricted to software and web design or customer experience design or user experience design but design generally. Over the past year I’ve become increasingly bothered by prefixing my role with “user experience” because I consider what I do to be simply ‘design’ … and I feel that’s what this year’s UX Australia was pointing towards.
Yes some of us specialise in software user interfaces, some in customer service touchpoints, but our mindset and our toolkit shouldn’t be so focused on wireframes or even customer journey mapping. We have to look further afield to whether we as designers can influence change and push society closer towards addressing some of the more significant issues than our employer’s bottom line.
On the subject of mindsets I feel the conference addressed some of the issues of exclusivity in the UX community and elitism, that being a designer is more about an attitude and a desire to improve the situation of people rather than any technical knowledge. Our role is to talk to people, to accept we don’t know, to bring experts together and facilitate collaboration, to help visualise concepts and go through an iterative process of experimentation and evaluation until we reach a point where we’re at a solution that meets the need and is good enough.
Another important aspect of our roles as designers – once again thanks to Bill – is as communicators and evangelists. We strive to understand and take a genuine interest in the plight of people – be they users, customers or citizens – and once a solution to a problem or need has been developed and verified then we shift into telling people why; why things need to change, why this solution will work.
Sure, there were a few UI design talks too like Shane Morris’ introduction to the Windows 8 “Metro” design language and Bronwyn van der Merwe on the BBC’s Global Experience Language which were very interesting, but that’s about as “technical” as the conference got.
So that’s my overview and my takeaway from UX Australia 2012 in Brisbane. I have more thoughts on specific topics that I will blog about here and possibly elsewhere over the next month.
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