A slightly belated blog post this one - but hopefully worth the wait.
On 5th December last year I ran the first UX South West event in Exeter. It was an idea I'd spoken to a few people about at UX Bristol earlier in the year. General consensus was that there's a rapidly growing UX community in the South West - but despite the proliferation of User Experience events around the country, few come further south than Bristol.
My initial expectations for the first UXSW event were not set that high. I booked a space and wrote a few Tweets asking for proposals from anyone interested in running a talk or workshop around UX.
The response I got back far exceeded my expectations, with offers from a number of highly experience UX professional - and what was clearly going to be a really strong line up for a day's UX conference.
And it did indeed prove to be a popular event with 45 attendees - this group size made for a great dynamic with more involvement from everyone than is possible in bigger audiences. The audience was a diverse mix of designers, developers, project managers, UX specialists and a multitude of other roles.
First up on the day was Ali Carmichael from Experience Solutions - whose talk was a perfect introduction to the UX industry. Aimed primarily at people new to UX it was a great start to the day - but Ali's experience in UX over that last decade or so meant even attendees working in UX for some time were able to find things to take away about best practice for user testing or methodologies to consider for future.
Next up was Joe Dollar-Smirnov from Red Badger. Joe ran a workshop with teams creating some quick tests for Sky Scanner and O'Neil websites to perform SUS (software usability scale) tests. Teams were encouraged to think about creating realistic scenarios to present to site testers with clear questions that will give you helpful answers without obviously guiding users to a correct answer. It was fun!
Alan Colville from Colville CX was the next speaker. Alan ran a workshop demonstrating various approaches we can use to improve working relationships with clients on UX projects. Alan's workshop helped prompt discussion points between groups to think about clients Goals, Needs, Hopes and Fears for any new project - as well as opinions from the group on our experiences of input and interest from clients at different stages of project. The objective being to help us as 'UX designers' to understand the project from a clients perspective better and consider ways to anticipate problems and communicate in helpful ways.
Following Alan's talk was Mariana Mota-Morris organiser at UX Oxford. Mariana's workshop proved to be a perfect follow on to Alan's - and expanded on the client relationships theme. Mariana helped show a kind of framework you can use when talking with clients to ensure you communicate positively and in a way that prompts further thought or discussion and broaches difficult/negative topics in non-confrontational ways. We had some fun role-playing scenarios in our groups walking through different client/developer roles.
Our 5th talk for UXSW was from Jay Spanton. Jay presented 8 quick and free techniques for UX testing. I think what Jay's talk demonstrated is that any User Testing is better than none - and even if the client has absolutely no budget for it, you can always find a way to include some for next to no cost. It also suggested to me that in using some of these approaches, you can probably then show a client the benefits of even basic user testing and give them confidence in allocating some budget for more advanced testing in future.
Last speaker for the day was Greg Hepworth from WDS. Greg's talk actually made for a perfect conclusion to the day. For most of us, our UX work focussed on websites. Greg talked about how a website is likely to be only a part of a customers overall experience with a brand - and attention to UX needs to look for consistency across web, phone, email, apps, social media and instore. A UX failure in any of these areas could negate any positives gained in others.