I’m very grateful to work for an organization that supports our professional development enough to send us to educational events yearly. Typically, I attend more creatively oriented design conferences (Future of Web Apps/Future Insights Live, An Event Apart), but this year I decided to try something new. While the location in beautiful Coronado Bay San Diego, CA was a draw (I’ve never been to California and it’s been on my bucket list), this year's User Experience Professional Association conference looked like a deeper theme that would be relevant to my career focus and help push me in new directions.
One major difference was how research-heavy this event was both in content and roles of attendees. I felt like it was a little more large organization-oriented which was interesting because there were sessions that addressed challenges specifically for that sort of environment. Sometimes the more creative design conferences (though awesome) lean toward entrepreneur mentality more than in-house.
Neither are better or worse, but they are different beasts for sure as far as challenges to overcome. I consider myself in both of these camps so it was really cool to experience a new perspective. There were also a lot less traditional career paths which I felt in good company around.
I came away with loads of inspiration of course relating to empathy and user research guiding design decisions. While those theories are always discussed in design conferences, this one focused heavily on how to actually acquire that perspective and data and create deliverables to share and work from. It was inspiring to see how some companies are instituting customer and user oriented business/product design models and what resources we could take away from that. Discussions around design-forward business and how to structure teams within an organization were welcome, and it was great to see how much our team is doing “right” amongst all the new ideas I took back. I felt like I was a minority there as a designer, but there were a few that I met who agreed with the fresh perspective being helpful; in particular from the keynote speakers.
Some of the new directions I'm exploring deeper from this event now are:
- Focus on storytelling. Not just from the user but to your team - back to the user.
- Iteration in practice: research never ends.
- Research methods and techniques I could potentially be utilizing from researchers already to influence my designs (public and market data).
- Everyone in your company needs to be exposed to customer pain/experience in some capacity.
- Comparing what we think we know to what research shows and analyzing those gaps
- Empathy. Simplicity. Reducing friction - but don't be afraid to challenge the user with reward if the solution becomes so simplistic that it loses the humanity. Apply calculated risks.
New experiences in life can also be considered calculated risks, but somehow always worth taking.