7 min read

UX London 2014

Adtrak arrived at UX London on the last day of the convention – Day 3 Platforms. We spent the morning listening to speakers and then had a practical workshop on Responsive Content Modelling in the afternoon.

It’s a difficult task to recap on a full day of such good and inspiring talks. Most of all, it was very inspiring and made us think about user experience from a new and fresh perspective.

Scott Jenson

The Physical Web

During the morning we watched 5 speakers, the first being Scott Jenson, who talked about the ‘Physical Web‘ and how fast the design community is moving, being able to do more than ever before.

Scott mainly talked about the IOT – Internet of Things – and how it affects our lives now and how it might have more of a positive influence as we may think. He believes that mobile apps aren’t necessarily ideal in the fast-paced world of technology for example, and that app functions should be incorporated within websites and interlink with each other rather than every shop and product having its own app.  He wrote an article called ‘Apps Must Die’, which you can find here. Nowadays, everyone is focused on home control, e.g. making your washing machine or your TV smart, but the much bigger prize is the public space with buses, trains, rental cars and vending machines pretty much everywhere we go. All these people / sectors want us to use their app.

Are we going to reach a point where we download an app for every store we enter, every smart poster we see, or every smart museum we go to? How many apps will we have to download? As we move to single use experiences, apps become hopelessly quaint. Scott asks us to rethink the increasingly closed nature of the IOT.

He also talked about how products will always develop and improve and that we should be careful about standardising features such as ‘pull to refresh’ on the iPhone, giving the development of the steering wheel as an example and explaining how it has always developed and changed. This follows the simple pattern of something being familiar, then the process of it maturing until a revolution is reached which eventually will become familiar again (the shape of innovation), which we can see with so many products. It’s easy to be blinded by the giants of the day, he said, and gave the example of the iPhone as being great now, but to keep worshiping it and copying its model is just getting stuck in an intellectual gravity well.

Speaker: Stephanie Rieger

Beyond progressive enhancement

Jenson’s talk was followed up by Stephanie Rieger, who asked the question whether the internet will be seamless by 2020, and will objects analyse us and other objects, turning into systems rather than individuals? She said every company is now a tech company and should be supporting each other in order to improve the bigger picture.

It is also becoming a lot more common to ‘dip in and out of websites’ rather than spending a lot of time on a single website, so the aim of a web designer shouldn’t necessarily be keeping people on the website but connecting with other websites allowing services and companies to work together. For example, a user should be able to decide which app or website they want to use to complete a task rather than this being decided for them.

Speaker: Carla Diana

Making a meaning in an IOT

Another talk was by Carla Diana, a hybrid designer, who showed us examples of visions becoming reality.

“During 2008, the number of things connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on earth. By 2020 there will be 50 billion.”

  • Karotz –  – a customisable rabbit who informs you what the weather is like, keeps an eye on your home while you are away and connects to your friends or the ambient umbrella which simply lights up when you walk past it and bad weather is forecast.
  • Good Night Lamp – The Good Night Lamp is a family of internet-connected lamps. You have a Big Lamp and Little Lamps. The Little Lamps can be given away to anyone in the world, and when you turn your Big Lamp on, the Little Lamps turn on remotely.
  • Apron Alert – an apron that can sense when the cook has put it on to start a meal, and when he or she has removed it and the meal is ready to be served. In response, the apron triggers a series of tweets or text messages to let people know when a meal is being prepped and when it’s time to come to the table – a project Carla Diana was involved with herself.

She also played a video called ‘A Day In The Near Future’ which is a cartoon that gives us an idea of our possible and probable future.

Speaker: Dan Hill

Designing how cities happen (after the internet)

A particularly interesting speaker was Dan Hill who talked about using our advanced technical abilities for environmental purposes, such as making people more aware of the environment around them. Informing people of bad air quality or making them more aware of alternative transport options might encourage them to rethink driving short distances.

Self-driving cars, which are currently being developed by Google, could reduce traffic by 80% if a sharing system was introduced. He gave examples of food festivals being arranged in cities via Facebook and mentioned how big AirBnB is now, even compared to the biggest hotel chains, due to it being a community instead of an individual company.

He also pointed out how much more efficiently we could give out messages to our local communities using technology rather than hanging badly designed A4 sheets to lamp posts!

Steve Fisher

Responsive content modelling

In the afternoon we did a workshop with Steve Fisher, an Experience Architect, who talked about responsive content modelling, which tied in with our design process at Adtrak.Because layout and user context is constantly changing, we have to make sure that content priorities are represented consistently across browsing platforms.

Audience profileThis started with making a profile of who we believed our target audience was and answering questions such as:

  • Description
  • Gender and age
  • Reasons for engaging with [company]
  • Other resources they may have access to
  • Web literacy
  • Preferred interaction method with [company]
  • What they need

Our group ended up using skip hire (!) as our example and we created our audience profile:

“Responsive web design won’t resolve your content problem.”

The next step was to establish what content was needed for this kind of project and what hierarchy it should be presented in on the website. We grouped different sections into four categories based on how important and/or essential they are and then again decided on a hierarchy for the elements within each category, which helps to determine where the content should be seen on a smaller screen size. Working in a group, it was interesting to see how other people in the design industry approach similar projects to our everyday tasks. There was a lot of drawing, discussion and planning involved. It allows you to go from the thought that content is key to actually making the content key and go through that process.

Overall, it was very interesting to get an insight into where UX design is heading, what we should do and prioritise, or even the fact that we should prioritise and plan when designing responsively.

“In the future it won’t be called responsive web design; it will just be web design.”


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