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UX Australia 2018 - highlights

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the first day of speakers at the UX Australia conference. There was a lot to take in, however 3 key speakers stood out to me.  

Lauren Currie
Keynote 

"I believe in better"

 photo credit: @erickmohr

photo credit: @erickmohr

Lauren is service designer who is passionate about social change. She spoke about how she has used service design to make her home, Scotland, a better place. One example she presented was a project called 'Know Sugar', that aimed to address the broken relationship between the Scotland and sugar, and the rise of type 2 diabetes. Her team convinced a local shopping mall to let them use an empty shopfront, where they prototyped a shop designed to educate the community on sugar, and to provide a place where people could shop no-sugar items. It was such a simple idea, and it proved highly effective, uncovering that many people underestimated how much sugar they were consuming. With 700 people visiting over 2 days, with many visitors committing to reducing their sugar intake, the government was impressed by the impact of taking a prototype "off-screen" and it was deemed a success.

Lauren gave other examples too, such as how providing a social platform to talk to police enabled improved relationships between communities and police. She also worked with TheGoodLab, that had the ambitious goal of creating £250million pounds a year in revenue for the charity sector. To achieve this, TheGoodLab shipped a new business every 3months, each with a different strategy to raise money for charity. These business ranged from Experience-Something-Different, where you could purchases experiences (such as a tour of the RSPCA), to OnHand, not dissimilar to Airtasker, where you could request on-site help for elderly people. Another successful project, with the majority of money raised through these businesses were donated to charities.

During her entire talk, 4 other women sat on the stage with her. This was part of her #upfront initiative, that gives women the opportunity to experience what it is like being on the stage in front of a large audience, without the pressure of actually speaking. A 'try-before-you-buy' that enables them to build confidence in public speaking. This initiative has found that participants are 30% more likely to give their own talks in futures. I am not particularly fond of public speaking (read: If I never had to do it again I'd be completely ok with that), and because I'm surrounded by people at work who seem to be naturally skilled at it, it was a comforting reminder that there are others out there that feel the same way as me.

Lauren's presentation had me feeling like I could and should use my skills to contribute more to society. This quote stuck with me - "You can complain three times before you must do something about it"


Chris Harrison
"Finding Ethical Design in Unethical Products"

I was particularly interested in hearing this talk as Chris works at Tabcorp, in an industry I'm not sure I could ever work in - gambling. He justifies his role by ensuring that he uses his design skills to keep the Tabcorp products responsible, by following 6 ethical design tips. Here are a few of those:
 

Ethical Design Tip #2:
Design patterns don't have an agenda, but designers do


Chris introduced the idea of dark patterns using SAS auto-subscriptions as an example (think Netflix, Adobe, Hello Fresh). These services offer a free trial when you first sign up, and then start charging a monthly free once the trial finishes. As an audience, we were asked:

  1. Was auto-renewing a plan without any reminder that the user would start being charged 'good UX'? Obviously not. 
  2. What about auto-renewing a plan with a small, easy to miss reminder? Still not great.
  3. What about auto-renewing a plan with really, really loud, multiple reminders at every click? Getting better. 
  4. And finally, what about not auto-renewing a plan at all, and instead let the user sign themselves up when they were ready to commit to payment. Winner!

Using this example, Chris made the point that there's not a clear cut 'good' or 'bad' UX, but that it is more of a spectrum of 'better' or 'worse'.

He then asked us to consider 'auto-subscriptions' in the context of a Medication Delivery Service. In this scenario, it is likely that what we consider the best 'ux' would be different. He outlines the 2 different scenarios here:

In short, he believes that there are very few 'evil' devil patterns, but almost any design pattern can be misused.  Context matters.
 

Ethical Design Tip #4:
The user should always have enough information to make informed, intelligent choices.

Chris introduced a new term to me yesterday - "Lootboxes'. Traditional examples of a Lootbox includes Kinder Surprises - where someone might want a particular toy, purchase a Kinder Surprise, and know that they might get that toy. Usually it's a child that wants the Kinder Surprise, and usually they're bought by parents, who can explain to their kid that they might get the elephant toy that they're after, but that they also might get the lion toy instead. 

Lootboxes also exists in online games, where children can make in-app purchases in the hopes of getting special content/items for their game (a 'better gun' for example). They don't have their parents educating them, and the cycle is simple: Buy a lootbox > Hope for the thing you want > You didn't get it: repeat.

This is essentially gaming turning into a form of gambling.  The user, in this case children/young adults away from their parents, are unable to make informed choices. 
 

Full summary of Chris's ethical design tips:

  1. The most important choice that any of us make is where to work
  2. Design patterns don't have an agenda, but designers do
  3. Designs have consequences, avoidable ones
  4. The user should always have enough information to make informed, intelligent choices
  5. It's not enough to build an ethical product, you have to maintain an ethical product
  6. The transaction between the customer and the business should be equitable for both parties

 


Gordon McNenney
Good help is easy to find: What every UXer needs to know about context-sensitive help

The final of my favourite talks was by Gordon, a content strategist from AKQA, who reminded us of the importance of context sensitive help (CSH).

Also referred to as contextual help or embedded help, Gordon defines that CSH should be concise, based on current state (not buried within an FAQ), with minimal disruption.

Gordon outlined effectives ways that CSH can be implemented into products:

 Inline help

Inline help

1. Inline help  

2. Tooltips

3. Embedded help centre

Slightly less contextual, but still has value

 Embedded help centre

Embedded help centre

4. Walkthrough/tutorials

Gives you understanding without pulling you away from where you are

5. Live chat

Turns out, humans are good at solving problems! Bonus points if the they can be contextual from the get go (e.g. "I see that you are trying to log in..")

6. Chatbots

Amusingly, Gordon referenced 'Clippy' the Microsoft Word paperclip chatbot as an example of over doing it / being too in-your-face. 

 

Most importantly: make sure it actually helps. 

Gordon recommends: CSH should be considered in the initial scope and not as an afterthought. To be able to do this well, you must understand user issues up-front. 

 

Anna HatzisavasComment