UX New Zealand – Life of a speaker (part 2)


It’s the week of the conference and the countdown is well and truly on. Hope you enjoy hearing about the week ahead and the conference it self. If you missed part one on the preparation then go find it here.


Today’s job is to finish off a prop. I know you should never use props. But as I am speaking after lunch on the second day I need to inject some fun into the talk. That’s why, with the help of my 6 year old daughter, I have been making a giant magnifying glass.

Due to time constraints and a hectic life I didn’t have time to do the paper mâché. That results in the decision to scrap the prop. When the first coat of paint is applied it is easy to see that the result will look very amateur – judge for yourself below. Luckily I have a backup – instead of bringing out the magnifying glass I can do an over-elaborated zoom out with my hands.

Failed prop
Failed prop


Final run through of the presentation! I don’t want to over practice and get hung up on the exact same words. I’ve seen it before, where people try and remember everything word for word and end up hesitating too much as they can’t remember a specific word.

Happy with how the last practice went. Noted where the half way point is, and noted one tip that I can trim if i’m running behind on time.

One of the great things about conferences is the networking, so have just spent some time checking who the other speakers are in detail. That way I know who I can seek out behind the scenes and at the speaker dinner.


First job of the day is to shave my head – I want to look my best on stage! I’m doing it today so that by Friday it is still short but not completely bald. I should at least try and minimise the amount of glare off the top of my head from the spotlights. Also trim my nose hairs – you don’t know how good the zoom on peoples cameras are and at my age the hairs point in every direction.

Today was the first day of UX New Zealand with workshops being held. The only downside is that I was so focussed on my talk that I didn’t even think about attending any. Which after looking at them, and especially after hearing some great feedback I probably should have been to one.

Today was also the launch party. The launch party was a small affair in order to kick off the event and give some of the attendees a chance to meet the speakers.

Afterwards was the speaker dinner (@ Lulu – awesome food – nom! nom!). A great chance to meet the other speakers and learn about their experiences and backgrounds. There was a large variety of journeys of how people ended up in UX. Including: School teacher → UX, Psychology → UX, Medicine → UX. But I think I was the only one the went from Software Tester → Automated Tester → Trainer → Business Analyst → Implementation Consultant → Technical Pre-sales → Consultancy → Jack of all trades → UX.

The round the table discussions were great. People bounced experiences off each other, told stories about their work and passions. It was very much like everyone had known each other for years and not that some people were meeting for the first time. I did think there was something that was missing though. With the amount of experiences and creative minds in one place I think we probably could have solved world peace, or at least had a good crack at it!


Time for the conference to start. Today I can relax and watch the other speakers do their thing. Here is a rundown of the speakers, what they talked about and the main takeaways I got from their talks. (Apologies if I mis-quote any of the speakers, understandably at times my head wandered to thinking about my talk)

Dan Brown – Curiosity, Skepticism and humility

A great opening from Dan Brown. It’s always hard being first but he set the standard for us all to follow and it was a high bar that was set. His talk covered a lot about discovery and mindsets, and not one mention of the Da Vinci code (different Dan Brown). With discovery he spoke about how it is made up of activities, knowledge and decisions. And how “Discovery is not a phase, discovery is a mindset”. He spoke of how mindsets are based on how people Perceive, Understand and Choose. It also covered the differences between a Fixed and Growth mindset, and how “With discomfort comes growth”. Finally he guided us through six different mindsets: Adaptive, Collective, Assertive, Curious, Skeptical and Humble.

Dan Brown
The six mindsets of Dan Brown

His talk was really good with clear messaging throughout. It made me think of my own mindset and also that of my daughter and how she is slowing moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. However, with myself, I am able to move between the different mindsets based on the task and situation.

Rachel Knight & Kataraina Davis – Ka mua, ka muri; look back to Te Ao Maori to advance your design research

A beautiful Karakia and Mihi to introduce their talk (Any thoughts of me opening with a song went straight out the window – plus I have the singing voice of a choking gargoyle). Their talk was a journey both on how Rachel grew and how their teamwork grew. The journey took us through the four pillars (Pou):

  • Whanaungatanga – Relationships are important and we need to trust in these.
  • Manaakitanga – Enhancing mana (respect and power of the person).
  • Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship
  • Ako – Learning
Four pillars
Four pillars (pou)

In the journey we heard how its about upholding Tikanga Maori – “Don’t just pick and choose”. How “Our strength lies in our differences”

The honesty of Rachel and the support Kataraina gave her made this talk so powerful. By sharing the story of how Rachel started with Fear, Guilt and Shame and moved to Courage, Pride and Curiosity showed us how we should all continue with our own Ako.

The talk made me look back at a previous project with Oranga Tamariki (Ministry of Vulnerable Children) and the work we did with their Cultural Advisor. The work was to understand how and why the Tohu (signs/symbols) they used to represent the different principles were created. It was a great talk and definitely inspired me to continue my own Ako.

Erick Mohr – Building design into the culture of large organisations

Erick started with a bit of history and spoke about Thomas Watson Jr, CEO of IBM 1956-1971. How he coined the phrase – Good design is good business. He then presented us with some surprising stats on how many people work in the different quarters of the double diamond.

Double diamond jobs
Double diamond jobs

Most of his talk was centred around the four areas of intrinsic and extrinsic value that need to exist to build a design culture. This was based on research he had conducted with a mixture of experienced designers and managers across NZ.

  • Senior Sponsorship – You need to get top-level buy-in. It was interesting to hear that the last three winners of the UX Gold Award at the Best Design Awards all had representatives from their executive as an active sponsor on the project.
  • Leverage Springboards – Look at both the internal and external events that can drive change. Internal events have been helped a lot by the movement towards Agile, where design has a bigger seat at the table. External events could be a change of strategy around outside influences i.e. When AirNZ suffered a dip in their share price due to fuel prices, that had to make strategic changes.
  • Create Meaning – “When we communicate with others the meanings of our words might not produce the same image in someone else’s mind” (sic). Instead of an organisation looking towards design to create meaning, think about how design can look towards the organisation (and the knowledge within) to create meaning.
  • Demonstrate Value – The same can be said of demonstrating value: Instead of an organisation looking towards design to demonstrate value, how can the organisation work together to demonstrate value. At this point he shared a quote from Luke Pittar (one of the research participants and Head of Design for The Warehouse Group) “It’s a mind shift fro UCD to value driven design”

Elizabeth Allen – Red herrings: debunking the pop psychology of colour

She started strongly with a quote “Did you know, every colour has a meaning and feeling”. Then she took the next 30 minutes correctly debunking it. It was great to see and a relief from me as in my first draft of my 20 tips I had a colour debunking tip – glad I removed it so there was no overlap.

The talk said how colour can convey meaning, attract attention and communicate priority. It also spoke about how colours elicit associations and generally they can “look nice”.

During her talk she showed some clever illusions of how our mind perceives colour.

Colour illusion
Colour illusion

The talk had four main themes which she debunked:

  • Colour is a physical phenomenon – Through the illusions she showed how the wavelength of a colour is only one factor and that colour is in fact a mental phenomenon.
  • Some colours are universally better at attracting attention than others – This is not true as it is all about the surrounding context within the colour is being used.
  • A lot of colours are scientifically proven to elicit specific behavioural results – There is actually not much proof on this and often the pictures of colour meanings cite research that doesn’t actually prove their theories. People just see a link to research and believe that the author has actually written quoted the formal research correctly.
  • We are consciously aware of our colour preferences. Studies have shown this is not true including studies base on rival sports teams or based on the orders colours are shown to people. The real truth is that peoples colour preferences can be malleable.

This was probably the talk that went deepest into one area. But the way Elizabeth presented it and how the talk was set out meant you appreciated that advice she was giving and wanted to hear the why’s to each statement she debunked.

Also great intro music – who doesn’t love a bit of Lizzo.

Mark Huser – Maintaining design health: the support surrounding design systems

Mark kindly did the first glare head test, and it was only minimal. So that means I can breathe easy that my head won’t blind people.

His talk started describing what a Healthy Product Designer was – “Someone who knows a good story (and knows the history behind it)” (sic).

He then went into what a Design System is and how using a design system can ease the burden and help keep designers healthy and allow them to “create experience and not think about the little things like button colour”.

Core takeaways from the talk were that a Design System, should have:

  • Principles – these should be Human centric, effortless, successful and on brand.
  • Processes – include documenting the process about how something was decided, tested and researched.
  • Patterns – Clearly identifiable.
  • UX Research – Add into the design system directly with the element/component so that the research is easily available.
  • Design History Rationale – Ensure any commit comments to the Design System have the WHY, not just the WHAT, to ensure it gives context.

Elena Sanchez – UX Debt: Lessons learnt

UX Debt is not often raised and discussed. Some people believe it is just a concept and not an actual thing. It was therefore a pleasant relief to hear someone bring this to the forefront.

UX Debt
UX debt

When thinking about UX Debt it is important to remember that “Some of the decisions we make today will affect future decisions”. 

Elena highlighted three different types of UX Debt:

  • Too small to matter – “sometimes it takes longer to write the Jira ticket than fix it
  • Too hard to handle – i.e. components that are in different tech stacks so the interaction is different and not seamless
  • Inevitable – Once you give customers something its really hard to take it away. Elena gave a great example of this where an interface had been designed based on the layout of a cheque (the most common payment type at the time) but now that cheques are very rare they decided to upgrade the design. But people complained as they were still using the Cheque number field but for something else.

One of the great takeaways from the talk was a quote by Julia Zhou – “If we knew X would take this long in the first place would we have done it”

Elena closed with some of the lessons she had learnt about UX debt:

  • Make the whole team responsible
  • Sooner you fix it, the cheaper it is
  • Discuss a repayment plan for UX Debt
  • Plan for regular clean ups

Jon Bell – DesignOps inspiration gallery

Jon’s talk was a journey through his DesignOps experience and some of his key learnings. He had eight key learnings:

  • Use Go/ links – helps you communicate and disperse information quickly.
  • Google groups – set up them up so that correspondence is sent to a group and not an individual so you don’t lose information when a person leaves.
  • Design History Rationale – cementing what Mark told us early it’s important to understand the WHY not just the WHAT of design decisions.
  • Audio notes – record meetings and take the time something interesting occurred. Helps write up later.
  • Motivation Charts + Thrive plans.
  • Use cookbooks as a metaphor – everyone is happy to add their own recipes.
  • UNI (This was a system used at Windows phone – Jon can’t remember if it ever stood for anything) – The system allowed the to see changes between one release and another so they could quickly and accurately perform UX Reviews.
  • Ideas factory – Help projects by co creating ideas.

Some might say these were tips! So as I know Jon well I could comfortable point out he only managed eight in 20 minutes compared with my plan for 20!

– – –

What a way to start the day seven great talks and it’s only lunchtime on day one. First part of my lunch time is spent going on stage with some of the first time speakers that I met at the speaker training. It was good for them to be on stage so that could feel what it was like to look out. Determine what you can and can’t see and do it with a near empty room. I’d recommend any new speakers to do this as you could easily see that this relaxed them. Even if it was only by 1% you need to make and take every opportunity to remove any nerves.

Time for the afternoon session.

Cara Kleid – Tales (and tools) of a UX Designer in East Africa

Cara told a beautiful story of work she did with an organisation in Uganda. The first part of her story was background on what Uganda is like. I think this was really important as not many people would have spent time in Uganda and understood the way people live.

For me this first part took me down memory lane. After having spent seven months travelling round Africa, including Uganda, I could relate to her story and remember the fondness and kindness of the people.

The project she spoke about was MobileMoney and how people would buy, share, transfer and cash-in mobile credit to perform transactions. During her research she found out some interesting things:

  • Banks only really allowed well-dressed people in, and as such a stigma was created about going to the bank.
  • Places that operated as MobileMoney offices ranged from people with just a chair and a log book, to a table and a log book, and embedded within a small shop.
  • There is an estimated $300m USD stored in peoples homes that is not in banks. These range from under the mattress, to holes under furniture, to hidden pockets within trousers.

From the talk there were there key points:

  • Research before user research is not optional.
  • Get the context right – Cara shared a great story of how she was speaking to a farmer about where they spent their money and during the exercise he hadn’t mentioned the cow (That Cara could see behind her) and it was all because the picture she had was of a black and white Friesian cow and thats not the type of cows you get in Uganda.
  • Try new methods or make up your own.

During her talk Cara also spoke of the five E’s and she used them in her research.

5 E's
5 E’s

Loretta Cheng – Personas, jobs to be done or archetypes. That is the question!

Lorettas’ talk would be a great accompaniment to the workshop proposal I submitted for UX New Zealand – Personas personified. In fact I may well steal some of her content to boost the workshop further for the next time I propose it – Thanks Loretta.

The talk started with a history lesson. The invention of Archetypes by Carl Jung in 1960. The development of personas by Alan Cooper in 1999, and the introduction of the Jobs to be done framework in 2014.

Who knew there were 14 different types of persona – I only had 11 in my planned workshop, I’ll have to research and add the other three.

Loretta explained the options with the three approaches and how Jobs to be done can be categorised as either functional, emotional or social.

Her talk then explained the need for focused personas and how on occasions people create too many. Even citing one example where there were over 80 personas. She explained how overarching and sub personas can be used, the link between jobs and teams and how both can be used in conjunction.

Personas and jobs
Personas and jobs

A great takeaway from the talk was that no matter what you choose to use, you need to consider who’s going to use it and how they are going to use it.

Viv Baartman – All my X’s

Viv started her talk with a slide showing 15 ?X acronyms. I then spent the next 20 mins trying to work out what both PX’s were? I knew one was Product Experience but I still can’t work out the other.

Meanwhile Viv focussed mainly on CX and UX, and highlighted the differences and similarities between the two disciplines. The explanations she choose to use were from Dan Norman – “UX is all aspects of the end users interactions with the organisation or company, and its services or products” and Harley Manning – “CX is how users perceive their interactions with an organisation or company”.

By speaking about Feeling, Doing and Responding Viv highlighted the way UX and CX merge.

CX, UX and CX
CX, UX and CX

Krystal Higgins – User onboarding for the long run

Krystal started by asking a few questions – “How should we begin with a new user?”, “Where does onboarding end in your product solution?”.

She debunked the myth that onboarding is just for the start of the process, but there are multiple onboarding opportunities:

  • Initial onboarding
  • Continued discovery
  • Major redesign
  • Return from lapse

Onboarding is so much more. We will “shortchange our users by ending the onboarding process too early”.

onboarding opportunities
Onboarding opportunities

Onboarding is broken up into many jobs:

  • Familiarise
  • Learn
  • Convert
  • Guide

Krystal then went onto to talk about Herman Ebbinghaus, at which time I paused took a deep breath and hoped she didn’t cover the same as one of my tips!! Luckily she didn’t. She covered Ebbinghaus’s work on retention and how people need to see things multiple times in order to remember them, and how over time our retention drops. She used a quote from Linda Nilson to best describe this “People learn new materials when they encounter it multiple times and through multiple modalities”.

Overall I really wish I had spotted her workshop early and attended – would have been great to get more of a deep dive.

Caterina Falleni – Design for access and inclusion

This talk really hit home the importance of accessibility.

Quite often people only think about hearing and sight issues but there are more accessibility themes that need to be considered:

  • Vision loss and blindness
  • Hearing loss and deafness
  • Reduced motor dexterity / motor disabilities
  • Cognitive impairments and reading / learning disabilities

She shared a great explanation from Kate Holmes. Disability = mismatched human interactions.

Disability meanings
Disability meanings

Also accessibility can be be both permanent or temporary. Think of someone who is walking out of a door opening the door may be easy if they are not carrying anything. But if they are carrying multiple bags then there would be temporary affects. Hence why you never see a door that requires pushing when you exit a supermarket.

Caterina also shared some demos of how screen readers can interpret words differently:

  • Words that are spelt the same i.e. Live – is it “I live in NZ” or “I am reporting live from inside a giant hurricane”
  • Abbreviations and shorting of words i.e. 3m is it 3 minutes or 3 metres. St is it Street or Saint

Caterina summarised with a number of best practices:

  • Get familiar with a device’s accessibility settings
  • Get familiar with assistive tools
  • Design for screen readers
  • Test in grayscale
  • Use multiple visual cues
  • Respect contrast ratios (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG))

– – –

Caterina’s talk mark the end of a great first day. High quality talks, all well presented and pitched at the right levels. Time for me to reflect and take a break. Jump back into the real world and go Trick or Treating with my daughter.


Today is the day. Today I give my talk. Feeling refreshed after a good night sleep. Feeling optimistic and ready. Shower, shave and plenty of deodorant and i’m ready to head to the conference.

Gregg Bernstein – You are already a researcher

Gregg has the fun job of setting the bar for day two. Like Dan did on day one, Gregg sets the bar high.

Gregg’s talk started with a case study on Pontiac. In 2000 they released the Aztec Crossover. They had targeted sales of 70,000 in the first year. They got 11,500 in the first 6 months. Why did it fail. They had found a business opportunity and had internal alignment. What they didn’t do was listen to customer feedback. Through the design process research participants kept telling them that the car looked ugly. They liked the internal setup, the drive and the features. But they didn’t like the look. Coupling this with a high-price made it a flop.

We don’t make the same mistakes? or do we”

Step forward to 2014. Amazon release the Fire Phone. Again they didn’t listen to the feedback. The phone didn’t support two of the most used apps in America – Starbucks (23 million users a year) and Google maps (A gazillion users a year). They “Didn’t align the phones to the needs of users”. End result was a $170m loss.

How can we stop this from happening again. The answer is: Do research and listen to the results. But who does the research? Looking at current UX job openings worldwide there are only 2,000 UX Researcher roles compared to around 44,000 Full stack developer jobs. Therefore we all need to help with the research.

UX job openings
UX job openings

Two main points were then presented:

  • Think of research as planning a trip – if everyone put in the same amount as effort as you do for planning a trip into our jobs how much easier would it be.
  • Take more advantage of internal knowledge – it’s amazing how many design and research methodologies mention technical and product areas but don’t mention sales or support. Both of these areas have a lot of valuable insights that can help the research process.

Julie Jeon & Sophie Taylor – Problem solving as a team

Julie and Sophie gave us an insight into their journey when working together on a project. How project and design worked together.

They identified that they were spending too much time in Discovery and not in Delivery. Which mean that the two periods came siloed and the teams weren’t working as a united team. They had to reflect on what it actually meant to be part of a team. They needed to:

  • Trust
  • Grow
  • Undertand
  • Actively contribute
  • Be more present
  • Stay connected

To do this they implemented two key changes:

  • Combining the Discovery and Delivery into one process
  • Add Design loop sessions to be part of their agile ceremonies

Design loop sessions we used to make sure things were shared with the whole team not just those people they had worked with directly. They often discussed and co-designed within a session. This worked because the session had clear goals that weren’t too broad or high-level and it was all about “A problem to solve, not a feature to build”.

They closed with how teams need time and support to make the changes work.

Building teams
Building teams

It was a great talk. I was initially nervous about the double act talks – the last few I’ve seen at conferences have been over scripted with too many awkward handovers. But Julie & Sophie (and Rachel & Kat yesterday) both had well worked talks that seemed more like a natural sharing rather than a forced conversation.

Kelsey Thomson – From theory to practice: what UX practitioners can learn from academic research

This was the presentation I probably took the most photos. Lots of great little points that help emphasise the importance of research. Plus as I had just published a blog post on Quantitative and Qualitative research and have a training offering on Logical Thinking. It allows me to review how my content is framed.

Kelsey highlighted the difference between Quantitative and Qualitative with a great analogy of how at school we are taught in science how to do experiments. These experiments are quantitative and some people never actually learn using qualitative.

She also covered how research is very reliant on user interpretations and how cross coverage needs to help eliminate false metrics based on subjective takings. How research should be based on reality and how sometimes you “never see the actual problem space because of the assumption walls you have built around yourself”.

Subjective research
Subjective research

Kelsey then covered inductive and deductive reasoning and how you need to use both to get quality results. By switching between the two it allows you to move from observations → patterns → hypothesis → theories → (back to) hypothesis → experiments → conclusion.

Following the theme of others, Kelsey then took her turn to debunk the myths

  • UX research is not valid
  • We can start with solution

Obviously both are complete falsehoods.

Research is valid but you must remember not to apply a quantitative framework over qualitative research. When starting with the solution it is often based on ad-hoc anecdotal data and not rich customer insights. By avoiding false problem spaces and validation treadmills you can build those rich customer insights you need.

Asha Scott-Morris – Practicality with principles: implementing continuous discovery with an Agile product team

Asha told us about a project she worked on were it was clear that the Product and UX teams had difference cadences. Echoing what Julie & Sophie had spoken about earlier.

She spoke about the areas of rhythm and value propositions. The propositions need to unite both the iteration of product and the depth of research. This is done by using the same rhythm for discovery and delivery, while iteratively adding the depth. The result was continuous discovery.

Next came the look into the approaches they used. The traditional approach, of a robust research plan followed by time to analyse and think then identify valid insights, was replaced. A shortened more iterative approach that focussed on explicating and pushing their thinking was used. The important lesson here was to ensure that someone is pushing for the depth to ensure they extended their thinking.

Developing depth
Developing depth

The result was an approach that used iterative testing and progressive refinement to identify valid insights.

Mila Dymnikova – Adding competitive advantage to your UX team

Mila one the award the for the best slides – awesome design work!!

Mila spoke of her work as a Data Scientist and how she uses the power of data to help research.

She presented a clear message that she can use data to understand the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW but not the WHY. That’s where she needs help from UX.

The talk contained four main themes:

  • One focus from the start (and make sure its not too big)
  • Visualise everything
  • Have a research plan that includes both the UX and Data Science methods
  • Find the flow – work out when UX and Data Science work occurs in parallel and when one needs to come before the other
UX and Data Science
UX and Data Science

Overall, to get common insights that deliver the right solution UX and Data Science need to perform research together, and both “have to adapt to a fast pacing world”.

Nate Foulds – Scaling signals: using qualitative research to influence algorithms

During this talk I could see the constant head nodding by Kelsey and Mila. Nate’s talk created a perfect bridge between their talks.

Nate started with a couple of great examples where AI has been used but the end result doesn’t quite hit the mark:

  • Chef Watson – uses algorithms to recommend recipes based on flavour combinations. Sadly they can often not taste the best i.e. A bloody mary using mayonnaise based on the flavour profile of tomato and mayonnaise.
  • AI Novels – were algorithms have created novels that lack the fluidity of natural language and overload on descriptive words.

Nate then used a great analogy that AI is like an island full of drunk people. They make decisions and learn based on what they see. But if they don’t have the right logic and context applied then the guidance isn’t quite right.

Two problems that exist with AI are:

  • Prioritising the short term over the long term
  • Machines don’t represent peoples mental mindset

To combat these problems Nate described how research can be applied to improve the outcomes. This is done by:

  • DATA – Selecting the right training data
  • CALIBRATION – Calibrating the model’s inputs
  • OPTIONS – Determining long & short term success
  • FEEDBACK – Improving the model with feedback loops
Research and AI
Research and AI

Ameila Diggle – Intelligent design measurement: How to prove CX ROI like a spy

Amelia started by asking who could keep a secret. So I can’t tell you anything about her talk as I said I could. So onto lunch ….

Ok, I’ll tell you some of it while still keeping her secret.

Amelia spoke about the similarities between intelligence analysis used within crime prevention and design methodologies. She spoke about motive and needs, patterns and relationships, and themes.

Crime and UX
Crime and UX

She spoke about the techniques and the frameworks including Google HEART, and how she has found that she has changed modes from a designer to a storyteller.

One of the big takeaways was – “If you don’t love your work or believe in your work, how can you sell it”

– – –

Now it’s really time for lunch – I’m on next so I get to the front of the queue so I can get some food in and have to to relax afterwards. Lunch eaten and onto microphone fitting. Next twenty minutes is spent with a mix of winding up the attendees that they should “make sure you don’t miss the next talk, I’ve heard it’s the best” and sitting patiently to keep my mental state at the right balance.

Dominic Rogers – 20 UX tips in 20 mins

My music starts. It nicely builds up tempo and I use that to pump myself up ready to talk. (My music choice was The Neighbour by The Twang)

On stage
On stage

Talk done – I can now breathe!!!

Super chuffed with how it went. Great level of audience participation, I think it peaked at around number 8 in terms of shouting out the countdown. I won’t go into detail on all 20 UX tips here – watching the video to get the context is probably best.

Had some great feedback:

  • Nailed it”
  • Phenomenal talk. Great content, energy and delivery
  • Hilarious, fast-pace talk (with shouting from the audience!) was the perfect post-lunch choice”

I’m ready to go back up and do 20 more tips.

Torrey Podmajersky – Strategic writing for UX

Torrey covered some great high level elements that make up successful content.

  • Accessible – Every screen element should be spoken.
  • Accessible – Available in the languages uses need not just the language the developers speak.
  • Accessible – Reading level below 7th grade (Year 8 in NZ and UK) for consumer content.
  • Accessible – Reading level below 10th grade (Year 11 in NZ and UK) for professional content.
  • Purposeful
  • Concise
  • Conversational
  • Clear – “No one knows what that icon means until they’ve used it a few times”
  • Engaging – Engage is both engagement and completion
  • Contextual – Think about what vocabulary you use for people – users, watchers, players etc

Torrey also highlighted that the content needs to stand alone with out brand. For instance you can’t add branding to an SMS (Text message) – the content needs to be clear.

UX content journey
UX content journey

Torrey also pointed out how UX researchers have it easy – they have 2,000 jobs to chose from worldwide. UX writers only have 200!!

Dave Hockly – Learnings from the advertising era: how to use brand positioning for better UX

Positioning is all about how peoples’ minds have their own perception and you need to build a framework around these perceptions to show your organisation – “Your users’ perception is reality”.

Dave showed both examples and mantras to use with your brand.

  • Find a window in your mind that is not already owned”
  • Be first”
  • Positioning steers UX decisions
  • Use semantic differential to compare emotions and actions
  • Look into the difference of how you position your organisations and how people position your organisation

Daves talk came up with some great facts – Globally over 700,000 hours of Netflix is watched every minute.

His talk also came up with the best quote – “It’s like marriage. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to be the first and then not give them a reason to leave”

Isuru Fernando – AI and me: design for artificial intelligence

Isurus’ talk was based on the cognitive framework of Observe, Interpret, Evaluate and Decide. Along side the pillars of AI:

  • Understand – imagery, language and unstructured data
  • Reason – from hypotheses, infer and extract ideas
  • Learn – sharpen expertise with every interaction
  • Interact – with humans through seeing, talking and hearing

He spoke of how “A good AI should interact frictionless, like two humans do”. This is often not the case as the designed path of a conversation is not a linear process.

Conversation paths
Conversation paths

Isuru shared some live examples of AI and the importance of showing the confidence and validity rating of the response. With more new data provided and more historical data interpreted the system will produce higher ratings. As an AI matures it becomes more accurate. This is of course done through manual manipulation via feedback.

Libby Garrett – Utopian design fictions: a methodology for building preferred futures

Libby had the daunting task of closing out the conference. She did this through positivity and interaction.

Libby spoke about utopian design and how we should design the future view where the preferred version already exists.

Her talk involved a booklet for everyone where we did a couple of small activities to learn the techniques.

Utopian fictions
Utopian fictions

By looking into utopian stories instead of neutral or dystopian stories it means we can avoid “Purpose paralyses” and design “experiences that ascend to the meaningful and delightful”.

– – –

That’s the conference over. It was a superb conference. A great mix of speakers and styles. The right depth level with the right amount of overlapping content to keep a flow, and not too much to generate the “I’ve heard it all before” viewpoints.

I’m super proud of myself and the other speakers for delivering a great conference. Now off to the after party.


Speaking at a conference is a great networking opportunity. Over the two days I spoke to so many people. Shared some awesome experiences and learnt lots of new things. I can’t wait until my next speaking opportunity – I already have about eight talk ideas and another 80+ tips to share!!