My impressions from the two days I’ve spent at a ‘un’-conference: If you’re working in UX, it’s very likely that you’ve attended one of the UXCamps usually hosted all around Europe. Maybe you have been to the Copenhagen, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brighton, or the biggest one, UXCamp Europe, in Berlin. Unfortunately, this year’s UXCamp Europe wasn’t taking place, so I, as a regular, had to get my yearly dose of UXCamp from another location and decided to go for the UXCamp Nordic, launched for the first time in Helsinki in the beginning of June.
A few words on how UXCamps work (for those who never attended): The UXCamp, a “un-conference”, that gathers many UX professionals and enthusiasts from different disciplines in a rather casual and open environment, invites an exchange of trends, ideas, and learnings. As opposed to classic conferences, there is no set schedule upfront, apart from a few keynote speeches, which allows every participant to demonstrate, pitch, or teach the attending crowd on topics around design, UX, UI, or strategy (and much more) they find worthy of sharing. The attendees then, in a next step, decide whether and which presenters get a slot assigned for their session - all in real-time in situ.
Now, I want to share what I learned with you.
My personal highlights: From all the presentations, panels and workshops that I attended, two sticked to my mind in particular: The first was a talk by UX Designer Tatjana Zavadja on Lean UX, while the second open discussion evolved around the Imposter Syndrome and a personal story on how to overcome it by Product Designer Antonija Pek.
Lean UX Design: When Tatjana joined her new company as the first UX Designer, the team consisted of seven developers that had been building a product for a couple of months already. That product was neither focusing on a user problem, nor was it really clear who the intended user actually was. What Tatjana immediately did was writing a proposal to her boss, comparing the two possible scenarios of how to move forward: They’d either continue with the process like it was, and develop a product that nobody would adopt as it wasn’t meeting a particular user or market need (and hence lose lots of moneeeeys in the process) or she could take a week, involve the dev team and go through the whole UX process of researching, prototyping, and testing (and hence, find a particular user pain point, solve it, and earn money in the course). Having convinced her boss, she directly started planning her week of testing and experimenting.
Her process: The first thing Tatjana did at the beginning of the experimentation week, was setting a strict deadline by arranging user testing sessions for the end of that same week. This forced the team to come up with ideas around real user pain points, how to solve those, and finally, sketch ideas in order to have something tangible to present to testing participants.
Tatjana’s definition of lean UX is creating a minimum viable product (MVP) in a short period of time while improving it in an iterative process. This product, or MVP, is defined by a basic set of features that can be extended over time.
- Never start developing an idea or product without basing it on a real user pain point. At wattx, we also had to learn the hard way that having a great technology but no problem that it solves, is a fast-track ticket to failure. Do your research and involve your target users throughout the whole product development process, be it through interviews, field observations, and/or usability testing.
- In the beginning of product development prioritize rigorously, especially if you want to follow the lean UX process. Start small and only develop the minimum set of basic features that solve the identified user needs. More features can always be added on top of that, once revenue comes kicking in.
- Involve the whole team in the creative process, be it ideation, prototyping, or testing sessions. Everyone is a ‘designer’: Designers are essentially problem solvers, and we all know how to solve problems. You’d be surprised about the versatile outcomes, and in addition you’ll find your teammates be more passionate about the product or service they’re working on as they’ll know who they’re doing it for and why.
Everyone is a ‘designer’: Designers are essentially problem solvers, and we all know how to solve problems.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Antonija has a great educational and professional path behind her: from studying product design, to being involved in several Tech startups in Croatia, to now living and working in Finland in UX and UI Design. In her free time, she additionally took on many projects for NGOs, while teaching herself several techniques around SEO and front-end development. And yet, up until a year ago, Antonija felt like an imposter.
The imposter syndrome is widely known and characterized as a “pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It strikes smart, successful individuals”.
The breakthrough of overcoming the feeling of being an imposter came to Antonija during a conference she was sent to by her employer in the last year. There she learned from a UX Design Lead of a prestigious, and well-known company that he was applying the same processes, methods, and tools in his daily business as she did. That’s when she realized for the first time that she actually knew what she was doing, and the feelings that she’d been experiencing up until then weren’t justified.
Some food for thought:
- Nobody is perfect right away. As a developer, it is perfectly normal to take a few days before starting a new project and read documentation on a particular coding language, or sit together with a more experienced colleague and learn from them. In design or UX it is (or at least should be) the same. You do know enough, and if you don’t, you take the time and read up on it. Or ask colleagues that know better. Or find a mentor. You were hired for a reason, and you will evolve and learn by doing, just as everybody else does.
- If you want to extend your personal portfolio, but don’t have anything to show from previous work experience or school work, demonstrate your way of thinking. You can either do so by describing a process, should image material be confidential for instance. Or you could reach out to an NGO and offer to redesign and improve their website; they will for sure be happy and it’ll provide you with experience to show - win-win. Or, if you are applying to a new job that already has a product, take a feature out of their interface or service and redesign it. Showing initiative and a will always benefits you in the long run.
So, what’s my impression of the UXCamp?: Apart from the amazing weather and great impressions I’ve gained from visiting Helsinki, the talks of two amazing women working in UX made that trip especially worthwhile.
The whole concept around UXCamps is already inviting in itself, as literally anyone, from junior to expert, from enthusiast to professional can take a shot and present or learn something they value. It has to be considered that what’s going to be presented at the conference is highly uncertain before going there, so it might not be ideal for everyone. But for me personally, that flexibility and creative atmosphere is what makes UX such a great area to work in. And in the end, the takeaways are even more valuable and unexpected.