1st May 2019

UX in the City 2019

Stephen Shaw

Stephen Shaw Lead Web Designer

Digital Events

Reading time 10 mins

The A&P UX team recently attended  UX in the City: Manchester 2019. It was a fascinating event packed with thought-provoking speakers and great, insightful content.

Packed with tutorials, workshops and case studies, the event covered numerous aspects of UX throughout two days - from working with new technologies, the challenges of working with and for users, to broader themes like how studying user experience in sport can increase individual and team performance up to Olympic standard.

User experience design is the process of creating products or websites that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. It’s literally how the user feels and reacts when interacting with a digital product, like a desktop or mobile website. It’s a key aspect of web design in particular, as it helps form and maintain interest, generate leads and create conversions. If you ignore your user, their requirements and their behaviours, they will ignore your product.

At A&P, user experience is the forefront to all the digital work we produce – as we understand a design requires much more than purely an attractive interface. The key to a successful website is not so much how it looks, it is about how it works. According to Google, statistics prove users will spend more time on a visually simplistic website with a great user journey and low cognitive load than they would on one which simply looks great.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”  

Steve Jobs.


The challenges of being user-centred in elite sport.

One of the most interesting speakers at the event was Chris Burns who talked about the challenges of being user-centred in elite sport. Chris is a sports performance analyst and plays a key role at the The English Institute of Sport, working closely with athletes and support staff to provide digital solutions for Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Chris spoke about the challenges his team faced whilst working with Olympic and Paralympic athletes to monitor and improve their health, wellness and performance. The talk demonstrated how to find the solution to a user’s (athlete) problem - go to the very heart of it - to the user or users themselves. His example explained how a top Olympic athlete was having sleeping issues which was affecting their form.

His challenge was dealing with difficult stakeholders and couldn’t progress beyond their assumptions, when he knew he had to delve much deeper to get real solutions. He used the term ‘Hippo’ which is an acronym for ‘highest paid persons opinion’ - to explain how subjective personal opinions and generalisations were overshadowing what the athlete needed specially for their individual problem.

It was only when he had the opportunity to meet with the athlete that he could learn and identify the real problem, in order to find solutions.

Chris developed an app which monitors performance bespoke to each athlete. This included sleep monitoring, dietary help and even training schedules.

The app has now generated interest by the likes of the ECB and the LTA. He was fully aware an app will not win gold medals alone, but even if it offers marginal gains of 1%, it’s beneficial.

Despite being a sport related issue, the same rules apply in digital for user centered situations.

  • Get to the heart of the problem to find the solution
  • Don’t make assumptions (all users are different)
  • Ask the right people (Speak to the actual users)


Inclusive design

Robin Christopherson was also a guest speaker, a visually impaired designer who spoke about inclusive design. He stressed the importance of UX to be inclusive for ALL users (like the captcha example below) and how this often isn’t the case. Accessibility is not for the disabled, it’s for everyone. With the growth of the mobile device, he identified issues around text size often being too small and requiring squinting, plus buttons being too small for our fat fingers, causing frequent frustration.

He highlighted how technology has evolved dramatically in recent times, yet it’s still often lacking in inclusivity. The video below demonstrates how incredible and innovative products can still be anything but inclusive (It's definitely worth a watch!).


Top Tasks

Gerry McGovern highlighted the problems and frustration he encounters with UX work. Gerry helps large organisations become more customer-centric on the web, including Microsoft, Cisco, Google and IBM. He demonstrated how the majority of websites prioritise what the organisation wants the customer to do – such as ‘view this particular product’ or ‘read this specific blog post’ when there is no evidence the user will be interested in that. This comes as a result of little or no research into the user’s requirements, decreasing the chances of leads and conversions.

He stressed the need to flip this around and prioritise the user’s needs (top tasks) and offer them in the most obvious, straightforward way possible. The best way to understand digital user experience is to measure the time and effort required to complete top tasks. That’s why the most successful digital brands, from Amazon to Google, are relentless in their focus on saving their customers time.


Key quotes and conclusions from the conference

  • If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design
  • Keep your user’s objectives in your mind and think of the possible ways to meet them.
  • You are not your user, and neither are people around you the end user. It’s never beneficial to try to impose your likes and dislikes on your design. You are not designing for yourself.
  • Visual design is about problem solving, not about personal preference or unsupported opinion
  • When a website has great UX, you won’t even notice it — its design is intuitive and flows well. A bad UX creates user reactions from slightly annoyed to complete bafflement. 
  • Large organisations decisions are still often driven by internal ego – it should be customer centric, driven by research and statistics.
  • Identify top tasks of your website – and make these the most prominent aspect.   

For those who have not attended previously, we strongly recommend the conference. It offers choice and variety in its range of talks and without doubt, we hope to be back at UX in City in 2020.