Camp Digital 2016: User Intents, not Users In Tents

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By Lucy Davies
on 21/3/16

Last week I attended Camp Digital, an annual UX conference taking place at Manchester Town Hall. The day covered a wide range of topics including psychology, conversion rate optimisation, design for children, stakeholder management and gamification.

For those not familiar with the term, UX (user experience) captures the way a user interacts with your service or website, considering design, website navigation and structure, conversion rate optimisation, and user intents, motivations and behaviours. The objective of “good UX” is to help the user meet their needs better, and deliver the website/service owner more conversions or revenue. A good UX practitioner should be equally comfortable with design and data analysis.

Courtesy of @emma_travo

With a bit of teamwork, we published a morning round up midway through the day, with key takeaways from Julie Dodd and Tom Loosemore. The quality of presentations remained strong through the rest of the day, with 19 speakers in total, culminating in a keynote speech about accessibility.

The loose theme of the event was Digital for Good – and as you would expect, this came through in some presentations more so than others. Molly Watt’s presentation on inclusion and accessibility was particularly inspiring, discussing how technology can either be life-changing for the better for people with accessibility needs – or build barriers. Users with accessibility needs often aren't represented within the groups of people designing and building these services, a point that was also raised by Tom Loosemore earlier in the day. I think the whole room felt a responsibility to consider this more thoroughly, which was reflected in the amount of questions asked at the end.

Courtesy of Molly Watt Trust

One sub-theme that came through from a lot of the speakers was about taking responsibility and getting it done – whether that’s in managing stakeholders effectively (Barry Briggs was a strong advocate of flowcharts, and Tom Loosemore of getting your team to work together effectively), or solving a problem out in the world with technology that’s already available, such as the BBC’s Ebola alerts or Cancer Research UK’s Space Blaster research game, which crowdsourced their data processing needs. As well as being a great piece of public engagement, it actually increased their processing capacity by turning their data into an interactive game.

Courtesy of @Jeff Coghlan

Several speakers also discussed online behaviour from a psychological perspective, such as the power relationship created between a user and the digital service he or she uses, as well as what are now common considerations in conversion rate optimisation – social proofing, trust signals, exclusivity and value perception. Alisan Atvur scraped the surface of behaviour triggers in decision making, taking inspiration from his experience in counselling.

One takeaway that came through time and again was: Design for the user. This is basically what UX is all about, but it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of in the midst of a big website redesign or new page build. A few specific learnings on this theme included:

• Don’t list every single product and overwhelm your user (beware decision fatigue dragging down your conversion rate)

• Don’t overdesign – are your images and iconography genuinely adding to the user experience, or just making the page prettier (and busier)?

• Research: what are your users’ “activators” – why are they on your website, what are their fears and desires, and how can you meet them? By considering and addressing the “activator” (the trigger) you can effect change on the consequences (and your results)

• Consider accessibility from the start

• Decision making is rarely rational – ensure you’re meeting the needs of the user both on a rational, content-based level, as well as their “gut feel”, based on their emotional experience and the impression of trust that you create

• Is your website or service a joy to use? Mundane tasks that inject unexpected moments of joy can be very powerful

• What is the user already accustomed to? Don’t be new and different for the sake of being new and different. What existing technologies or practises can you leverage?

Overall it was a great event, and it was particularly exciting to be reminded of the talent we have here in Manchester. UX is a relatively new discipline, borne out of a realisation that designers and IA should work closer together to get better results. UX and SEO are also growing closer together, with user behaviours becoming Google ranking signals, and aspects of page design such as content tabs having an effect on organic search results. With the field evolving and adapting rapidly, UX practitioners love a get together to review and redefine best practice.

View my live tweets from the day at @kkdempsey

See you all next year.