An Event Apart Conference Recap

By Nhan Vu

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       An Event Apart is a series of three-day-long UX Conferences held throughout the US in the following locations: Washington DC, Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Orlando. An Event Apart offers attendees three full days of "design, code and content"- three days worth of opportunity to learn, connect, and explore. An Event Apart (AEA) offer presentations and panels from industry leaders, thinkers and innovators, focusing on a range of topic today and tomorrow.

Below is a compilation of some of the most relevant points from some sessions I was able to attend. More information and resources can be found here.

Making Research Count, Cyd Harrell 

What is the Importance of Research?

  • What do we need to make research matter?
    • Relationships
    • Having support from non-UX folks
    • Budget
    • Participation
    • Tangible outcomes
  • Research counts when it answers a question people care about
  • Research explores beyond just the numbers and stats and connects to the human experience
  • Curious people with power are the most useful ones to influence
  • How do we show that research is important?
    • Who in your organization is disconnected from the user?
    • Invite team along, show them what you are doing
  • People who get to ask a question buy into the results
    • People get more invested if they can contribute to the discussion 
  • “Research is our product & the rest of our organization is our users”
  • Refocus people from thinking about ROI to thinking about positive value

Who should we do research on (results become more reliable as you move further down the list)

  • Team members
  • Friends, not on your team
  • Target customers
  • Real users with recent experience
  • Real users with current needs
  • Real users with a need this hour

Talking Back: Conversation Design for VUIs, Laura Martini

Designing for voice command

  • Industries using voice command
    • Games, Finance, Publishing, Health, Travel, Food, Marketing
  • Pros
    • Web or mobile interactions can require many clicks
    • Allows for hands-free scenarios
    • Could develop into a conversation
  • Cons
    • Better interaction on mobile and web
    • High switching costs

Voice Design Principles

  • Grice’s Cooperative Principle: assume good intent when talking to people
  • Grice’s Four Maxims
    • Quantity: don’t want to give too much info
    • Quality: tell the truth
    • Relation: conversation is relevant to ask
    • Manner: keep conversation focused and use appropriate language

Making a VUI

  • Step 0: Is voice appropriate?
    • KPIs and Metrics
      • What is the product trying to accomplish
      • What are you trying to do
  • Step 1: Tone & Personality, Persona
    • “When people hear a voice they unconsciously assign a personality to it”
    • What subset of customers will use VUI
    • Describe a single person
    • Distill existing brand guidelines into a few key attributes
  • Step 2: Storyboarding and sample dialogs
    • Sample dialogs are the wireframes of conversation design
    • Roleplaying is a useful tool to start brainstorming
  • Step 3: Testing
    • Wizard of oz testing: build off nothing, just start building
  • Step 4: Scripting
    • Intents
    • Take into account failure states
    • Repair conversations: how can we redirect people if the conversation isn’t going well
  • Step 5: Build
    • Dialog flows

Inclusive, by Design, Derek Featherstone

Designing for inclusion

  • Two types of inclusion
    • Inclusion in product
    • Inclusion in process
  • Often people with disabilities are involved very late in the design process after the design decisions have already been made
    • Basically, “We have made this product, now tell us if we built it right”
    • What we need to do is involve people with disabilities earlier in the design process

How can we make our designs more inclusive to people with disabilities?

  • Embrace diversity by default, not as a nice-to-have
  • Acknowledge your privilege, and your power, and your position in the design process
  • Ask “How can we include more people with disabilities earlier and more meaningfully in the process?”
  • Spend more time including people with disabilities exploring the problem space instead of the solution space
  • Ask “How are people already solving this problem?”
    • Microsoft.com/design/inclusive
    • Microsoft is doing a great job of designing for inclusivity
  • Work with people with disabilities as co-designers
  • Ask “Based on the last project, how can we improve our process to be more inclusive?”
  • How can we measure inclusion in our process?

How can we meet inclusion goals?

  • Agency: You should have the ability and opportunity to participate in solutions that you will use, and that will impact your life
  • Belonging / Othering: Your participation should be predicated on using the same tools, at the same time, in the same space, using the same process as anyone, to the greatest extent possible
  • Value: Your participation in a process is valued rather than tolerated or accommodated


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