A look back on UX New Zealand 2017: Value, sprints, collaboration and more

5 min read Max Koh

October has been and gone, which means another amazing UX New Zealand is done and dusted.

The entire Optimal Workshop team had an absolute blast running the event, meeting and greeting people, ushering attendees, grabbing coffees for speakers and, of course, getting to listen to all the inspirational talks and workshops over three days.

The audience enjoying presentations at UX New Zealand 2017

If you missed UX New Zealand 2017, don’t fret — we’ve put together some of the highlights, with links to videos and slides.

How can we be more valuable?

A big theme among a number of this year’s talks was value. But value can be interpreted in many different ways. How can we become more valuable UX professionals? Are we using design to to make the world a less valuable place? How are values influenced by culture? How can we demonstrate the value of our work?

Krispian Emert taught us how we can show our real value to stakeholders by questioning everything, knowing our audience, and speaking their language.

Michael Palmyre challenged our notion of value, and asked us to good work and design a movement that matters. In a similar vein, Ash Donaldson discussed ethical challenges and responsibility, while raising the question: How can we make sure what we’re doing is right?

Michael Palmyre onstage at UX New Zealand 2017

Ian Howard discussed how the journey is often just as important as the destination, and that we can create brand engagement and value through great journeys.

Zaid Al-Dabbagh and Andrew Petersen talked about taking other cultures and their values into account when researching and designing.

Dave Hockly on stage at UX New Zealand 2017

We also learned how we can show that the work we do is valuable by measuring and improving our UX after projects have gone live with Dave Hockly. He explained why research before a project goes live isn’t enough, and why we need to make continuous UX improvements.

How can we be more practical?

Another strong theme in this year’s presentations was being practical. We learned a lot about new ways to work — both as teams, alone, or with participants. We were also taught how to pick the right things to design during a sprint, as well as how to make sure our sprints are successful.

Greg Nudelman shared his tips for lean UX success and why we should become UX ninjas so we can work better together, and do better work.

Lisa Jansen gave us a rundown on how teams can run successful sprints, using some everyday design techniques.

Ruth Keiry taught us how teams can collaborate better together, and provided us with the techniques we need to overcome barriers to true collaboration.

Serena Chen onstage at UX New Zealand 2017

With the constant threat of hackers and security breaches that the world faces, Serena Chen showed us how experiences can be designed in a way that’s both pleasant and secure — each aren’t mutually exclusive.

We also learned a bunch of practical tips on how to select the right research participants, and why you need to write effective screening questions from Amanda Stockwell.

Jodine Stodart onstage at UX New Zealand 2017

Part of creating good experiences means knowing your customers’ journey end-to-end so you can make that journey even better. Jodine Stodart told us how she created a customer journey map and how to actually get stakeholders engaged in the information that it provides.

How can we be more human?

Being empathetic and more human towards others is an essential part of UX, especially with modern technology shifting us into interfaceless experiences, and more people focusing on designing with accessibility in mind.

Helena Beckert and Andrea Bates shared their thoughts on whether New Zealand was doing enough for mental health accessibility, and how we can become better at it.

We also learned about the unexplored territory of aural-UX from Mark Wyner and how many different facets of traditional UX can still apply to this new area of interfaceless technology. Kah Chan also shared his thoughts on crafting a voice to humanize brands, especially as more and more conversational and voice-operated interfaces are emerging.

Mark Wyner onstage at UX New Zealand 2017

People who belong to UX teams got a great lesson in how they can bring other members of their organization closer to UX. Lucy Denton showed how she taught developers to develop empathy, using a series of practical and hands-on lessons during Atlassian’s User Research Day.

We also were reminded by Amy Stoks and Tania Hockings that when we’re designing, we’re designing for people who have a need. On top of this, we also need to think about the people who are crucial in creating this content (e.g., subject matter experts) and what they need from us as designers and creators. By crafting content that’s human-centered, we’re creating something that’s valuable and designed with a purpose.

Julie Grundy onstage at UX New Zealand 2017

Forms, whether paper or digital, are something that all of us have to deal with on a regular basis. So why are they so often incredibly confusing and difficult to fill out? Julie Grundy showed us how we can make forms better and simpler for humans to fill out — not just for machines to collect data.

And finally, Anna Lee Anda showed us why learning from your users in their own world helps you understand them better, as well as the problems they face. She also gave us some practical tips on how you should run in-person research sessions with users in their environment.

If you attended this year’s UX New Zealand, we hope you enjoyed it, jotted down some useful notes, met some new faces and took everything you learned back to the office to share. Thanks again for all of your support — we couldn’t have done it without you!