I had the pleasure of returning to Hong Kong in late February to attend the third (my first) UX Hong Kong two day conference. A combination of speakers, subject matter, my desire to return to Hong Kong, and timing came together to make this conference a good fit.
The first half of the first day was a series of six speakers (Michael Davis-Burchat, Jeff Gothelf, Timothy Loo, Will Evans, Marcel Takagi, and Josh Seiden) who each had about 15 minutes to seemingly pitch their half-day workshops the following day (for which attendees had already signed up). The benefit for attendees is that they received an overview of each of the sessions and got some of the highlights as a result.
It also felt to me that the conference was taking a decidedly process-oriented focus on UX, specifically around agile, lean, scrum, and related practices.
Timothy Loo spoke about an overall company-wide UX strategy, framing it in examples of business and brand strategies. Jeff Gothelf addressed agile and lean processes and how to apply them to UX. Marcel Takagi spoke about regional experiences in Asia, balancing local needs with universal design. Josh Seiden spoke about how to apply Agile to existing and new businesses. Will Evans introduced me to the Cynefin model, and I think confused some non-native speakers by using "ontologies" and "epistomology" in his presentation. Michael Davis Burchat discussed simplified research and studies to apply reason to the overall process.
The afternoon discussion group I selected was "Making a User-Centered Product Company," led by Andrew Mayfield. He started off by having our individual tables (now our group) come up with a definition of "minimally viable product." In fact, for each question he asked, he had our groups come up with definitions and he would simply validate our statements. When he started asking about stand-up meetings, I realized I was in an Agile discussion group (it became clear when I noted that stand-up meetings have existed for decades and he had to qualify that he meant a particular kind of stand-up meeting).
While I felt the session was more about Agile than UX, and the web site did not make any mention of Agile for this session, I had some very good discussions with the folks at my table. Partly because none of them were sold on looking solely at the process. We spoke about what we each did at our jobs and how and what aspects of UX we felt we touched on a day-to-day basis.
For breaks and lunch, there was a nice selection of foods and drinks, even if there weren't enough chairs or tables. Conversations with other attendees were easy, and as the seemingly token American, it was a great opportunity for me to get face-to-face insights on all sorts of software and web topics from the other side of the world.
The post-conference mixer, which I accidentally attended because I just kept chatting with people, was well attended. It helped that it was held in the same atrium as the meal and was the only way out of the building.
During #uxhk mixer, so many folks I met had multinational background—born in one country, raised in another, work in another, etc… Nifty.— Adrian Roselli (@aardrian) February 22, 2013
I attended "Lean UX: Agility Through Cross-Functional Collaboration" by Jeff Gothelf (slides from the same presentation he gave in May 2012) partly because when I signed up I thought it was the only Agile session and I wanted to see how a specific process had been applied to UX. I figured seeing UX in a different way might give me more insight into its application. It turns out with the seemingly Agile focus for the conference, I had already received my introduction to that process.
This session seemed to target the Lean start-up model in particular, which may work well for granular features and products that are well-suited to a two-week sprint cycle. Applying this to a multi-month or multi-year project seems a bit trickier and even Jeff acknowledged that the Lean process may not easily slide into a long-term project or a waterfall model.
During the course of the session, he provided us with a general set of steps to follow and gave us an example product to which we could apply it. The steps were:
- Goal setting
- Declare assumptions
- "We believe that [building this feature] for [this audience] will achieve [this outcome]."
- Identify smallest thing to do test that hypothesis (minimally viable product or experiment)
Interestingly, this entire process seems to closely resemble the rapid prototyping approach we have been practicing at Algonquin Studios since the start of the company 15 years ago, itself borrowed from many smarter people before us. When I made this connection in my head, the session ended up applying very neatly to my world.
My afternoon discussion group was "UX Strategy: Redesining Business" by Tim Loo (Slideshare of his presentation). Being the last session on the last day, some folks were getting a little antsy to head out, and the session was clearly running over its allotted time, which didn't help. However, when we were focused our group had some great discussions about how to get UX into our existing business models.
The UX strategy Tim presented seemed straightforward, if wordy: "Long-term vision, roadmaps and key performance indicators to align every customer touch-point with your brand position and business strategy."
He presented a general framework for this strategy, challenges to UX acceptance, and then ran us through a "shit-storming" session, where we mapped pain-points for users. In particular we logged an emotion someone might feel when using a product along with what caused it and used those to help prioritize what we would address.
Conveniently, this session wasn't bogged down in a process, but it was a little tricky to understand how to plan for particular outcomes (emotions, customer stories) instead of outputs (features, bug fixes).
There are some wrap-up pages made up of tweets, pictures and posts. One is Lanyrd's Coverage of UX Hong Kong 2013 and another is Eventifier's collection. Other than Tim Loo's slides, I found no others online. I opted to exclude the sketch notes that popped up because they didn't seem to capture what I thought were the salient points of the presentations.