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The state of UX in Australia

“While testing is critical, it’s important that your insights are a balance between numbers and observation. The notion that we will answer in line with the person we want to be, rather than the person we are, is critical to understand.”

I recently had the pleasure to attend a couple of UX (User Experience) Australia events here in Melbourne. The awesome Josh Seiden hosted a workshop on Lean UX, followed by the UX Australia Melbourne Redux, a shortened, Melbourne-ified version of the annual UX Australia conference, this year held Brisbane.

In both events, speakers shared excellent insights and I learnt a lot about where our industry is heading. The following are some of my main takeaways from these events:

People care a lot about great customer experiences

One of the main things I noticed was that UX people care an awful lot about what they are doing and attendees from companies large and small were highly engaged in networking and skill sharing. People didn't attend because they were seeking a day out of the office, they came to connect with and learn from their peers.

Test, test and test again...

Perhaps obvious to those in the field, one observation I made was the amount of testing involved in creating successful digital products. Every single case study mentioned seemed to be based on the sifting through of a load of data.

In perhaps the most interesting talk of the day, Conduct HQ talked about their app produced in conjunction with the Children's Hospital; a game to get kids ready for simple hospital procedures. The usability testing of the app seemed to bring up some pretty interesting finds.

One myth that testing debunked was the idea that games for kids should be easy. No, not at all. Testing showed that they had to be challenging in order to be stimulating.

Another feature that the designers had to rethink was the idea that people hold iPads with two hands when, in fact, kids often use them sitting on a table, which has great implications when the goal of the game is to 'stand still'.

Some companies do more testing than others, with NAB's research culture and the amount of data they end up with being particular astonishing.

As noted by Carl Hannemann, it's pretty easy to set up some A/B testing for yourself and get quantitative data quickly, but nothing is a replacement for user testing.

lipstick user testing

User testing has been central to marketing and advertising for decades... for good reasons.

...but remember that actions speak louder than words.

While testing is critical, it's important that your insights are a balance between numbers and observation. Josh Seiden spoke of the simple idea of asking people what they have for breakfast.

"If someone asks me what I eat for breakfast, I'll tell them I eat muesli. What did I have for breakfast this morning? Something delicious and fried, I had no time for museli." (Slightly paraphrased)

This notion, that we will answer in line with the person we want to be rather than the person we are, is critical to understand. In fact, the guys at Yump Digital mentioned the exact same thing in their talk, when conducting a survey related to comparing electricity prices.

In the survey, when customers ranked the main reasons they wanted to conserve energy, the social factor of "because our neighbours do it" came last when, in reality, they found that it was the most important factor in play when people decided to conserve energy.

healthy breakfast

Is this really what you had for breakfast this morning?

Big business is taking UX very seriously

NAB's team talked about how their work in user experience and research impact the organisation as a whole as it leads to creating new processes. They talked about how their change in CEO has led them to being a much more customer-centered organisation, and this was evident in the change in processes.

This was backed up by the guys at the ATO, whose design team took charge of leading their vision towards what "2020 looks like". Running an eCommerce website taking in over 300 million dollars that every adult in Australia is more or less forced to use means the ATO faces a bigger challenge than most organisations when it comes to designing great UX. However, they told us that with the buy-in of senior management, their whole organisation was going through a design-led change with the aim of making tax returns and other services more appealing for everyone.

Forms! Spend time on them!

Forms. They sound so boring but they are so important. From ensuring that we are using the correct HTML5 'types', as discussed by Davide L Rizzo (check out his great conference notes here), to catering for people we don't even know exist, forms are worth a lot more time than they are afforded. In fact, so much so that UX Australia just did a workshop on forms a couple of weeks ago.

And then there's the story of the $300 million dollar button.

To conclude

User experience is an exciting place to be. Technology is evolving, job opportunities are on the up, and people in big business are realising how important being user-centered is, and how having specialists in the field is essential.

In Melbourne, we have meet-ups, workshops, classes and conferences in abundance and I feel that we are very lucky in that sense. Now, I can't wait for UX Australia 2016!

Indietech blog article author - Digital Marketing and Web Design insights
Noted by Vincent Feeney

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