UX lightning talks 2014 – Cambridge Usability Group

I was lucky enough to be involved in organising the UX lightning talks event for Cambridge Usability Group again this year. Towards the end of March, I sent out a call for people in the Cambridge UX community who would like to give a 5-minute talk about their work. Tips and tricks, stories from the trenches, thoughts, ideas, questions… anything. They didn’t disappoint, and on the night, to a sell-out * audience, everyone shared ideas and told stories based on their experience.  Just for a bit of added excitement / headache, I gave a talk as well. We hosted it at Microsoft Research, and Red Gate Software kindly sponsored drinks afterwards at a nearby pub.

I’ve managed to pull together notes for the talks, in order of appearance…

Neil Turner (TUI)

Neil (@neilturnerux) talked about the challenges of working with remote teams, and for me, I  think one of his key points was about agreeing up-front how you’re going to communicate, and who does what. It’s never going to be easy but there are ways to make it workable, and communication is key.

Dom Reed (Red Gate Software)

Dom (@idrinkleadpaint) did a fine job of convincing us that we should all be photographers. As UXers, we already have the requisite skills… we think about audience, purpose, distractions, composition, and experience: essential for both good UX design and photography

Gülşen Töre (University of Cambridge)

Gülşen presented us with insights into product usability testing and helping designers make sense of results. Specifically, she explained (quickly!) the development of a tool that would allow designers to explore research findings in a more flexible way.

Marine Barbaroux (Red Gate Software)

Should we kill personas? Off to a good start, with a title like that! Marine (@miss_embe) has lots of experience in UX, so she has seen a few personas in her time. She suggested that lean UX “proto-personas” belong in early stage projects, then we can move into the more classic “Cooper-style” personas, and later, the newer “Job-to-be-done” personas.

Francis Rowland (European Bioinformatics Institute)

Yeah, that was me (@francisrowland). I wanted to point out that there’s more to user experience design than UCD. It’s really helpful to have other lenses through which to view the work we do, and that activity-centered design is one approach that makes sense in complex environments like science, medical data, and financial trading. This talk was a way of beta-testing the one I’ll give at EuroIA 2014.

Leo Poll (Akendi)

Leo (@l_poll) asked us how does innovation happen? He encouraged us to take the time to really look at things and ask questions. “Why is it like that?” and perhaps more importantly, “What if…?”. Maybe we will discover something. The story he told us ended with a message: invent less, discover more.

Revathi Nathaniel (Red Gate Software)

Revathi (@revnathaniel) was another storyteller, telling us an Agile development team’s story of uncovering the ‘real’ user problem, and how things got lost in translation. In a particular project, Revathi and her team did a lot of work, designing a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. It seemed to me like a very neat example of the availiability heuristic in action!

Anusha Iyer (Dovetailed)

Whilst on the topic of storytelling, Anusha (@anushaiyer) talked to us about metaphor: one of the most powerful bits of storytelling! She talked us through ways in which deliberate and careful use of metaphor can help break the mould of thinking and aid creativity. This included photos of plasticene, Duplo, and cardboard!

Tim Regan (Microsoft Research)

We wrapped up with a talk from Tim (@dumbledad) ,who told us about the Tenison Road project that Microsoft Research Cambridge have been running. I’ve seen a lot of talks involving “big data”, but this was perhaps the most human-centered. How does a community see itself, and the data it produces by just being. Fascinating and amusing, and great to hear what Tim gets up to!


* registration for Cambridge Usability Group events is always free. For this one, we initially released 40 tickets. Those were snapped up and people demanded more. Microsoft Research were kind enough to offer us their much larger auditorium. We released a further 20 tickets, and those went, too. People really like hearing short talks from UXers who do this stuff, day-to-day!


2 thoughts on “UX lightning talks 2014 – Cambridge Usability Group

  1. I went past Microsoft’s office on Sunday, and was a bit disappointed not to see the mechanical pie charts that featured in Tim’s talk. Hopefully they’ll be up in the window soon.

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