UX Australia 2013 Day 1: Top 3 Insights

Here’s a highly synthesised version of the amazing talks I attended on Day 1 of UX Australia 2013.

Microinteractions: Designing with details by Dan Saffer

  1. Design is not about solving wicked problems.
  2. A microinteraction does one task well.
  3. Product experience is only as good as its smallest experience. Create signature moments!

Microinteractions: Designing with details by Dan Saffer

Our billion-dollar baby: From greed to good by Chris Paton

  1. Gambling can be designed for the good of the world.
  2. Slow down to go faster.
  3. Get a good scrum-master!

Microinteractions: Designing with details by Dan SafferOur billion-dollar baby: From greed to good by Chris Paton

How to run an effective Cultural Probe on your UX project by Matt Morphett and Rob McLellan

  1. Look at the longitudinal view of the user’s day.
  2. Brief all your participants together and look them in the eye while doing it.
  3. Provide an example entry in the diary to encourage expression of honest feelings.

How to run an effective Cultural Probe on your UX project by Matt Morphett and Rob McLellan

Usability and the art of gentle persuasion at Justice by John Murphy and Gavin Hince

  1. Find your REAL audience.
  2. Provide guidance for the lost. Demystify.
  3. Bring lots of “conceptual glue”!

Usability and the art of gentle persuasion at Justice by John Murphy and Gavin Hince

Winning proportions and frictionless navigation by Jon Deragon

  1. Navigation has a lot of baggage.
  2. Disproportionate navigation creates severe frustrations.
  3. Always ask: what have we adopted from the past and how is it applicable?

Winning proportions and frictionless navigation by Jon Deragon

Universal design for touch by Katja Forbes

  1. Sometimes, reinventing the wheel can change the world!
  2. Respect our elders when designing solutions, otherwise they won’t use your product.
  3. In text-to-speech, directive language sounds bossy. E.g. ‘Delete the event’ vs. ‘Deletes the event’

Universal design for touch by Katja Forbes

Two models of design-led innovation by Steve Baty

  1. Insight-led innovation and hypothesis-led innovation
  2. A 1-week rapid iteration includes: hypothesis > sprint > working prototype > test hypothesis.
  3. Use a time-lapse camera at a cafe to watch people. Get insights from their behaviours.

Two models of design-led innovation by Steve Baty

Agile ethnography in New York’s secret public spaces by Chris Holmes

  1. POPS (Privately Owned Public Space) are TOPS!
  2. Agile ethnography = Traditional ethnography + Agile methods. Don’t think too hard. Just f*cking do it!
  3. Everyone in your team is a researcher. Agile = adjust your expectations accordingly.

Agile ethnography in New York’s secret public spaces by Chris Holmes

Design Jam with IntiMate – A secret room for two

How do you notify users of an incoming message without leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs that is tracable? Is there a way to simplify (or do without) the signup process? How can we design an app that would encourage users to use it many times a day?

These were the design challenges IntiMate brought to the table at OD’s Design Jam last week.

What is Design Jam?
We started Design Jam to help businesses (especially startups) who have genuine design challenges, but do not have the know-how to design a great user experience.

It’s our way of giving back to the community and helping the people who need UX advice the most.

Objective Digital’s Design Jams are pretty straightforward:

  • Name 3 design challenges you are facing right now
  • We’ll help you sketch, design and tackle them in 2 hours
  • You bring food and wine and we’ll get to work!

Want to know more? Contact us for a Design Jam!

Who is IntiMate?
Last week, we had the good people from IntiMate in our offices:

IntiMate is a Secret Room for any 2 people to share intimate content with each other securely on their mobile. Check out IntiMate’s website to find out more.

IntiMate’s top 3 design challenges


The IntiMate team articulated their top 3 design challenges as:

1. Seamlessly getting in (pun not intended)
– How can 2 users effortlessly start to play? How do we remove obstacles to the signup process? (e.g. “We just met at a party…”)

2. “I don’t want to get caught”
– If conversations are a secret, how can we notify a user with many conversations?
– How can we secure access to a conversation without asking the user too much?

3. “Play more every day”
– How do we empower users to discover and use new interactions?

The Design Jam Process

1. Preparation

We prepared for the session by addressing the following questions:

– Business objectives: how will this mobile app impact your business?
– Competitor review: who’s already doing it and what are they doing well/not well?
– Desired behaviours: what are the specific behaviours you want your users to perform that have direct impact on the success of the app?

2. Let’s Jam! (Co-creation, design studio)

To the tunes of Boney M (our artist of the day), we tackled each challenge one at a time, sketching, creating and presenting our ideas in rapid succession.


The focus was to generate a quantity of ideas for IntiMate to take with them, and examine interesting interactions that came up.

3. After Jamming

IntiMate took with them the sketches and ideas generated during the session and had this to say about their experience one week later:

DesignJam-intimate-6“The workshop with Objective Digital has provided the IntiMate team with a real boost in terms of ideation, and potential answers to the challenges that Tim helped us to identify before the workshop.

One of the great added value of this session is that OD’s consultants brought a broad experience of UX, rich creativity and, even more important, a real passion for the products available in the market, most of which they use on a daily basis in their work and personal environments.

It would have taken us many weeks to achieve the same level of ideation, so thank you Objective Digital for your help!”

Got a design challenge you’d like us to tackle? Contact us for a Design Jam!

Practising what we preach – using design tools on the OD website

Our website is due for an overhaul.   It’s a bit like the builder’s house, not the best in the street. None the less, we are having fun applying some of our toolkit to our own project.

At our initial strategy workshop, we started with an immersion activity. This involved getting the boss, James Breeze, to walk through some typical customer scenarios on the website. This is designed to increase stakeholder engagement with the project and shock them into giving you loads of resources for the project. It emphasises the need for change, and help supports the business case. 

Quite a few steps later in the process, we were ready for a design workshop. But we are a company of many talented UX designers, so the question was posed, “How to use this wealth of talent on our own project?”

Enter Design Studio, a collaborative design methodology which aims to draw on the skills of a team, and at the same time, avoids just going with the obvious solution.  Instead of the team discussing one solution together, and sketching it together, individuals design alone, share their ideas, and later refine them. You start with a plethora of ideas, not groupthink. 

Here’s Nirish working on his design.

Design storming

You can find the full explanation of the design studio methodology on UX mag but to summarise the basic process :

  • Background:The facilitator presents the design problem.
  • Sketch: Individuals sketch up to 8 solutions, with the focus on quantity. 
  • Present: Individuals present their ideas to a small group. 
  • Critique: The small group positively critiques the ideas so the individual can go away and refine the designs.
  • Iterate: The process is repeated with ideas being combined, re-defined, and finally the group coming up with one refined solution. 

Ideally you have a full day, with the teams working all day to distill many ideas into one refined solution. But our workshop was on a team planning day, and we had to do it towards the end of the day. So in the sketch phase, we got out the beers, put on some Bach played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra on, and we were away!

Dan, Alexis, Tim and Nirish sharing their designs.

We needed creativity

In 2 hours, we managed to do 2 iterations of the process. We had mix of UX designers, researchers and project managers in our workshop, and nearly everyone had a go at designing in the first stage. In the second iteration, people less experienced in design paired up with someone more experienced. We got some great ideas, which are still up on our wall. So Design Studio is definitely worth adding to your design toolkit. 

And here’s Anna putting on the final touches of her design!

ACO for imagination

Fake form fields for a better user experience

Being a Sydney-based UX company we do heaps of work in finance, particularly with online forms. Typically an online form, usually comprising multiple screens, will present some design challenges:

– collect all the required data, while being as short as possible

– collect accurate (formal) data, while using everyday (informal) language

– give the user a sense of control, while demanding intricate details (in a linear order).

Modern form design is a creative art to ensure that people (a) complete the process without deciding to give up and (b) feel emotionally positive after completing the process; if the customer feels the process was demanding and tiring, and even, well, *degrading* because of the personal disclosure to an inhuman interlocutor, then chances are your customer relationship is spoiled from the start. 

Recently we were designing a form in a workshop with a client and we discovered a design issue that demonstrated some of these competing demands, and we ended up with perhaps an unusual solution. The form, like many others, required some disclosure of the financial position of the customer. Part of this was their employment details. The form we had sketched had fields for ’employer’ and ‘job title’. Our client explained that actually they need the ‘job type’ and not the ‘job title’. Job types are selected from a (long) list and are things like:

  • Manager
  • Clerical assistant
  • Labourer
  • Teacher
  • Production manager
  • Warehouse manager
  • Sales minion* 

Whereas job titles are free text entry and are things like:

  • Manager, retail division
  • Senior administration supervisor
  • Granite technician
  • English teacher
  • Head of plant operations
  • Senior logistics manager
  • Sales prodigy*

You can see that ‘job titles’ often carry a sense of identity and can infer status (there’s more Senior and Principal UX professionals than Standard ones 😉 whereas ‘job types’ are averaging. Chances are that declaring a job title leads to a little flush of pride whilst declaring a job type leads to a little bit of reflection. With the form in question, and indeed with any form design, we want to keep the user feeling just chipper whilst they fill it in (there’s always some checkboxes that the client wants them to tick, right?). We felt that swapping ‘job title’ for ‘job type’ would take too much shine off the emotional wellbeing of our customer during this particular engagement. We decided to leave in ‘job title’ so people could tell us something special about their work, and then collect ‘job type’ straight after**.

Asking for data that you don’t need – the fake field – is of course artifice, and maybe could be considered a patronising lie that breaches the spirit of trust that should exist between user and provider… but seen in a different way it is quite usual to gather extra, incidental information. In a conversation, with a real person, without a computer screen and an un-emotional form in the way, people get a sense of dialog and emotional engagement from the interaction. A lot of extra information is transferred in the process of managing the interpersonal interaction. When designing a form, we acknowledge the compromises compared to that proper human engagement, and we look for ways in which we can take tiny steps back towards where we prefer to be. In this case, the ‘job title’ field is not data that gets kept, but it’s still important to ask someone; could you imagine asking someone what sort of job they had but not asking what they actually do? Even though it compromised our key goal of a short, fast form, sometimes satisfaction is more important than plain old efficiency.

Can you think of other examples where a fake field might help the experience?


* not really

** (we’d love to test this out and see if a form with ‘job title’ has higher satisfaction ratings than one with just ‘job type’ – maybe one day we will – for now we’re just measuring the form against performance goals)

Jon Duhig is a Grand Wizard at Objective Digital

Brainstorming your designs – Have you exhausted all the opportunities?


Innovation in software design can be structured.

It’s about understanding business and user needs, both explicit or implicit, and then brainstorming all the different design opportunities. Once you are completely exhausted, you will hopefully come to the ‘essence’. An ah-ha moment will leave you with the correct design framework. One that is based on a client(s)’ business context, techical framework and their personal preferences.

This Johnny Holland post sums it up well.