Camp Digital 2015 – a 20 tweet summary

Camp Digital describes itself as “an inspirational conference that brings together the digital, design and UX communities for a series of seminars and workshops exploring the latest thinking in our industry.”

The Importance of Research and Partnership in Tackling Digital Exclusion – Sarah Bridges, Go ON UK

This session was a useful reminder of the importance of accessibility and inclusion. This session focused on the needs of older users, but made it clear that unequal access to digital is not just about a user’s age: nearly half of people who lack basic digital skills are of working age:

Sarah shared some useful information on the specific needs of older users:

The move away from skeuomorphic design towards flat design might have a negative impact on older people, who have a more mechanistic mental model of digital.

Lean UX and making sure that everyone in your team is on the same page – Imran Younis,

My highlight of the day. An excellent talk, brimming with examples.

Ask “why?” five times to understand the problem properly before you start thinking about the solution. Otherwise you risk rushing to implement the wrong solution to a poorly-understood problem.

We need to focus our thinking around the problem/desired outcome because this is ultimately the only thing that matters. People want solutions not tools:

The lean startup workflow for ongoing improvement is simple and easy to communicate:

The lean startup model stresses that you need to keep learning after you’ve launched.
Constantly validate with users. You’ll never be perfect, but keep perfecting. (I like the optimistic yet humble humanism that seems to exist at the heart of this method.)

Close cross-team working helps retain/share knowledge and gives shared ownership of solutions:

Play back your results to your organisation. Show the value of what you’ve done after each sprint.

Understanding the context of use is really important:

Imran used an example of the HSE, who wanted tradespeople to be more aware of the dangers of working with asbestos. They researched the context of use before designing their asbestos-education solution.

Users didn’t actually find an alarming health app to be helpful or relevant to them.

But they did find the app helpful to communicate with their customers, and to charge them for the asbestos-related work.

Understanding this motivation helped Imran design the app so as to appeal to both sets of objectives.

Similarly, a classic case study shows that you sell more milkshakes not by focusing on improving the milkshakes themselves, but by understanding why people buy milkshakes. (See Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing)

Evidence from user testing is hard to argue with:

Jargon interlude

The day’s key jargon takeaway was definitely ‘solutionise’. I think it’s analogous to ‘design’, but with the implication of ‘designing/developing/manifesting a solution’.

Garnering positive engagement from stakeholders who don’t understand UX – Fritz von Runte, NICE

A collection of tips for getting non-UX people usefully engaged with a UX process:

  • Always have a clear shared definition of success before you start
  • Simplify stakeholder requirements in their presence.
  • Ask why 5 times.
  • Turn opinions into questions.
  • Make it clear that business goals are not the same thing as user needs.
  • Bring stakeholders along to user testing, but don’t let them moderate it, as that’s a skilled task.
  • When stakeholders share a blog post, or journal article, or similar, be sure to follow that source in future. You’ll get an insight into their context.
  • Be experts on every metric that your colleagues use. They help you understand what is important to them, and how they frame their decisions.
  • Present UX learnings in a concise format. Use bullet points, and prioritise the list.
  • After doing UX research, define actions (not necessarily solutions) so that you’re proactively leading the decision-making process.
  • “Learnings from tests shouldn’t define new solutions, they define new problems.” (Can we do better than this? Expressing the value of testing like this might make it hard to get buy-in from internal stakeholders. Can we articulate the value of testing while also explaining that it won’t tell you what to do – it will help you understand the problem space better. Perhaps “Learning from tests won’t define solutions. It will hopefully help you better understand the problem, and hopefully will make you aware of further problems.”)
  • Do visual design last. This helps prevent stakeholders from focusing on little details of visual design, and keeps the focus on UX.
  • Even when you’re working in a team, you’re still the designer – it’s not design by committee.
  • Define success before you test.
  • Why design matters? How a design-led process delivers better digital services – Ben Holliday, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

    Some evidence in favour of user testing: Jared Spool found a correlation between number of hours spent with users and the quality of the design outcome. (Of course, correlation is not causation, but the kind of team that does good design is the kind of team that takes user testing seriously.)

    Ben reiterated Imran’s earlier point that design must be a process, not a one-off event.

    Turn research into tangible insights, setting boundaries for design challenges.

    Ben’s core message was that we need to achieve shared clarity of purpose:

    Example format for recording assumptions/understanding:

    How’s the Mobile Apocalypse treating you?

    A brief interlude because the Mobile Apocalypse has just hit. (Google has begun penalising non-mobile optimised sites in search returns.) A few websites have been caught out – I wonder how quickly each of the below organisations will be revealing a responsive redesign? (I wasn’t in this presentation, but wanted to share the slide anyway.)

    There’s gold in them there Hills! Creating ‘Hills’ to frame your releases around user-centric market outcomes, not feature requests – Daryl Walker-Smith & Richard Halford, IBM

    I liked the idea of a ‘hill’ as a place you want to get to – a bit like a military goal.

    You don’t know how exactly you’ll take the hill, but you know the purpose behind your work.
    Once again, understanding purpose is at the heart of our work.

    I thought this session struggled a bit under the weight of IBM’s history, and the terminology used. Apparently people usually have a one-week induction into this method, which makes it harder to unpack this methodology and get stakeholders using it.

    IBM uses sponsor users, not personas. Personas aren’t real users, of course, they’re just fabrications. Sponsor users are real users. But it’s difficult (and presumably expensive) to have users visit you multiple times a month for testing.

    Good observation:

    How does this belligerent (masculine?) language reflect or shape our discipline? What other metaphors could we employ to describe our processes?

    Digital disruption and the challenges faced by organisations with an focus on in-person, ‘real world’ transactions – Bea Karol Burks, Citizens Advice and Matt Lindop, Premier Inn

    The idea of “government as a platform” – putting service delivery before policy – is disruptive to service delivery organisations like CAB, who exist to provide services because government isn’t sufficiently service-focused.

    Echoing the core message of the conference, Bea advised us to “focus on problems not products.” Start with understanding user needs. For an organisation like CAB, user needs include ‘changing the world’.

    CAB have an alpha blog showing what they’ve done and learnt. It’s open to the public, and to comments. Critical feedback is really valuable.

    Great quote from Bea, against commonplace sloppy use of the term ‘agile’: “Agile is a discipline; it doesn’t mean not being disciplined.”

    Bea has an interesting vision for CAB’s future:

    • Use data on people’s problems to understand the performance of policies/services before the govt does.
    • Use data to connect and enable local campaigners to fight battles that CAB cannot.

    Splitting the Atom – Nick Wiles & Stewart Bromley, Atom Bank

    A talk about the Atom bank – a soon-to-launch bank that will be entirely online. This apparently makes it “a digital pure play.” (Second key point of jargon for the day.)

    Interesting contrast to the earlier talk:

    The talk started to develop some interesting thoughts on information architecture and personalisation…

    … but mainly this session felt like a product launch for a product that doesn’t yet exist.


    This was a strong conference with good inspiration and practical points. I’ll be sharing them with my team.

    Here’s what I’ll be doing next:

    • Learn more about the metrics that my colleagues use. (Information, Fundraising, Campaigns)
    • Read the milkshake marketing case study.
    • When developing new products, or trying to understand users and products, focus more on understanding the context of use.
      Don’t ask “How can we make our events pages more attractive?” Ask “When and why do people sign up for the marathon?” “What problem are they solving by signing up for the marathon?” “Where and why do people access our information products?” “What problems do they want to solve?”
    • Once I’ve got some development momentum, I’m going to resume playing back the results of sprints to the organisation, but focusing more on what we’ve learnt.
    • I’m going to think about how to incorporate the lean UX focus on continual learning into ongoing development sprints.
    • Introduce my team to the lean startup model and talk about how we might use this to help us with continual improvement from a content / user journey perspective.
    • Start using the word ‘solutionise’ and see if I get away with it.
    • Think about whether we could consciously map out our hypotheses and assumptions with different teams.
    • There was lots of buzz about The Ethical Designer – Cennydd Bowles, Twitter, so I’m going to watch the recording when it goes live in a couple of weeks.

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