I attended the Boston User Experience Professionals’ Association Conference (UXPA) on Friday, April 29th. There were 5 tracks – UX Research, Design, Strategy, Service Design & Career Development, and over 30 speakers. As a designer, I usually go to web design and WordCamp conferences, but UX is an integral part of the web design process; and as a sole-proprietor, just one of many important tasks needed to create a website.

My objective is to synthesize the UX principles learned here and bring a streamlined UX process to my small and mid-size web design clients.

Below are my notes on the best sessions I attended.

What’s so Smart about Intelligent Content?

Speakers: Jen Briselli and Marli Mesibov
Synopsis: This talk will explore the magic behind anticipatory design. We’ll dig into what it means to “put in metadata,” how semantic search works, and where the line falls between personalization and invasion-of-privacy.
Notes:
Project steps: evaluate, discover, synthesize, focus
Participatory design – get co-users and end users involved
Think about writing a love letter or break up letter to the company – what would you say?
Ask users in a usability study to draw a magic button – what do you want it to do?
Discover – context, personalization, control
Synthesize – generate design and format
Focus – connect “actions”
Take a step back at the beginning enables discovery. Listening to uses, consider different scenarios, context, questions, privacy, individual control — having time to explore and think, brainstorm and gather data to evaluate later really helps to get a project off right.

Research & Design: Finding the Perfect Blend

Speakers: Jen Briselli and Kimberly Dowd
Synopsis: Research and design go together like peanut butter and jelly… or peanut butter and chocolate… or peanut butter and marshmallow fluff… come to think of it, peanut butter and research go with almost anything! Design can look very different from project to project, but research is always a core ingredient when creating great user experiences.
Notes:
Double diamond design process model from the UK Design Council:
DoubleDiamond design process model
Discover: The first quarter of the double diamond model marks the start of the project. This begins with an initial idea or inspiration, often sourced from a discovery phase in which user needs are identified.
Researchers – involve designers with goal setting, learn what the research will be used for, identify issues up front, share the moderators guide, invite designers to research sessions
Designers – help researchers define goals and plan, share expectations and questions, be available, be interested, show up for research sessions, take good notes, observe
Define: The second quarter of the double diamond model represents the definition stage, in which interpretation and alignment of these needs to business objectives is achieved.
Develop: The third quarter marks a period of development where design-led solutions are developed, iterated and tested within the company.
Deliver: The final quarter of the double diamond model represents the delivery stage, where the resulting product or service is finalised and launched in the relevant market.
Recommendations:
Creating solutions – don’t want to hand off and disappear
Researchers – swing by designer’s desk to participate and reinforce research; collaborate on recommendations to move from vague to concrete and actionable
Designers – Look for opportunities to infuse research in ideation, invite researchers into the design process, especially brainstorming, critiquing, and evaluating solutions; articulate recommendations so they’re actionable for design
Perfect combo – talk to each other early and often, don’t disappear, butt in, be welcome with butt in

How to Uncover Hidden Assumptions

Speaker: Maria Matveeva
Synopsis: A difference in expectations is one of the most preventable causes of projects going wrong. And among all expectations, assumptions can be the most dangerous. They feel so “obvious” that no one even bothers to bring them up. But when collaborators act on conflicting assumptions, it’s only a matter of time until problems arise.
Notes:
Establish expectations – start with shared values, goal oriented
“Talk me through what you see here” – open-ended question
“When did you last do X?”
Sketch together with the client = speeds up discussion, maps out known and unknowns, exposes differences of assumptions
Use design sprints; share early and often

IA Issues? Online Card Sorting is Not Enough

Speaker: Andrew Schall
Synopsis: If your users can’t find the information that they are seeking, it might as well not be there at all. An intuitive information architecture (IA) is a core part of a user’s experience, but how do you know what would make sense to them?
Notes:
Understanding how users think…
What should be grouped together, what to call them, how many categories
Optimal sort – tool to aggregate data, quantitative, tells you what not why
Online survey to get the why
In person card sorting – 1hr, 1 on 1, recorded, understand participants thought process, observe nonverbal responses,
Good to have: $35 USB bar code scanner – put bar code on cards
Hybrid card sorting – online to see general trends, iterate with changes (tree testing)

Good research means asking the right questions
Ask about meaning of cards and categories
suggestions for improving labels
How relevant is this to you?
Consider context of use
Ask about thought process for grouping cards
Have participants think out loud
Debrief after
Putting cards in buckets – good for navigation, taxonomy, and content prioritization