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Interact Conference – London 2014 – Inspiring UX Thinkers

The 1st day of the Interact London (@Interact_conf) conference was held on the 9th October 2014 in the beautiful Royal Institute of British Architects building in Marylebone. Myself and my colleague Andy, who works with me on the UX desk, went along to represent Zebra People.

The event brings together some of the most accomplished UX professionals from around the globe to present a series of talks on various thought-provoking topics. I would like to thank Nomensa for organising Interact London this year and also Simon Norris (@simon_norris) the CEO of Nomensa for ensuring the day ran smoothly.

Interaction Conf 2

Once we were all name tagged up with a coffee and croissant in hand, the day kicked off with a fantastic talk from Andreas Adamec (@AndreasAdamec), Manager of UX and Design at Warner Bros, and Bernadette Irixarry, CEO of Velvet Hammer. The presentation was called ‘Doing less with more’ and Bernadette described how the best design, or “invisible design” is all about creating simple, useful designs. She gave a couple of great examples of innovative design including the Disney Magic Band. It serves a number of purposes for customers visiting the theme parks, including giving them the ability to pay, check-in and access fast track for rides all on their customised wrist band.

Andreas added “…at the core of design thinking is empathy” and that from his experience with Warner Brothers he has realised the importance of being connected to all parts of the business – users, consumers, customer service departments as well as his own team.

Ian Fenn (@ifenn) gave a humorous talk about ‘Getting UX done‘ which had the audience giggling, questioning fellow UX Designers around the room:

“who would be crazy enough to do this job…?”

We got some fun video examples of the effects of body language and how praise shouldn’t be overdone in the workplace. A great piece of advice from Ian (courtesy of Jared Spool) is that ‘great designers care about the problem, not solution’.

Robert Newham (@robertnewham) gave a compelling talk on ‘Hearts, minds, science and service. Designing to influence change‘. With a record number of young people falling into debt, his job as Head of Digital & UX at Money Advice Service means he has his work cut out for him. He highlighted the importance of getting to know the community and understanding what it is your customers need and want.

Next up was Juliet Richardson, one of Nomensa’s own UX consultants with ‘Thinking beyond UX‘. Juliet spoke about the importance of content and how it’s pointless designing something that makes no sense commercially and doesn’t have a business return. She added that asking the ‘5 Why’s?’ can usually cover all bases and delve into the underlying consumer and business needs.

Dan Ramsden (@DanRamsden), Creative Director for UX at the BBC, had the audience glued to his talk – ‘Design like you’re right. Test like you’re wrong. And be careful what you throw away.’  He discussed the importance of turning failures into successes and believes that you “need confidence to have creative freedom”. It was great to learn that he has been training young UX Designers that join the company for summer internships and giving them a chance to improve their design confidence.

Interact Conf 5

After enjoying a delicious lunch and enjoying the view from the 6th floor looking out across London, we were back in our seats and ready for the next speaker, Grandin Donovan (@grandin), UX Director for DigitasLBi in Paris. Grandin’s presentation, ‘”Welcome to the party!” Current practice in user activation‘ kept us entertained using the metaphor of a guest at a party alongside a user and a product. The four A’s (Acquire, Accommodate, Assimilate, Accelerate) were mentioned as being key in the process you need for creating a great party and making your guests want to stay – just as these are used for on-boarding customers.

Mike Atherton (@mikeatherton) a Senior UX Lecturer at General Assembly gave a riveting presentation on ‘The Road Less Travelled‘. He used the term ‘Wackaging’ – the idea that companies are increasingly attempting to be the relaxed, fun brand (similar to how Innocent packaging is designed). Mike described how “UX designers are business transformation consultants…like Accenture in hoodies!”  A memorable comparison for UX design is like a hotel room where you want hot water as a basic before caring about the chocolate on the pillow. Core functionality and usability are always the most important factors.

After a quick coffee break to combat the post lunch slumps felt around the room… Jane Austin (@MsJaneAustin), Head of UX at the Telegraph enlightened the audience with ‘Tales from the Telegraph’. I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation along with the rest of the room thanks to the humorous terms that Jane has coined. These include the ‘hippos‘ in the room – a phrase used to point out the highest paid person in the room being the decision maker as well as laxative projects being ones that are completed as quick as possible! But on a more serious note – Jane described how experimentation always beats expertise and how the changes she is making in the Telegraph are proving successful so far, which include the way in which ‘Project Babb‘ was designed, as well as the introduction of internal user testing.

To finish the day, Andrew Hinton (@inkblurt) an Information Architect from The Understanding Group gave a presentation named ‘Language is Infrastructure‘. He focused on the importance of how semantic information is part of our environment and this should be reflected within design.

Andy and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and are glad to have met some very talented UX designers. If you were there too, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the day and if you would like to discuss any of our current UX opportunities please get in touch either by emailing me on, calling 0207 729 4771 for a chat or simply tweeting me:

@JulieDawson47 @zebrapeople

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