UX Lausanne – A Palace full of UX Knowledge
About three weeks ago the second edition of UX Lausanne took place, an event dedicated to envisioning and crafting delightful user experiences. Me (Jürgen) and Pierre went on a journey and found wisdom in the Western Swiss Mecca of UX. Our goal was as simple (as simple UX Design should be): We seeked for inspiration on how to improve our work, we seeked new inputs for our creative minds, we seeked concrete examples, we seeked patterns and techniques we can apply to our daily business. Eager to learn we went to Lausanne.
Day 1: The sessions
In Lausanne we first checked out the location. We were quite impressed by it, the palace called „Palais de Rumine“. A palace as a place for a UX conference?! Not too bad, we could get used to that.
We entered, picked up our badges, grabbed some coffee and mingled with the other participants while strolling through the corridors. We got to know people with different and similar backgrounds, doing similar stuff as we do. It was quite interesting to chat with likeminded people.
Then the sessions started. That day nine speakers shared their thoughts and experiences with an audience of around 200 curious listeners. I briefly summarize the four (in my opinion) most impressive speeches.
- The speech of Stephen P. Anderson was about crafting great experiences, about the feelings evoked by experiences and the importance to focus on the soul of a product. You have to be kind of obsessive about working out the details until it feels right, like when they created Star Wars. It took like a million takes to get it right.
- Johanna Kollmann’s session was about “making sense”. In order to get a better idea of the users we should try to make sense of obtained data of our user research. We also have to assure that we create things that make sense for them, not just for us. A way to get closer to these goals is trying to unterstand the mental model of our users. But that’s not all. The team and the persons involved creating products should also have a common understanding of things they’re working on. If there’s a lack of strategies or tools enabling this shared understanding, collaboration problems will probably arise.
- Donna Lichaw’s input was about storytelling and its application in UX Design. Most of the people like stories. Already in childhood we’re fascinated by stories and fairy tales. Stories often follow a certain structure, the so called story arc. In the beginning there’s a hero with a goal. Then an incident or a complication happens, action rises up to the crisis point, action rises again to the climax and leads then to the resolution. What about taking this structure and applying it to a product? One example is the unboxing experience on which some companies put a special emphasis. Unboxing a product can be designed like a story in order to improve this experience, to make it more pleasant, more interesting. Another way is to look at the development of a product as a story.
- The last session I want to mention was from Zahida Huber about risks and benefits of building trust. Trust is something that builds over time. Trust is necessary to work within a well-functioning team and also to work with your customers. When it is established, it can lead to a higher cooperation, to a higher commitment and to more space for creativity and innovation. But you can also be rejected or disappointed. Not everyone deserves trust, least of all somebody that exploits it.
At the end of the day we were quite tired but also satisfied. A lot of impressions and information had to be processed by our brains.
Day 2: The workshops
The second day we again traveled to Lausanne for the workshops. After Google Maps lied to us about the location, we finally found our way to the Arsenic, a theater in the artistic heart of Lausanne where the more practical oriented part of the conference took place. Four different workshops were held at the same time, so we had to choose one for the morning and another for the afternoon.
In the first workshop held by Andrea Resmini we learned how elements from architecture, video games and filmmaking can be taken to create compelling experiences. These days the digital and the physical world blend into each other. We are doing things online that affect the real world and vice versa. The separation gets more and more blurred. When you design e.g. an app, you can’t design it in total isolation. You’ve got to respect the blended world we’re already in.
Several exercises raised our awareness of this blended space and taught us tools that help us better understand how application and services are perceived nowadays and how this experience can be shaped by enclosure, orientation and articulation resp. continuity.
The second workshop I attended was held by Johanna Kollmann and dealt with the topic of system thinking. When you’re involved in complex projects, things might get complicated sometimes and problems arise. To find out where problems are, you’ve got to go out of the box to see it in a broader context. The view of system thinking allows to see the big picture.
In order to articulate and visualize possible problem areas, we learned in this workshop how to paint a „rich picture“ of a real use case in which stakeholders, their world views, conflicts and relationships are represented. This helps to make abstract problems more tangible.
At the end of the workshop day, the thirsty visitors of the conference met at La Datcha to wind down chatting over a glass of beer or wine, speaking of the two days and sharing impressions and ideas.
What we personally take away are a bunch of new ideas for our projects, a changed point of view and a certain motivation to change some aspects of our work and the way we’re looking at it. We got to know interesting people that maybe have a different focus or specialization, but that share definitely our culture and the ambition to enhance the user experiences we’re designing each day. It doesn’t matter from which perspective this is seen. This event gave us inspiration. We’re definitively looking forward to next year and hope it will again take place in such a wonderful palace.