World Usability Congress 2016 Key Learnings and Notes
World Usability Congress 2016 is over, so here’s a list of my key learnings, cool tips and notes from the conference. Based on my experience, I highly recommend attending. World Usability Congress and Graz, Austria provide an amazing venue for what truly is a World Congress. Here’s my thoughts on just some of the very interesting and informative sessions I attended, along with a few pictures I took to give you a taste of what the conference has to offer.
1. World is the Word – Truly this is the “World Usability Congress.” That’s because it literally has world-wide attendees that make for a global UX bazaar where new ideas, tips and advice are shared. This is one of the best UX cross-cultural melting pots I’ve ever attended. I met and had very interesting conversations with UX professionals from the U.S., Austria, Canada, China, Russia, Israel, Italy, Iran, England, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Denmark and many other countries. This conference truly deserves the title “World Usability Congress.” Anyone who really wants to understand how UX and Usability are being applied in firms around the globe needs to attend.
Clemens Lutsch, Branch Manager Munich and Head of UX Strategy at Centigrade GmbH says:
“The WUC is a very rare opportunity to meet with American, European and Asian UX Leadership in a very direct, almost private environment. And I always wonder how much quality even some side discussions have, when we talk about our work in the field of UX/ Usability.”
2. BMW and Local Research Centers – Among the sessions I attended and thought very informative was the BMW UX Research presentation. This was a fascinating look into how a global firm conducts UX research on a local basis. BMW uses usability testing centers in each key market. That’s because they learned that they couldn’t rely on results from one region of the globe alone when dealing with a global set of users. BMW has testing centers in the United States, Germany and China. Localization of UX Research methods and participants means there’s better data to inform design decisions per culture.
3. CATi and Usability Engineering – Another session I found very interesting was led by CATi CEO Klaus Hofer. His Usability Engineering discussion of creating behavior guiding documentation was a fascinating session about optimizing procedure and policy manuals, which are critical elements to all firms.With procedure and policy manuals, getting the UX wrong means people may die. The UX of these manuals can be vastly improved with simple and effective psychology-based methods that can greatly reduce the risk of manuals not being used correctly. This session opened my eyes into an entire new world of applying better UX design to documentation beyond even procedures and policies.
Klaus Hofer says:
“When asked by a journalist in Graz, what I thought the secret to success in UX and usability is, my answer was: Apart from the relevant technical knowhow the designer must simply LOVE PEOPLE!”
4. Keynote with Google’s Russ Wilson – Russ Wilson, Director and head of design for Google Cloud, delivered an extremely effective keynote on a question that’s been bothering me and potentially many others in the UX world a lot, which is; “Why are we still producing poorly designed software?” His presentation provided an elegantly simple but highly effective review of several critical elements that must be in place for an organization to have UX success. This was a good refresher for everyone on how to focus on some of the ‘big picture’ (my words) elements to improve UX success with their firm.
Russ Wilson says:
“I was impressed with the speakers and their sessions, and the breadth of perspectives and engagement of all the attendees. It is easily one of the best UX conferences I have attended. The organizers really focused on providing a great conference experience!”
5. Student UX World Championship – I was honored to be one of the judges at the first ever Student UX World Championship. I was very impressed by all of the 10 student finalists, representing many fine Universities all over the world.
The students were posed with a business problem, they had only a short time to produce their UX design proposal. Their creative solutions could only use paper, pencil, sticky notes and drawing boards to explain their concepts. They also had only 5 minutes each to tell their story of how their proposed user experience would solve the business problem. All of the students provided very impressive design solutions.
The winner, Daria Kosheleva from Politecnico di Milano had a very impressive proposed UX design solution coupled with a unique paper-based system for visually explaining the UX.
Each of the 10 students brought very original ideas and thinking to their proposed solutions. And each had to deal with the pressure of explaining in just five minutes what could be a rather complex design solution. The experience they had at the World Usability Congress will prepare them very well for any real-life experiences they’ll have going forward.
Congratulations again to all the finalists and to Daria, I’m excited for them as I believe their UX future is bright! Watch for them, you may be seeing quite a few in the UX limelight over the next few years is my guess.
6. Attendee Participation at my sessions – As I mentioned in my speaking at World Usability Congress article, I was honored to present two sessions at WUC, and be on the Experts Panel Q&A at the end of the conference. The first session I presented was “Combining Behavioral and Usability Testing Data to Optimize Websites.” This was a well attended session and I found the questions and enthusiasm of the audience to be excellent.
The attendees were a mixture of practitioners in UX design, research and managerial roles. I was happy to learn that interest was high in combining big data (ie, quantitative data) with the usability testing data (the qualitative data) made sense to the audience and was something they were keen to try.
My second session was “How to Usability Test Workshop.” I had fears that it might just be me showing up to this session, but it turned out that just as Hannes predicted, there were many attendees who work in UX but didn’t have the hands-on experience with conducting moderated in-person one on one usability testing sessions.
The attendees did a great job learning about usability testing, what it is and what it isn’t in the first half of the session, then had very positive experiences in their workgroups actually conducting real usability testing with their fellow attendees on their own websites. Typically I have several attendees mention to me that the practical output from the training on their own websites is something they can immediately put to use upon their return to their firms. I wasn’t disappointed at WUC, as multiple attendees all said they learned extremely valuable information about their sites with these sessions – and were looking very forward to applying their learnings ASAP!
7. The venue – Graz, Austria is a fascinating, historic and culturally diverse city and the perfect venue for a globally-focused UX conference. Old and new combine into an eclectic mix of excitement and entertainment that makes visiting the city and the sights well worth the trip.
It’s amazingly easy to get around to all the tourist sites without the need of a rental car or taxi, most are walking distance and almost all are accessible via public transportation. Plan on arriving early and staying late after the congress to take in all the sights and experiences that make Graz the hidden gem of Europe.
8. WUC team hospitality – Hannes Robier and the rest of his World Usability Congress team did an excellent job of being hosts and organizing the conference.
The gala dinner party kicking off the conference at the Schlossberg restaurant included a magnificent view of the city and excellent drink and food. It was a fabulous networking event all to its own, and was the perfect kick-off to the conference. The conference was very well organized, had a great variety of sessions and topics to choose from, and all attendees had plenty of opportunities to network.
I should also mention the delicious lunch provided buffet style, which was very tasty and very high quality considering the 600 or so attendees the gourmet caterers had to serve.
The post-conference survey and follow-up emails asking for feedback clearly demonstrate that Hannes and his team practice what they preach and use user-centered design to optimize and improve each conference.
Conclusion: World Usability Congress Key Learnings
World Usability Congress key learnings are many, and these are just a few of mine. To summarize, the conference sessions, the networking, the venue and the team all make for a great learning experience that must not be missed. This is a must-attend UX and Usability conference for anyone who is serious about growing their knowledge and awareness of usability and UX, and an excellent global networking melting-pot.