Andy Parker
Andy Parker
10th April 2014

Last week, Andy B, Ant and I we were invited to Stockholm for the From Business To Buttons conference, a UX conference for the Swedish user experience community.

The speaker line-up was impressive and the location (The China Theatre) for the 450 attendees was stunning. They also had good fortune in that the evenings were hosting a dance company performing Flashdance. The stage was enhanced with a surreal industrious set bathed in green and blue light which served as our backdrop for the day.

The overall feeling I got is that ‘values’ is the 2014 buzzword for the field of user experience design. Most of the speakers explored the subject of values, whether it being the foundation for good user experience or the importance of appreciating other peoples values.

During the Q&A session with Kim Goodwin, Dave Malouf, and Jeff Gothelf, Kim made the very smart statement when asked on what she looks for when creating a team — find people who share your values because skills can be taught.

I have always believed that if the people within an organisation of any kind don’t have shared values, the company by proxy doesn’t have shared value and the services will inherit the disconnect.

I’ve experienced this first hand working for a company which attempted to create a set of principle values for employees which were wishy washy and vague. Of course this meant of of the employees rebelled against having the values of someone else forced upon us. Yes, you can suggest values, but it is up to the individual to consider them and decide whether they are in line with their own way of thinking.

Here at Clearleft, as with many of you reading this, we work with companies to create great digital products and services. As designers we have all, at times, worked on a project where we feel that what we are doing is not going to solve the major issues blocking the path to great customer experience. We know deep down, that the problem is higher up. It is systemic and without correcting the original source of the problem fixing our little part of the puzzle is going to be tough.

How can we effectively get the message across that the values of the company may be causing these negative experiences?

Chris Risdon told us a story about an a-typical experience where prices for an item and the service provided differed between a retailers online store and its bricks and mortar stores, and the stress it caused him as a customer.

Could mapping customer touch points and highlighting where the ‘digital’ counterparts exist help us establish the connections between customer experience and the silos many companies have wrongly created? Can we stop using words like silo, channel, omni-channel and other similar marketing fluff in order to separate workloads?

Touch point mapping seems great way of visually expressing that to fix problem A - B,C and D also require attention. Use it to find was where digital interactions can enhance those touch points that are physical and visa versa without falling out of your remit as a digital designer.

All week I was looking forward to hearing Christina Li talk about UX design in China and how it differs from the western world.

I’m fascinated with how e-commerce operates in China, having worked on a few business applications in the territory a few years ago. A great deal of emphasis is put on trust and more importantly earning that trust.

We’ve all heard stories about how big western corporations have failed to launch or make a dent in the Chinese market and Christina hit home as to how significant the difference in culture and people’s values are to that in the West.

Ever thought you would need to sit with a family of three generations to do user interviews or testing? What about providing payment on delivery for things bought online? Are there things we could learn from China when it comes to digital design? Absolutely.

Differences in cultures were also reflected in a survey that organisers Ingrid Domingues and Johan Berndtsson of inUse had produced and presented as part of their session. The survey, sent out to the UX community of Sweden was designed to gauge the current state of play within the industry.

Results showed that UX is still seen in some places as a nice to have and as such is being fought for by the few rather than embraced and encouraged from the top down. Another aspect that caught my attention, and was concreted by talking to people at the after party is how many Swedish organisations are locked within a clan model similar to what had been described by Kim at the start, particularly when it came to decision making.

Like much of Scandinavia, Sweden has a history and strong economy of engineering. With that comes the baggage of formal engineering practices and methodologies. It seems from the outside that they’re still working out how to break down some of those industrial processes to allow creativity and emotion to play a part in creating great products and services. There is also a need, or compulsion to run every decision by their superiors which can bubble up through the company until a final decision is made, much like taking a problem to the elders of your clan.

inUse also used their slot to announcement the launch of the inUse UX Awards. Much to my surprise — and delight — part of the prize for winning this prestigious award will be tickets to UXLondon 2015!

If you can afford it, and that’s a fair thing to say; Scandinavia as a whole can be a costly affair, particularly if you are from the UK, I would recommend going to From Business To Buttons next year.