Event is abstract. Life is specific.

I feel extremely grateful that a logistics company like XPO just sent me to an UX professional conference to keep up with the latest trend in the field, to mingle with the some of the greatest minds in this profession. That meant a lot. Thank you, boss.

12 speakers, 2 days' seminar, 1 day workshop. I think this event is well curated. Opening talk by An Event Apart co-founder Jeffery Zeldman, listed reasons for this conference - we're here because web design as a relatively young and ill-defined discipline, is still not fully understood by our boss, our clients, our creative directors and design award judges. Not even ourselves. Then 10 speakers from various backgrounds and perspectives blew my mind. Just when I thought I was in a dream that I didn't want to wake up from, closing talk by Scott Berkun pumped up the spirit by encouraging designers and engineers alike to take initiatives once we're back in our workplace, making innovations happen, strategically (session notes).

Quote of my #aeabos: A goal is a dream with a deadline.

The first day was tilted towards the marketing side of web design:

  • Using analytic tools to gauge your customer engagement, and to inform your design decision.
  • Introducing agile design process in the agency world. (session notes)
  • Content strategy to shape organizational decision. 
  • Mingle design thinking with business strategic thinking. The UX design is shaping the business model. Companies like Twitter. Zappo. alike. It's a user experience first; business model followed.

The second day gets more technical and philosophical:

  • Reading waterfall chart. Design with a performance budget in mind. (original slides)
  • Engineering color on the web - I love this one. Lea Verou pioneered in pushing CSS color standards, making color coding more human friendly, so that we (designers) can use automated (calculated) palette sheet in our design spec. Hey! Any automation is good! (session notes)
  • Linguistics, language, music sheet, and semantic URL - matters.
  • Web standards as the means for web app to fight back against native app, and on a broader sense, for the free and open web. (session notes)
  • Between the physical devices and their digital avatar: Let's look at UX design, interaction design through a broader lens. It's not just "user and the screen". It's all of us and ubiquitous computing. (session notes)

In the spotlight was Luck Wroblewski. (session notes). Key takeaways from him:

  • Think beyond screens. Think beyond pixels. Think beyond device and OS. Design for human interaction with the environment and context in mind.
  • Thought you've got the most elegant UI patterns laid out? Think again. Scrutinize your drop-down selection, your form input fields, your decision about whether to use a slider or a stepper... Do they really make sense in that context?
  • Learn and unlearn. Don't get stuck in past knowledge. 

What I can take back to XPO, to my everyday job:

  • In a short term, definitely need to improve our UI pattern wiki page.
    • It needs to be more organic. e.g. has a unified design language, but adaptive to context.
    • It needs to be problem-solution oriented. Instead of throwing out a bunch of "developers should do this but not do that", the guideline should state:
      • Problem summary
      • Use when
      • Solutions
  • In a longer term, engaging (more) with developers.
    • Developers have a lot to contribute when it comes to UI pattern and reusability.
    • UX designers have a lot to contribute in performance issues.
      • There's a concept of "Perceived Performance" UX should pay attention to.
      • UX need to be more aware of cutting down unnecessary CSS block and Javascript blocks.
      • Be more pro-active in defining lean business rules.

Of course, taken Scott's advice on "How to convince your boss", I'm not going to march into the office tomorrow waving a flag that says "CHANGE".

I'm going to be strategic. After all, that's what UX is all about.