I recently ventured to the beautiful city of Edinburgh to attend the international conference for designers and developers known as Design It; Build It, or DIBI for short. The theme of the two day conference this year was “Risk.” Our best work often happens when we take creative risks, but with risk comes potential problems and fear of failure.
Many of the speakers spoke about ways in which we can embrace these risks, consider bold ideas, overcome project challenges, and in Basak Haznedaroglu’s case, how we as designers can be good agents for change within an organisation. The central points in her talk, along with Tobias Ahlin’s talk, have echoed in my mind since the conference a few week ago.
How to be a Good Agent for Change
I was really looking forward to hearing from Basak, as she has worked as the design lead on many of my favourite apps, including Foursquare, Swarm and Wunderlist. Her talk also interested me a lot because of its relevance to my role as a User Experience Designer at TheAppBuilder. TheAppBuilder toolkit is used by innovators and change agents in large organisations who often face significant resistance to change.
As a UX Designer, I persistently champion the needs of the user, so Basak’s advice on how to make bold decisions and overcome anxieties regarding potential conflict with other people involved with the product was very insightful. She talked about how we as designers shouldn’t settle for out of the box design guides like Google’s Material Design, but to design for our curiosity and create something unique.
As she discussed this I immediately thought of Swarm’s delightful user experience, with its quirky user interface, friendly illustrated stickers to attach to check-ins and exciting animations when you achieve mayor status or add a new place to your log. Every detail matters, so it’s important to agonise over the seemingly “little things,” such as the language and interactions used in an app.
Not only did she speak on what we can do as individuals, but also on what we can do collectively as a company or as a design team to ensure we embrace change and take positive actions towards reaching our goals. As a company, we must build with intention and learn how to say “no” as a product that says yes to everything has no identity. We must respect user research to focus priorities and let features fight to be included in our product and prove their worth.
Effective Innovation with Design Bets
Another talk I found very valuable was that of Tobias Ahlin, a designer who has previously worked for Spotify and Github, who now works as the Lead Experience Designer at Minecraft in Sweden and teaches at creative business school Hyper Island.
Tobias aims to democratize the creative process with the use of an innovation framework known as Design BETs (Belief Exploration Trees). The framework can be used to organise our ideas under one goal. Tobias used the example of a coffee shop whose goal is to increase their 30 day retention by 10 percent.
He began by creating a Belief Exploration Tree for the coffee shop listing 3 ways in which they could change with the intention to increase their retention rate – food, coffee & drinks and customer service. These can be branched out further, for example, they could make the customer service more personal, speedier or more unique. If they aimed to make the customer service more personal they could consider writing the customers’ names on the cups, similarly to Starbucks.
Once the idea has been chosen we can flesh it out with a short description that describes the gist of it as well as a hypothesis describing what we expect to change (like increased customer delight and loyalty) which will lead to measurable impact, and what data or reasons lead us to believe this.
The whole process was fascinating as it allows you to discern the most impactful areas and explore a wide range of ideas. The same framework can be applied to digital products like TheAppBuilder.
Two Inspiring Days
DIBI was packed with many more interesting talks, ranging from using behaviour models to ensure your app is the one to succeed in a crowded market, to how we should strive to create ethical products in an online world where you’re constantly being tracked without consent.
The event also gave me the opportunity to meet with like-minded friends old and new while staying in one of my favourite cities! After a super couple of days in Edinburgh I’ve returned to the office excited to work on improving TheAppBuilder and sharing what I learned with the team. Thanks for hosting such a great event, DIBI!