Side note:

I previously wrote an article on the topic of dopamine in design. If this topic interests you, read more about it here…

3. Skills for a fruitful UX design career

Jonathan Korman — Principal user experience strategist, Cooper, USA

Talk summary posted on PixelUp:

One can find plenty of advice out there for learning straightforward skills like using particular applications for creating drawings or writing software code.

But how does one cultivate the whole set of skills that will open up a satisfying career, skills that will last longer than a particular software application or scripting language?

How does one match one’s talents to the skills one works to develop? Does it make more sense to specialize as an expert in a particular platform or domain, or to try to be a generalist who works on a range of problems?

We will talk about different kinds of skills, different kinds of careers, and how one cultivates a professional life as a master of the craft of user experience design.


What do we mean ‘UX design’? Interactivity is inherent, a craftsman to a purpose, UX is a collection of skills.

T-shaped skills — literacy in all skills but a specialised deep dive in areas. This is especially powerful in a developing profession like UXD. Learn lots that broaden skills, but focus on deeper areas where you are good or passionate.

Add these skills to your list

  1. Soft skills — Collaboration
    Constructive design criticism
    Working closer with devs
    Get wisdom from subject matter experts
  2. Facilitation
    UXD surfaces hard questions and provides an opportunity to support the organisation.
  3. Presentation
    Telling the story of design.
    Persuasion — get the resources and buy-in required

You need design literacy. UX is a ethical job.

Ethics — if everyone owns it, no one owns it

4. Wicked problems: The black holes we’re designing into our future tech

Lola Oyelayo–Design & product strategist, Own Your Experience , UK

Talk summary posted on PixelUp:

Wikipedia says a wicked problem is a problem that is “difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise”.

The use of term “wicked” here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil. You can’t know what you don’t know about what you need to know. So it’s still your fault — Modern UX Designer’s conundrum.

As the Lean movement treads its certain path through the digital world, killing two-dimensional artefacts, trouncing on requirements specifications and making us all empowered and Agile, we might be sleepwalking into a bunch of very wicked problems.

You may not recognise wicked problems when they come up, but like a bad smell, they haunt you for a long time. Within the trifecta of money, time and capability, live any number of decisions needed to conceptualise, design and build large scale digital products and services.

The need to balance these with getting something ‘shipped’ means we inherently make choices that have a significant impact on the challenges we face later down the line. Whether start-up or established business, you’re not protected from wicked problems.


What are wicked problems? Things that effect us in our daily lives, often they are linked: poverty; education; crime; housing; unemployment. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem.

Wicked problems in the digital context?

The wicked digital quartet.

  1. Legacy technology
  2. Digital/technical literacy
  3. Finance
  4. Agile/lean methodology

… and from a user’s perspective?

  1. Slow lookups and searches
  2. Badly loading pages
  3. Page disharmony and flat interactions
  4. Dead-end journeys, content where it’s not supposed to be

We enable problems with systematic and process failures. We enable problems with individual failures.

Future problems

  1. Digital inequality 
    Example: 3.4 billion feature phones vs billion smartphones
  2. Quant equals quant — what can inform your why?
    Example: Disney’s $1 billion investment in the magic band (
  3. Desktop, web and mobile are no longer meaningful design paradigms.
    Example: 3.5 trillion searches via Google Now per


  1. Understand the technical constraints you have to design within.
    Project runway:
    a. Prototype how it works
    b. Run workshops with internal stakeholders
    c. System journey maps — how it works in plain english, mapping the journey.
  2. In UX, it is no longer optional to have low technical literacy, learn to speak dev.
    a. Sit with the dev team
    b. Dev and design workshops
    c. Co-design a solution — user stories linked to design solution workshop
  3. There is no blame game to you, “they” is replaced with “we”.
    Customer experience dept:
    Track failure points with a failure point score.
    1: low-impact
    2: moderate-impact
    3: high-impact
    Keep track of your dept scores and use it to prioritise.
Similar talk given at NorthenUX — UX & Design Conference

5. Cultural bias in design(ers)

Farai Madzima — UX lead, Shopify, Canada

Talk summary posted on PixelUp:

I got fired from a job because my African culture made me suck at my job. Seriously.

In Zimbabwean Shona culture, we expect and live with unequal distribution of power in society. Less powerful members of social groups expect to not have a voice or option in many situations.

I had no idea that this was a thing, or that it would matter in my work. Until my first design job at an agency in London. I failed to collaborate and co-design with team members who I thought of as senior. I even found myself unable to conduct user interviews with people I thought of as senior. These failures messed up the project and in the end, I got fired.

This talk is for designers from non-western cultures and the teams who work with them. People from different cultures can bring viewpoints that make our product more inclusive. But, they may also bring cultural biases that impact the way we work together on the said product.

The talk has 2 main focus areas: What is cultural bias is and why are people from certain parts of the world more likely to have certain biases. I’ll share stories of real teams and individuals affected by cultural bias. Practical tips for anticipating, identifying and adapting to cultural bias in the way we work. From hiring to induction, critique, research, presentation and more. I’ll look at ways to work better with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. This, so that they can be their best selves and help us make inclusive product experiences.


How do you think about inclusivity with design and tech? What about diversity of thought, not just diversity? Different views expand the context.

Power distance index — A God-like view on people vs seeing them as people. A lot of this is rooted in culture.

Faria points out that in Eric Meyer’s book, ‘The Culture Map’, people are persuaded differently according to their culture:

Principle first (theory) vs Application first (Facts)

… in communication:

Low context (precise with repetition used to clarify) vs High context (communication is nuanced and layered, spread and read between the lines)

… in evaluating:

Direct negative feedback vs Indirect negative feedback

We must skill up our method of critique by agreeing how you have feedback sessions.

… in disagreeing:

Confrontational (sachlichkeit — German word meaning to argue an idea, not the person) vs Avoid confrontation

… in deciding:

Consensual vs Top-down

Agree on how you want to decide

…in scheduling:

Linear time (plans, one thing at a time) vs Flexible time (value on flexibility and adaptability)

in lending:

Egalitarian vs Hierarchical

6. The layers of the web

Jeremy Keith — Web stuff do-er, Clearleft, UK

Talk summary posted on PixelUp:

We work with technology every day. And every day it seems like there’s more and more technology to understand: graphic design tools, build tools, frameworks and libraries, not to mention new HTML, CSS and JavaScript features landing in browsers.

How should we best choose which technologies to invest our time in? When we decide to weigh up the technology choices that confront us, what are the best criteria for doing that?

This talk will help you evaluate tools and technologies in a way that best benefits the people who use the websites that we are designing and developing.

Let’s take a look at some of the hottest new web technologies like service workers and web components.

Together we will dig beneath the hype to find out whether they will really change life on the web for the better.


Sci-fi is like putting on a lense of the future, but through the present. This gets depicted as utopia or dystopia, dream or nightmare, excitement or fear. These become motivators.

Never make a decision out of fear, but fear is valuable.
Never make a decision out of excitement.

People fear the rate of change, but there are layers of change. Things move at different rates, we feel fear when somethings pace changes. Things that move slow, have power, but thngs that move fast, grab attention.

Treat your tools like cattle, not pets

The web also has pace layers, fast can inform the slow. Fast learns, but slow remembers. Not building in layers, relies on assumptions, assuptions work well, but not on the web.

Build in layers of experience

Tools influence how we build — decide in the browser vs design in the browser. Designing in layers reduces assumptions.

The web favours ubiquity vs consistency. Break things down into their fundimantal building blocks. Complex elements can be broken down to simple layers. Looking at websites vs a webb app, the web is actually in-between. Progressive web apps enforces a layered approach and using a service worker removes the internet.

Look at, it works on and offline. When offline, you can still gain access to articles you where reading. Saving for offline is the power of a service worker. The web can now compete with apps. The browser features are here, just not evenly distributed (refering to browser support).

Our present is someone else’s future. Small things today can have huge knock-on effects for the future, like the butterfly effect.

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