UX Designers HQ: UX Hackathon

Have you ever woken up in the morning and wondered “Did that actually happen or was I dreaming?” That was my exact thought as I groggily arose from my warm bed recently, unsure of whether or not I had attended a game-changing event in the world of UX. It wasn’t until I scrolled through the abundance of notifications on my iPhone with the tag #CFUXHACKATHON attached that I realised not only had the event actually happened, right here in central London, but also that I was not alone in my feeling of fulfilment.

Many members of the digital community have often walked away from an event that has a UX focus to it, still with so many questions left unanswered. UX is such a complex discipline, it is hard to keep up or even retain the information being spoken on stage by the UX thought leader of the moment. The digital community in the UK has long awaited an event where they can leave and go to bed knowing more, understanding more and being more than they were when they woke up that morning. As the hope was slowly beginning to drift away, along came the meetup group UX Designers HQ: London. The organisers (Career Foundry) promised an intense, knowledge filled six hours of UX-iness, in the form of a UX Hackathon, which is believed to be the first held in London of its kind and scale. Was this the event that the community had been looking for? We all waited in anticipation for the date of the six hour UX Hackathon to be announced; Wednesday 25th February 2015 at 6pm.

6pm mid week? Haven’t we all go work in the morning?

Despite the fact that it was on a work night 100+ members from the digital community arrived, representing some of the biggest technology companies globally and of all abilities, knowledge and experience in UX.

The Career Foundry team had asked me and six other UX professionals to mentor the twelve teams during the hackathon based on our experience practicing UX in specialist areas related to the briefs that the teams would be working from. The seven of us also formed the expert judging panel, where we provided critique and scored the final presentations from our UX Hackers.

Mentors/Judges:

  • Jay Tulloch – UX Designer at Sopra Steria
  • Yael Levey – Senior UX Designer at the BBC
  • Sandra Sears – UX Designer for TalkTalk
  • Andy Iosifescu – Freelance Interaction Designer
  • Neil Sampson – Professional UX Designer
  • Paola Miani – Senior User Experience Consultant at IG
  • James Walters – UX Lead at Open Inclusion

The night flowed extremely smoothly with the teams getting acquainted and well and truly stuck into the tasks at hand.

The Hackathon consisted of five stages:

  1. User research and prep
  2. User testing 1: User Interviews
  3. Divide, coordinate & conquer: value proposition, user flows and information architecture
  4. User testing 2: paper prototyping
  5. Iteration & pitch

As a mentor, it was my job to add value to teams and help direct them through their design brief, providing them with the in-depth UX knowledge and methodology required for them to really understand the needs and goals of their ideal target users. I soon found myself being called to different tables to provide my insight and expertise. This was great! It meant that the information that I was sharing not only made sense but was indeed valued. By the end of the night, all of the twelve teams had confidently presented their final designs to us judges and there was uproar of applause from the audience for everyone involved.

The feedback from the attendees both directly and on-line has been incredible: thanking Sopra Steria for sharing our expert knowledge and experience in the UX field with them, which they found invaluable during the tasks. Participants and Mentors alike displayed a keen interest in the great work that we are all doing in digital transformation at Sopra Steria. The organisers have been praised in huge amounts for the event, and they are planning a full three day UX Hackathon in nine months time for over 300 participants! This is another event which could provide Sopra Steria with the opportunity to further increase our influence as thought leaders, as we continue to make our own transition from the New European Leader to the New Global Leader in Digital Transformation.

Read on, for a timetable of events

STAGE ONE: USER RESEARCH

Competitor Analysis

Teams researched three competitors who shared the same goals as the teams business concept. It was important for the teams to understand their competitors in order to begin to form a picture of their target users. I asked the teams to think about:

  • Who are their competitors communicating to?
  • How are their competitors communicating?
  • Why are their competitors communicating in this way?
  • What is their competitors message?
  • Is there a story behind their business?
  • Do their competitors values match theirs?
User Personas

After identifying three of their closest competitors, the teams were asked to create a single persona which described their ideal target user of their product or service. It was important for the teams not to be distracted by the look, age and name of their persona. They needed to look deeper into who the person actually was and think to about:

  • What are their interests?
  • Who do they socialise with?
  • Where do they socialise?
  • What are the motivations for using their product/service?
  • Goals, what does their persona want to be or do?
  • Is this why they are using the product/service?
Card Sorting

Card sorting was a fun exercise that really brought the team together. They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into this task and were asked to maintain focus on their vision for the product. Once they grouped their ideas into categories they carefully prioritised features, ideas and pages that were must haves for the MVP of their product/service.

STAGE TWO: USER INTERVIEWS

The teams went out into the big wide world (the table next door) to find representatives of their target audience, and ask them questions based on the teams assumptions of how their users would interact with the product or service. The task was very insightful and the teams soon realised that the answers that they received were not those that were first expected.

STAGE THREE: BRANDING, USER FLOWS AND IA

A huge task which required the teams to be very organised. Based on the data obtained from the user interview stage the teams went about creating the optimum user journey through their proposed product. From this, they could then begin to develop the information architecture and place in the features and ideas that they had prioritised for the MVP. When constructing the IA, I discussed with the teams the importance of how information is delivered to the user through content (labelling, hierarchy, tagging, grouping), which allowed them to question some of their own decisions and assumptions, and provided a starting point for the next round of user testing.

STAGE FOUR: USER TESTING w/PAPER PROTOTYPES

Another fun task, however, one of the most valuable. The teams tested the paper prototypes of their proposed user journeys and interactions with users from other teams. None of the teams got the design right first time, and that was ok because they gained invaluable insight into how their users actually will use their products and what their expectations really are.

STAGE FIVE: ITERATION AND PITCH

They now had the opportunity to refine their design before the final presentation, it was critical to the success of their product that they utilised the helpful feedback obtained from the user testing stage. The data received from the testing would help them to direct their iterations towards the needs of their ideal target users.

Once they were satisfied that their final design was a perfect fit for the needs of their user the teams began to organise how they would pitch their vision to the audience and more importantly the judges.

All twelve teams pitched extremely well and delivered the goals from the brief. Some of the pitches were long, some were short, some were fun…and some were not so much. At the end of the night, there was not a single person without a smile, and there was a brief moment where everyone could see the satisfaction in the faces of their team mates. The whole room congratulated one another and it was clear to see that the night was one we’d all never forget.

FEEDBACK

Apologies in advance for the “cringe factor” of the following images. Although I feel strongly that this feedback is important for us to know and it does not only reflect the work that I did on the night, it is also reflective of the awesomeness of us as a UX and Innovation team at Sopra Steria and the work that we have all done over the last two years building our Digital Practice from the ground up to get us into spaces such as this one.

Digital 2030: user controlled contextualisation?

Contextualisation – the art of successfully blending positioning, relationship and emotional data together to deliver a unique, personalised user experience across all channels – is expected to be a key differentiator for many companies in 2015. But what might contextualisation be like for users in 2030?

In 2030 I don’t have a smartphone – miniaturisation means all information I need (and control) is transmitted straight into my digital contact lenses (the ultimate wearable?) and micro headphones implanted in my ears.  My own personal drone provides me digital connections around the world including a secure continuous link to my cloud AI – my guide, advisor and friend throughout any customer journey.

In 2030 I shape my physical environment using augmented AND virtual reality together – if I want to make a call I use my virtual phone; likewise I can project any content I want on to any surface and share it with friends and other people in any size or resolution. The physical and data worlds are combined and I am completely in control using my cloud AI to make my life as simple as possible and protect me from real or cyber threats.

In 2030 I use contextualisation to add layers on to my customer experience – when I go shopping my cloud AI has already scanned all relevant data sources (including my own mood and friends’ social feeds) to tell me what’s hot or not in my specific location. I can also heat-map previous visits on to the physical space to see what has interested me and my friends before. If the shop doesn’t have what I want I can create a virtual prototype of the product right in front of the retail staff (with help from my AI) to help them visualise and fulfil my needs.  And of course, I don’t take any goods home with me: paid-for digital assets are stored on my cloud AI and created at home instantly on my own 3D printer.

My entire customer experience is powered by location, transactional and social data that I apply in ANY space to create my personalised, unique experience – ‘user controlled contextualisation’.

So what could this digital dream mean for business?

Marketing serves (rather than influences) individual users – to be successful, marketing differentiates itself in terms of the services it can provide users to enable them to tell their own contextualised data powered stories

Retail Spaces could be located anywhere (physical or virtual) – staff will be fully mobilised to move to areas of high user demand as required or could be outsourced anywhere in the world

A complete re-focusing of the supply chain – suppliers will have to radically re-organise their value chain and operating model to enable individuals to manufacture their products on personal demand

Software as a service is king – products and services are developed, marketed and sold primarily as soft digital assets all driven by software/SOA that can adapt instantly to any platform of the individual user’s choosing

Telecommunications become cyber security service providers  – because individuals are managing their own personal data communications across networks they are at constant risk of direct attack. Consequently, telco companies are continually, and fiercely, innovating their security capabilities (including drone services) to protect users

Pure fantasy? Let me know what you think…

Speed Networking

Pitching UX at Sopra Steria in 15 minutes, in the space of 2 hours, 8 times… equals 20 glasses of water!

Last Wednesday, Damian and I took a trip to Dundee University. We were invited to an event hosted by e-Placement Scotland that brought together employers in the IT industry and job seeking students. The aim of the day was to find students with a keen interest in UI/UX and could join our team here as an intern Edinburgh. We also used this opportunity to spread the word of all the the great things we do as a team amongst the students and other industry professionals.

We kicked off with a warm welcome from the hosts and a networking lunch with other employers. This was a great opportunity to meet people from companies all over Scotland, find out what they are doing and share experiences. Representatives from JP Morgan, Codeplay, BePositive, Blue2 and Agenor were some of the few we managed to speak to. Damian and I found ourselves to be the only User Experience focused members in the room, with a few employers seeking to cover this role that day.

The speed networking format with the students allowed time to talk to almost everyone in the room and in an ‘elevator pitch’ style. It was successful in finding those that stood out in the crowd and voiced interest in such a short time frame.

 Lynsey talking in a groupWorking to ringing bells every 15 minutes left Damian and I with loads of unfinished conversations. So much so, we had students surrounding us after. This resulted in being the last to leave the building, which can only be a good thing! (Hopefully not just because of our good spread of freebies!)
image showing team talk

This kind of event was great to represent Sopra Steria at. It not only reaps the benefits finding young talent, but we are now able to pitch the work we do in 15 minutes and have made connections with other industry professionals in Scotland.