Weeknote 6

After the complete moanathon that was my last weeknote I’m pleased to report that I’m feeling a lot more positive this week.

What went well

User research

We’ve been back in the lab after quite a long time without any user research (or indeed, a researcher).

Watching people interact with our products never fails to surprise and inspire me. This time round, we’ve been testing out updates to the Prototype Kit guidance with users who haven’t prototyped using HTML before.

One thing that’s really stood out to me is how many people have told us they feel “stupid”, blaming themselves and not the content when they’ve been confused or unable to proceed with a task.

I think it’s really important to remember the impact content can have on the way people feel about themselves. Clear content empowers people, allowing them to learn, develop and participate. In the case of internal systems and tools like the kit, it provides new ways for them to contribute their skills and experience back to the organisation.

But introducing technical language very quickly becomes exclusionary, and it means both they and we miss out on those opportunities. I’m interested to see how we can push ourselves to lower the barrier to understanding and enable more people to use the kit.

Upfront Conference

On Friday, I went to Upfront Conference in Manchester. The organisers did a fantastic job, arranging a really varied and interesting lineup. As a content designer, I’ll admit to feeling dubious about how much I’d be able to understand at a frontend conference. But a huge effort was made by both the speakers and organisers to make sure the talks were accessible and applicable to everyone, not just the developers.

It’s such a huge privilege to be able to take time out to go to a conference, learn some new things and speak to people outside of your day-to-day bubble, and not one I take for granted.

A particular highlight for me was a series of lightning talks organised through Upfront’s speaker bursary.

Each year, the team behind Upfront offer presentation training to a number of individuals from typically underrepresented or marginalised groups. The aim is to help them develop their public speaking skills, enabling them to share their knowledge and experiences more widely, starting at the conference.

As someone who finds public speaking incredibly nerve-wracking, it was really inspiring to see how well they all delivered their talks. It also meant we got to hear about a really diverse range of topics.

Claire talked about the issue of digital exclusion, and the responsibility incumbent upon those of us in the tech industry to consider who we might be leaving behind.

Jennifer gave an excellent talk on the prime directive showing, through a series of examples, why kindness and empathy is so important when critiquing or reviewing our peers’ design choices.

And in my personal favourite of the lightning talks, Heather talked about her experience of changing careers from maths teacher to developer, and how she’s applied the skills and knowledge from her former role, in her new context.

Lastly, I can’t possibly mention Upfront Conference without highlighting Ignacia’s talk which, despite dramatic circumstances, she delivered perfectly.

Well done Ignacia!

Other things I liked

What didn’t go so well

Nothing I’m at liberty to talk about here, I’m afraid.

Lessons this week

  1. It’s really important to slow down.
  2. Opening your assumptions up to challenges is healthy and helpful.
  3. Observing user research and attending conferences are 2 great ways to do that.