Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in London called Interact 2015. Interact is a leading design conference held annually at the British Museum in London. Thought leaders from around the world deliver inspiring talks on everything from user experience (UX) and information architecture (IA), to user research and digital design. Speakers are drawn from a range of companies including Google, eBay and NHS choices.
A prominent theme throughout the conference centered around value-centered design and development, with a particular emphasis on how the intersect between social needs and business profitability can be balanced. The key to identifying these shared values lies with understanding where digital outcomes reside within its current ecosystem. Enabling it to click into place and achieve its intended results.
This reinforces the agile approach we use here at IE. This approach - similar to the GDS design principles - focuses on the experience being designed rather than solely focusing on deliverables, using techniques such as rapid prototyping to put the customer experience first. Steve Jobs recognised the value of this approach too, he emphasised the importance of starting with the customer experience, rather than technology.
The psychology of digital apps
Pete Trainor delivered a thought provoking talk on the psychology of digital apps, arguing that continued use of smartphone apps will eventually change the development of our brains. He explained that most of the apps we use regularly take a linear approach to problem-solving, which will eventually result in the human brain's diminished ability to think in a non-linear way.
To help the audience picture this more clearly, he used the illustration of a bus driver compared with a taxi driver. Most bus drivers follow the same route every day, therefore only encounter linear problems. Contrastingly, taxi drivers drive different passengers to varying locations every day, as a result they solve non-linear problems on a daily basis. Pete argued that this means that taxi drivers are more capable of solving a broad range of complex problems compared with bus drivers.
With apps like Tinder simplifying everything down to a quick left or right swipe, Pete argues that we shouldn't be surprised if humans lose their problem-solving abilities. So as app developers, in order to prevent the demise of the human brain, it’s important to avoid making things too easy for users! Rather we should be developing apps that are engaging with a non-linear approach to problem-solving. Pete offers a fresh perspective in his TED talk, that’s well worth a watch.
One of the key things I took away from the event highlighted the importance of not limiting digital developments by simply considering the short-term user experience, but also considering the long-term effects.
In fact, we need to create for people, not for users.