A few weeks ago Simon and I were lucky to attend the NUX2 conference hosted at the Manchester Comedy Store on the 25th October 2013.

NUX2 was an all-day event which was aimed at helping people to define, design and build better user experiences on the web (and beyond) through a greater understanding of people. We heard some extremely interesting talks by a variety of speakers from some of our biggest digital brands. The event was organised by Northern User Experience (NUX) in partnership with Manchester Digital. NUX describe themselves as “an informal community for people interested in usability, HCI, information design and all aspects of the user experience in the North of England” and host regular monthly meet-ups in Manchester and Leeds. You can find out more over at http://northern-user-experience.org or by following @nuxuk on Twitter. The event was packed full of useful and inspiring insights on user experience from a diverse array of backgrounds, from web design to behavioural psychology, and we were gripped from the beginning!
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The first speaker was Mike Atherton on “Branding: All in the Mind”, who gave us an interesting presentation about the rebranding of Huddle and the obstacles he faced.

For me, the most interesting part of this talk was about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how you should focus a design on the core functionality, then reliability and usability, before adding design and the polish. We face this far too much as designers, focussing our attention on how something looks aesthetically, without making sure the underlying infrastructure is rock solid and actually works.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to a hundred other good ideas.” – Steve Jobs

Design like you’re right. Test like you’re wrong
Next up was Jane Murison from the BBC on “Putting the UX into D”, which focussed on the value of user research and integrating it into the design process early on. The most interesting part of Jane’s presentation was when she explained how the BBC use the following approach (which is adapted from this post by John Lilly) when designing and testing their websites,

“Design like you’re right. Test like you’re wrong”

In other words, you should always design the product you think/believe/know is what people want. But at the same time you should be looking at the data on how people actually use what you’ve built, and you should be looking for things that show which assumptions you’ve made are wrong, because those are the clues to what can be made better.

There is a common myth that we can remember/deal with a total of 7 ± 2 things at a single time. However, the brain can actually only handle 3-4 things at a time. As designers, we should limit the number of choices a user can make, otherwise we could be in danger of causing choice paralysis where a user doesn’t know what to choose.

Forms are boring!
Joe Leech gave a funny and quirky presentation titled “Forms are boring”, aimed at the ways we can make forms that are both fun to create and a pleasure to use. Joe currently works for cxpartners in Bristol as their User Experience Director and has been working in UX for over 10 years, so he knows his stuff! He also wrote a brilliant book called Psychology for Designers.

Security isn’t that important

In his talk, Joe explains how the security companies that provide SSL certificates would have you believe that purchasing one of their certificates for your site would make your users feel more confident about entering personal details, and that you could experience a 26% higher conversion rate as a result. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

In this survey, some researchers asked students questions about cheating in exams. When asked the first question “Have you ever plagiarised text for and kind of assignment”, 28% of the students asked answered “yes” when they thought the survey was completely anonymous. However, when the researcher reassured them their information was completely safe, and that their answers were 100% secure, only 10% of the students said “yes”. This survey shows us that security is important, but reassuring people about privacy makes them more, not less, concerned.

How to get people to do stuff

The last, but certainly not the least, talk was by Susan Weinschenk on “How to get people to do stuff”. Susan has a Ph.D. in Psychology and over 30 years of experience as a behavioral psychologist. Her clients call her “The Brain Lady” because she applies research on brain science to predict, understand, and explain what motivates people and how they behave. As a designer, you spend a large part of each day trying to get people to do stuff. Whether you want your client to approve your design, your manager to fund your project, or your target audience to press the “Buy” button at your website.In her talk Susan describes the seven drivers of human motivation, and how to use these drivers to get people to do stuff.
Pricing is a huge factor for most people when purchasing an item, whether it’s online or offline. An interesting fact Susan mentioned was that if you display a list of prices, you should always put the most expensive price before the price of the item you want to sell the most of (in this example, Gold). Many people just won’t pay the highest price simply because it’s the most expensive. By ordering the prices with the most expensive at the top, the Gold price actually seems like a much better deal than the Platinum, and Silver seems too cheap. This therefore leads to more purchases of the Gold.

Susan also explained how humans are naturally driven to learn. So by giving users autonomy (control) or input, they are more likely to work harder. Or as the Chinese proverb reads; “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Summing up

The NUX2 conference was a thoroughly interesting and thought provoking day and well worth the minimal £25 day ticket price. We took away a bunch of very useful and interesting user experience design tips and tricks, as well as prompts for further learning. The guys at NUX and Manchester Digital put on a superb day and we will definitely be going to more of their events in the future.