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London calling – First day at UX London

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Around 450 UX professionals attended the first day at UX London. Value and Prioritizing were two of the most mentioned words of the day.

We arrived late last night in London and today was the first of three days at UX London, organized by Clearleft. The venue Trinity Laban is truly special and designed by Herzog & de Meuronthe – the architects behind the Beijing Olympic Stadium.

Two words

The theme of the first day was Products. After the morning sessions two words were the most talked about on stage: Value and Prioritizing.

You have to make sure that your product adds a true value for the user. In the larger picture that comes down to a clear strategy or as Jon Kolko, Vice President of Consumer Design at Blackboard put it: The Northern star for you team. The challenge is to understand the value you are promising and how you can deliver on that through great design.

Julie Zhau, Product Design Director at Facebook, reminded the audience to always return to your values and check if the things and features you create fit into the them.

– Remember that nothing will stay the same way forever. That’s why you constantly have to work with product development and re-define your goal and values as they may shift over time.

Less is more

After you got that straight, and the launch is done (or maybe your product or service was launched long before you were hired) you have to start thinking about prioritizing.

Or as Des Traynor, Co-founder of Intercom, put it:

– The best “design” is often not the best “decision”. Make decisions that are good for the product in the long run.

To answer whether your idea is a good design-decision or not, he gave a couple of example questions to help us along the way: Can we maintain it? Is it our biggest problem right now? Does it perform well? Will we get the user behaviour we need?

On the path towards modern product management

John Kolko also wanted to change the focus for the product management. It’s no longer about being the glue that holds the product together, adding features or even improving sales. It's so much more now: Focussing on providing deep, meaningful engagement to the people that use the product or services.

In modern organisations product management is in a great position to bridge that gap between the different departments. Jon Kolko also shared his thoughts on the qualities needed to be the product management that truly has design thinking as a product strategy:

  • They need to have the ability to tell stories about an optimistic future.
  • They should have an ability to make sense of signals from people to the market.
  • They have to be interested, not interesting. You should listen and observe – be interested in other people’s lives and talking less than everybody else.
  • Curiosity about other disciplines is key.
  • For better or for worse, product is the discipline that sits at the hub of the wheel. That’s why it’s important to be affable and have the ability to work with others and drive consensus.

The afternoon continued with workshops. Two names were extra familiar, Karaen McGrane and Kim Goodwin, since both spoke at our own conference From Business to Buttons in April.