Our Thoughts on Midwest UX 2016

Agency Life

Seth Benson

The Midwest UX Conference has been traveling all over the . . . well, Midwest, since 2011, and this year, our UI/UX team was able to head down to Louisville to participate. We were absolutely giddy to immerse ourselves in three days of talking about nothing except User Experience design, processes, problems, strategies and the like. 

While we came back after the conference and hit the ground running, our brains have been racing with many great items from the conference. We’re very eager to pass these and many more along to the rest of the team, but even more so to put some of this to work.

Here are our team members' key takeaways about UX design.


Jordan Brewer
, UI/UX Designer 

Key Takeaway: If you want new answers, ask new questions.

Taken from: Design-Led Innovation: Overcoming the Intellectual Blind-Spots, by Steve Baty (@docbaty)

Snapping yourself out of a rut in the way you think about your website or product is easy with the help of some simple exercises.

Jordan 3531

Start with deconstructing the conventional wisdom surrounding your website or product by listing everything you know about it, even the obvious (i.e., you need a computer, access to the internet, etc.). Once listed, have some fun with the items. Make some things opposite. Dramatically increase scarcity or radically reduce/increase costs. The purpose is to get your thinking in a completely different space where you can view your sandbox as an outsider, yielding new perspectives.

Key Takeaway: Deliverables are the documentation of your work, not the purpose of your work.

Taken from: Taming the Enterprise: Re-designing the Culture of Enterprise Software, by Karen VanHouten (@kvh_ia)

While time is set aside for creating, managing and packaging deliverables, it usually shouldn’t be the focus of your work. Time spent working on any project is incredibly valuable. As a team, our time—and our client’s money—is better spent focusing on how to solve problems and test our solutions, rather than packaging one deliverable.

Seth Benson, VP, UI/UX Design

Key Takeaway: Discovery is not just a phase.

Even though we make a concerted effort as designers at TrendyMinds to include a “Discovery Phase” for a new project or client, we also realize we must always do our best to remember that discovery (i.e., learning) isn’t finished at the end of a phase. We must continually be learning and documenting as we move through a project. 

Oftentimes, that great information we absorb in early stages of discovery is what prompts our team to ask thoughtful, probing questions throughout a project. We want to ask questions that help us continue to make this thing—whatever it is—even better.

Key Takeaway: Be cautious with assumptions.

It runs all gamuts of industry, but we all start our work, our days, with some sort of assumptions in mind. For example:

“This website isn’t performing because ________.”

“This stakeholder thinks only of their own team members' goals and wants us to do _________.” 

We all find ourselves leaping to the end before we know all the details. In a workshop I attended from Kerry-Anne Gilowey (@kerry_anne), we talked a lot about types of discovery methods she uses in her projects. While the tactical advice was invaluable and something we’ll be integrating into future projects, the overarching idea for me was reminding me to do a better job putting my preconceived “solution” on hold until I hear all the facts. There’s always a lot to uncover along the way that could massively change what you once thought you knew.

One of the biggest takeaways of all was that there were so many things that we can constantly be improving by reframing the way we look at problems. At TrendyMinds, we put accessibility for all very high on our list of goals for every UI/UX project we work on. That being said, one of the thoughts that really stuck with me—and I'm paraphrasing here—was from a session on accessibility from Becca Green and Amber Wilks (@amberwilks), designers from Cerner:

By planning for accessibility for all from the outset, we can create something that is beautiful for all users, and eliminate ever feeling like something is tacked on.

Image courtesy Tom Magliery
Image courtesy Tom Magliery

Banner image courtesy of Midwest UX

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