Notes from UX Camp DC

Recently I attended the UX Camp DC unconference. For those unfamiliar with unconference or BarCamp events, loosely this means that the agenda for the day is open and participant-driven. Any attendee can hold a discussion, workshop, or talk on a topic of interest. I’d like to share some of the insights, tips, and takeaways from the sessions I attended.

This article was originally published on the Autodesk “Designing the User Experience” public blog.

The Mobile, Global, Digital Revolution

Hilding Anderson, Sapient Corporation

Most will agree: we live in a time of rapid change. Information abundance and the proliferation of digital tools and devices have been rapid, and often taken for granted.

Hilding argues that mobile is the next wave of change in the digital revolution. He drew similarities between this digital revolution and the industrial revolution:

  • A painful [for some] restructuring of industries
  • More competition as technology increases. Performance gaps get bigger. Existing corporations can be disrupted by startups.
  • Out with the old, in with the new. Adapting is essential to survival.
  • Luddites attempt to stall progress.

Takeaway: We are in the midst of digital and mobile revolutions. Familiarize yourself with the trends and implications to understand how this may impact your business or industry.

Designing for the Future You

Dana Chisnell

Dana challenged us to reconsider including age on personas. As demonstrated in an interactive session, age can tempt the designer to make assumptions and projections, or use stereotypes that may be invalid and could lead to a broken design.

Instead of age Dana suggests ranking personas from low to high on attitude, aptitude, and ability scales in relation to the technology. This will help you create and gauge designs for your users without thinking about age.

Takeaway: If a particular piece of information does not help you design for your users and/or is prone to stereotypes and assumptions, don’t include it in personas. One suggestion: replace age with attitude, aptitude, and ability rankings.


Dan Willis

Dan hit with an interactive and high-energy session titled “VizThink”. Together we explored how visuals directly impact the details of a message by studying one of the masters – Dr. Suess. We also proved that anyone can sketch/draw and that it is an informative way to convey ideas.

Takeaway: Visuals provide both context and attitude to the content they accompany. Also, they engage your audience!

Critiquing Critique

Jared Spool

As designers, we are familiar with having our work critiqued, and critiquing others’ work. By critiquing the personal websites of attendees we identified critique approaches that did and didn’t work, and Jared used this experience to offer further suggestions and insights.

A common pitfall was for the critique to become a group design session with everyone offering their opinions on how to design the site. Avoid this temptation! Critique is not design and should instead attempt to separate “what” from “how” and focus on the issues. Getting to the rationale is what is important; designers are good at coming up with designs on their own.

It will also take some pressure off the presenter to establish roles for the critique session. Jared recommends ‘critic’, ‘presenter’, ‘facilitator’, and ‘recorder’.

Takeaway: Critique is about surfacing the problem, not generating solutions.

Remote Collaboration

Jason Wishard

As someone who works with colleagues around the world, I found this session to be a good reminder of what makes a remote team successful.


  • Stay social – make good use of email, Instant Messaging, Twitter
  • Don’t be camera shy
  • Have an “Open door” communication policy
  • Transparency is king
  • Communications must be actionable


  • Task out your space
  • Encourage focus - isolation and quiet

Virtual environment:

  • Close/hide apps during calls and presentations
  • Turn off notifications when appropriate
  • Set status and expectations

Takeaway: Successful remote collaboration requires three pillars: a great team, an effective workspace, and a solid desktop environment.

Going out to Eat

Jimmy Chandler

Jimmy’s session drew analogies between operating a restaurant and designing software. Restaurateurs know emotions play heavily into their customer experience and are masters at exploiting this. There is a lot we can learn from them:

  • Emotions change how we face and solve problems
  • Emotions are critical to learning, curiosity, and creative thought
  • Experience is more memorable than the product itself

Takeaway: Leverage customer emotion in the design of products and services.