UXLx conference: new insights for our VFQ approach

The UXLx conference was a fantastic opportunity to get back to in-person events and exchange insights with fellow user experience (UX) practitioners. Attending the 2022 edition of this conference in sunny Lisbon was very exciting. As one of the biggest UX conferences in Europe, it was no surprise that there were attendees from all over the world from diverse backgrounds.  More than 500 professionals, including Business Analysts, Product Designers, Product Managers, Usability Analysts, User Interface Designers, and Information Architects attended. 

Our team had the chance to connect with some compelling ideas and reflect on how they relate to Emergn’s work-based principles and practices framework. 

Our mission at Emergn is to improve the way people and companies work. Forever. Our Value, Flow, Quality (VFQ) approach builds upon our three principles: deliver VALUE early and often; optimize the FLOW of work end-to-end; discover QUALITY with fast feedback. We use this approach to help people learn and adopt new, modern ways of working to bring innovative products, services, and ideas to market. 

UXLx was an opportunity for us to enrich our approach with the perspectives of professionals and learn how to incorporate those insights at Emergn to benefit our Product Design practice community and our clients.

Here are highlights of the moments that most resemble VFQ and Emergn’s values.

“Making research work for product teams” by Matt LeMay 

We had the opportunity to attend diverse workshops on topics around UX: creativity, prototyping UX using a game design framework, and user research in product design. 

There was one workshop that stood out: “Making Research Work for Product Teams” by Matt LeMay. It discussed why some product teams still fail to apply learnings about their customers, resembling the principles defined by the VFQ approach.  

Matt presented three main principles that make user research genuinely actionable:

  • Embracing constraints
  • Start with specifics
  • Do the work together

How do they add value to user research? Let’s deconstruct each of these principles to find out. 

Embracing constraints

 Matt explained how actionable and impactful research is often about making hard-earned incremental gains and practical compromises. These pragmatic compromises are often based on constraints of scope, time, or costs. 

From a VFQ perspective, delivering value early and often is also about increments and iterations. Iterations are all about gaining feedback to improve the solution, each is a thin slice of end-to-end value, including research. The focus is not on creating a finished and perfect design. Instead, we aim to build increments of value that we can validate – a working software, a product feature, a prototype, MVP, and more.

Start with specifics

We can clarify the outputs and outcomes by asking specific human and business questions. Human questions are about the goals and needs of people, while business questions focus on the objectives and requirements of the company. Sometimes researchers forget to consider the business questions, which are highly valuable for the outcome. Both types of questions are critical and shed light on the sweet spot where customer desirability and business viability come together.

Do the work together

A way to improve the actionability of the work is to invite engineers and product managers to the work of researchers as early and openly as possible. Matt introduced the idea of “do the work together” as a vital principle. From a VFQ perspective, fast feedback is one of the pillars to achieving quality. Doing the work together and involving others in the research process can significantly benefit the work’s quality, as feedback needs to happen quickly to change behavior.  

Matt also presented the idea that “PowerPoint decks are where insights go to die.” He exposed how often research teams devote too much time to creating presentation decks that will have no real impact. Not all activity is valuable. Without creating anything useful, a group of people can rush around putting in too much energy. Thus, doing the work together and involving the product team as early and open as possible is one way to curb this kind of waste. In addition, this principle can prevent silos of information and is linked to the idea of improving the flow in VFQ.

“Dear users, let’s be friends” by Scott Kubie

At the conference, we also had the opportunity to attend high-quality and insightful talks on topics such as creativity and hybrid workspace, telling stories through presentations, making our work incomplete on purpose to foster more collaboration, and many others. 

We found the talk “Dear users, let’s be friends” by Scott Kubie especially insightful. This talk was about using copywriting to create Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) communications that sound more human and sympathetic. He presented nine golden principles adapted from the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, first published in 1936. It is interesting to note how the lessons of this book have stood the test of time and are relevant to this day, even in quite a different context, such as technology. Scott spoke about notable examples of good and bad user interface (UI) copywriting and explained how these examples relate to the learnings of the social skills or principles introduced by Carnegie’s book.

The nine golden principles introduced by Carnegie and adapted by Scott in his talk were: 

  1. Don’t criticize, complain or condemn
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation
  3. Arouse an eager want
  4. Become genuinely interested in others
  5. Smile (introduce small pieces of delight)
  6. Use their name
  7. Be a good listener
  8. Speak of their interests
  9. Make other people feel important and do it sincerely

In Scott’s talk, the examples used to illustrate the principles were engaging, while still providing actionable guidelines to improve the communication between the technology we produce and the people who will use it.  

 These nine golden principles are very noteworthy, but it is still a promising idea to be ambitious and strive to do even better. Keeping in mind the VFQ approach, we should always be on a continuous journey to discover what customers love. What people might be interested in may radically vary from context to context and product to product. Therefore, we should not forget to constantly test our designs with others and gather feedback on how our message comes across.

Last thoughts

In this blog post, we shared just a few of the exciting insights we heard during the conference. They are just a glimpse of the many workshops and talks that made us eager to go more in-depth with our colleagues and enthusiastic about the chance to use them within our own projects and with our clients.