I woke up early and jumped on the train to Edinburgh for an unexpected trip to UX Scotland. Steve in our team sadly couldn’t make it. I jumped at the opportunity. Reading back over my notes and rewriting them has been a helpful reflective exercise. While they certainly won’t do justice to the speakers talks and workshops, I hope that you gain something from the summaries of what I learned at them.

Embracing the complexity mindset

One of the topics Gerry Scullion discussed in his talk, was the challenges of making change in complex environments where results can be unpredictable. An important take away for me, was giving space for experimentation, testing, and iterative changes with feedback. While a simple change, can be quite predictable, in complex environments, we often don’t really know what will happen. We need to recognize the type of environment we are working in and realise that we need to have processes in place that allow for testing and rapid feedback to check we are achieving desired outcomes.

Gerry also discussed how we need to be careful about how we listen to each other. Often, we approach a conversation with a mindset to fix or mitigate. When working in complexity, we should listen to understand, recognising that we can’t find the ‘perfect’ solution on our own. We need to work collaboratively and allow space for a creative process of active listening, experimental change, and consistent feedback.

Persuasive visual storytelling in user research

Rashmi Kakde spent hours trawling through user research data only to find that stakeholders didn’t have the time to fully understand the detail of her insight. To get people onboard with the need for change, we need to be able to communicate the problem in a compelling way.

In one example, Rashmi used a storyboard to show the current user journey and all the pain points people were experiencing. This helped to make the complaints data relatable and human. Look here at the frustration this person is experiencing booking this ticket.

Rashmi also shared examples of using graphs and user journeys charts measuring user satisfaction among other techniques. There are lots of different ways of telling stories, but a key takeaway for me was the importance of sharing a human narrative that helps stakeholders to understand the experience of people using a service.

Continuous discovery – holy grail, or poisoned chalice?

Neil Turner’s team had multiple weekly feedback sessions with customers. Continuous discovery! Sounds great.

As time went on, they started finding it harder to get useful insight. Customers didn’t want to fill in a survey or meet all the time. They started speaking with customers who maybe weren’t really customers, but they needed to meet their required number of interviews. They also didn’t have time to sort through all the insight and figure out what was important or what to do with it. They had quantity and a very high noise to signal ratio. A signal being defined as something that suggests issues with a service that should be investigated.

They changed their approach. No longer would they count how many people they interviewed! No, we shall only measure the quality of the insight they provide. They went down to a couple interviews one month, and a couple more then next. The difference was, they interviewed targeted customers and asked them specific questions about their service that were actionable. Were you able to book a ticket? Did you have any difficulties? They then used this insight to improve the service and asked for more feedback to measure the effectiveness of change.

Help! How do I justify the return on investment (ROI) of UX?

Lynsey Brownlow knows that spending time on user experience is useful. But she had a bunch of shareholders asking questions, and she was left on the backfoot. They wanted a figure, ideally an amount of money. How do you measure that? Lynsey went through a bunch of different examples demonstrating how metrics can be translated into financial estimates. For example, how improving a guide reduced the number of support calls or how more people purchased a product after the checkout process was simplified. If you know the hourly rate of your support staff and the average time spent on a support call, you can then make and estimated saving by reducing the call quantities.

To be able to measure an improvement, we need to fully understand the user journey and tell a story using data insight to explain how a change will improve the user experience and move a KPI (key performance metric). Lynsey also pointed out the benefits of sharing and not duplicating work across an organization. For example, reusing research informed customer experiences that are working well in other parts of the business.

Design ethically: from imperative to action

Kat Zhon talked about the importance of considering the impact of a design on users and considering if the action you are encouraging is beneficial to them. Kat gave examples of businesses that have designed processes focused on driving sales that have failed to consider the impact of not explaining the full details of the service and recurring costs. While their quarterly figures ended up looking great, the impact on users who signed up for the service and the damage to brand reputation was considerable.

Kat highlighted the importance of considering the full implications of a design and making sure that we understand the cost put on the user; be that time, money, or their data. We need to evaluate the ethical implications of what we are doing and not exploit our users trust.

Three additional steps to the design process were suggested:

  1. evaluate – the design objectives are interrogated for ethical issues
  2. forecast – the design is tested for unforeseen negative impacts on users
  3. monitor – regular feedback is collected from users


Attending UX Scotland was a rewarding experience. Key takeaways for me included: the importance of telling a compelling story, embracing experimentation, prioritizing quality insights over quantity, measuring value and success effectively, and considering the impact on people who use our services.