Slide showing book covers of How to Make Sense of Any Mess, The Design of Everyday Things, and Don't Make Me Think

Conference Presentation: We Can All “Do” User Experience

October 18, 2016 was a big day for me, professionally. At 3:00 this afternoon I gave my first conference talk, titled “We Can All ‘Do’ User Experience.” The presentation was part of the Usability, Accessibility, and Design track at HighEdWeb 2016 in Memphis, TN.

For 45 minutes, I shared my thoughts about why the experience of our users and organized user testing can and should be formally integrated into higher education projects. In particular, I stressed and demonstrated that meaningful user testing is attainable, even to small teams with limited means.

At the end of 2015 I led a project at Colgate University that redesigned the school’s online giving form. To make a long story short: the project involved three rounds of user testing, all executed on campus for a grand total of a couple hundred dollars. From that testing, we received insights that allowed us to make significant, measurable improvements to the number of gifts the school processed online. And for those who made such gifts, we know the user experience was vastly improved.

Turnout to the session was middling, but I received several really positive points of feedback from those in attendance at the talk’s conclusion. Equally helpful for my self esteem was praise on Twitter for my choice of in-slide GIFs.

In all seriousness though, I feel the session was a success. As I attended other presentations earlier in the conference, I had admittedly started to worry that perhaps what I had to share wasn’t as impressive, novel, or interesting as what many of the other really incredible presenters were bringing to the table.

However, following my presentation I heard from one individual that he really appreciated the actionability and approachability of the process I had outlined. He had enjoyed other presentations, but found that they largely felt unattainable given his personal circumstances.

This feedback was incredibly validating — it was exactly the sort of reaction I had designed my presentation to inspire!

Do Your Own Testing

If you too wish to incorporate usability testing into your work, I recommend reading Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug. We simply followed his instructions when testing our giving form.