UX South Africa Cape Town 2016

At the UX South Africa 2016 Conference in Cape Town I delivered a talk on the future of UX design in South Africa, and I facilitated a workshop on design critique. The UX South Africa Conference is in its third year and has grown from its base in Cape Town to an annual Johannesburg counterpart. The conference is growing in popularity and for the last two years international speakers has been added to the list. The popularity of the conference bears testimony to the growing local awareness of the value of UX design. The audience includes developers, designers, agilists, marketers, and content editors working across the tech industry.

My talk was inspired by conversations I’ve had in the past year with people interested in learning more about UX design. Themes running through the conversations were people’s desire to do meaningful work, and the future of UX design in South Africa. This raised two questions for me: Firstly, how can an industry with empathy at the core of its practice ignore the problems facing South Africa? And secondly, in a rapidly changing design landscape will UX designers be relevant in the future?

UX design exists at a unique interdisciplinary juncture and with the maturity of design thinking, social innovation, and lean startup, UX designers are well placed to re-apply their user-centred-design skills in new areas to make greater impact. In my talk I explored the new mindsets, skills and attitudes UX designers need to adopt to shift from merely doing design to becoming design activists.

Earlier in 2016 I gave a talk at a UX masterclass meet-up titled ‘The Lost Art of the Critique’. The talk was inspired by observing that many design teams that I work with lacked a process for discussing design critically. Feedback after the talk confirmed that many people experienced this in their organisations and they wanted to do something about it. So I designed a workshop to meet that need and presented the first version of workshop at the conference.

The best thing about doing talks and workshops is the hard questions that come from the audience. By exposing the canon of your knowledge in public, you get to grips with what you actually know, and how much more there is to learn.