A quick review of Webexpo Prague 2013

This article is also published in the Angi Studio Medium collection

In 2013 I visited Webexpo in Prague. A conference about the web that mixes design, business, life hacking and IT. It was the first time that the conference reached out to foreigners, by inviting international speakers and making all talks in English. I had fun and learned a lot, but: is it worth attending again next year?

The mix of design, business and IT was very welcome. I learned most from talks outside my own area of expertise. That’s also what attracts me in interaction design: talking with clients and users, and learning new things from different subjects. I talked with everybody in the conference, from the speakers to the guy making the tea. The conference had a very open and relaxed atmosphere and there were several cool things besides the talks such as: 3d printing, Google Glass, and even a professional masseur. Another neat idea was the discomfort zone, where people were allowed to debate freely and play devils advocate without consequences. Also great were the after-conference parties and events. Sadly, the design workshop on Thursday didn’t happen due to lack of attendees.

Mental game A game played by not thinking too hard. Ideal for me

So what about the talks?

The quality of the talks was very good overall. But it seemed that every design or business presentation has lists of “ideas”, “key takeaways”, “guidelines” or “insights’. A lot of them seemed trivial or made up on the spot (“listen to your users”, really?). It would have been better for most talks to stick to one message! Now, I’ll break that rule straight away and present some take-aways :)

A great story is better than a 1000 words

Marli Mesbov gave a great presentation on the importance of story telling. Stories work better than short tag lines, which is probably related to Key Take Away 1 (no take-aways).

Stories work for conversion and for your clients to positively remember you. Do you remember the fairytale of the boy who cried wolf? Don’t you think that carries the message better than “don’t alarm us for nothing”? The average attention span went down from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2012, so better make your story captivating!

Besides working on your site, stories also work great for doing design. It’s an old saying, but still good advice: instead of designing for users, design for a story.

Lastly, a story can be used to instruct a client on how to use the website. Instead of delivering a 100 page styleguide which people don’t read, you can make a short story, a trailer or just a word (“dictionary”, “phonebook”), which ‘explains’ the site to the client.

Marli Mesbov talking Marli Mesbov shows that a story doesn’t need to be long to be enjoyed and remembered

Our terms suck

It was great to hear some self-conscious critique on terms we use within the field. Our terms are confusing and their meaning differs per person and company: UX, service design and even interaction design (but less). Some people include visual design in there, programming, marketing… All very confusing! And what to think of terms like ‘expert’ or ‘guru’? Instead, it’s better to describe what you do and how it benefits the client or project.

Death by a million paper cuts

Bad user experience costs money, which is what we tell our clients also But it was great to see some examples, such as Expedia losing 12 million dollar because of a form field or Best Buy losing 300 million dollar by requiring an unnecessary login. This holds especially for mobile use: a lot of apps are used only once or thrown away within a month. Avi Itzkovitch had some nice examples how to overcome such bad experience by making more use of context. For instance by adapting the interface based on location, time of day or usage pattern.

So, should you visit next year?

I wish it could be a wholehearted yes! I had a lot of fun, met great people and learned a lot, but.. Some things nagged a bit, like the cancelled design workshop, the open doors in some design talks and the endless lists of recommendations. Another thing is the overlap in the program: breaks were different for each track making it difficult to switch. That might be why designers mostly went to the design track and programmers to the development tracks, making the mingling a lot less. On top of that, all speakers were “safe choices”, nobody went really overboard or crazy with some thought-provoking talk. Still, it was fun and I learned useful things, so, I guess it’s four out of five stars.
For a visual impression, see the Facebook photostream

Mariya Yao talking Mariya Yao explains why some apps are not making money in a convincing talk

Talk guide:

Webexpo puts the talks online (very slowly), so which ones should you see?

This article is published in the Angi Studio Medium collection