Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Amuse UX Conference in Budapest. Focussed on Usability Experience (UX), the conference covered many topics under this vast umbrella, including Service Design, User Research, UI Design and Design Ethics. It was inspirational.
So, what is UX? Basically (and this was my biggest conference take away), it’s how we, as a company, can put the user and their needs first. We should be asking ourselves: how can we better serve our customers and make their user experience more effective and enjoyable? By focussing on our own users’ experiences, we can remove problems and eliminate friction. Sounds great, right?!
The conference kicked off with a special Meet Up event, held in one of Budapest’s unique romkocsmák (basically abandoned buildings turned into pop-up bars). It was achingly cool – lots of glassless windows and broken brickwork – with a great lineup of speakers. The talks were informative and the Amuse organisers did a great job. It was really interesting to hear Brent Palmer, Lead Designer of Zendesk, discuss how they use UX research and data analysis to improve their product for their users – of which SMTP2GO is one. We use Zendesk here at SMTP2GO for our customer support and it was fascinating to discover how they are continually working to improve the product for their end users. Us. It made me realise that all companies – big and small – face similar struggles and the same UX approaches can benefit all.
The conference started on Thursday, with attendees congregating at the Nyugati train station to await the ‘Conference Express’ train. It was all a bit mysterious and I didn’t have a clue where I was headed. A very, err, authentic train rolled (ever so slowly) aside the platform and I boarded with a touch of reluctance. The conference took place at a railway museum and this relic train was put on especially to take attendees directly to the museum. As we passed through derelict and rather broken-looking landscapes, I did think: ‘where am I going?!’. On arrival, we all trooped off the train into blazing sunshine and a graveyard of old trains: some had tattered velvet drapes hanging off the windows, others looked to have come straight out of the Wild West and, I swear, I glimpsed the Hogwarts Express’ grimier, slightly beaten-up cousin…
After a quick coffee and croissant, the conference got under way and the energy was popping. The conference MC, Tom Illmensee of Orbital Music Park, did a superb job. The conference organisers had gone to a staggering amount of effort to hand-pick a fantastic selection of speakers – and I was delighted to see a 50/50 split of men and women. This was wholly intentional on the organiser’s behalf. In fact, the ratio of male to female attendees was almost equally split, too, and there was a strong focus on women in tech, as there should be. We’re very passionate about this at SMTP2GO, too. The speakers covered different topics within UX – each was informative and inspirational. These people were so passionate about their subject, it was impossible not to share their enthusiasm. I enjoyed every presentation but the two that spoke to me the loudest were by Chris Monnier, Lead Experience Researcher at Airbnb, who spoke about Travel Stories and how to effectively share emotional experience; and Senongo Akpem, who spoke (fascinatingly) about culturally responsive design.
I feel lucky to have had the experience of hearing these inspirational people talk and to spend some days in such a wonderful city. In a brief moment of downtime, I did ‘take in the waters’ at one of Budapest’s oldest (1575) and most beautiful Ottoman-era baths and sampled the local red wine – both highly recommend! I’m grateful for this experience and for the copious notes that I made, which I fully intend to weave into our own UX strategies here at SMTP2GO.