Get Charged 2018 : Takeaways from Sudbury's Only Design and Tech Conference

The second annual Charged design and tech event has come and gone, and this year’s "user experience" themed conference once again promised – and delivered – an educational and inspiring event committed to strengthening and helping Sudbury’s design and startup tech communities thrive.

Reflecting on the event’s sophomore year, there was a lot to take in. Here are three takeaways that captured our attention:

  • Evaluate, Don't Validate: Dr. Elizabeth Allen, principal at boutique UX research and strategy consultancy Brazen, led the daytime workshop and discussed the importance of usability testing for UX design. UX is the experience, emotion, intuition and connection a user feels when using a site or product, and usability testing is the ability to evaluate a product’s current UX design by testing it against its real users. However, Elizabeth cautioned that to "evaluate" does not equal to "validate". Too often, the term "validate" holds the silent implication that a design is at a final stage. It suggests that users are not supposed to point out issues, and that changes are not expected – or accepted. A usability test should always include both positive and negative findings. A sentiment better than "let’s validate this design" is "let’s learn what works and what doesn’t work and why." A product that has had its assumptions tested, evaluated and refined will ensure that it is effective, efficient and easy to use, providing both a higher quality product and a higher level of satisfaction to the user.
  • People are Emotional Storytellers: Tom Creighton, former director of design at WealthSimple and founder of Reactive Arts, kicked off the conference portion of CHARGED with his talk focused on person-centred design, an offshoot of the buzzy human-centred design framework, and its relationship to UX. Both human-centred design and UX design focus on solving problems for people, however, human-centred design approaches problem solving by building deep empathy with potential consumers and creating solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. By keeping the people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the design process, a product or solution will be more successful. With person-centred design, Tom goes beyond this framework and subscribes to the notion that people are emotional storytellers, and good designers sell visions, not products. Designers shouldn’t want to merely make people think something; it’s better to make them feel something, and rewards for companies that connect with customer’s emotions in a positive way can be substantial.
  • Apathy Isn’t the Answer: Theresa Stewart, cultural consultant and founder of Colored Collective, closed out CHARGED with a reminder from Spider Man that "with great power comes great responsibility." During her talk, Theresa established that while many designers may consider themselves ethical people, many do not intentionally factor ethics into their work. Design has a large influence on how people behave and live their lives, and it’s important for designers to understand the impacts of their designs. Designers have a responsibility to make ethics a part of the decision process from the initial design and beyond, and be conscientious members of not just the design community, but the wider human community as well.

Startup life is challenging, but also exhilarating. To create a successful, sustainable business, it takes more than just guts to reap the glory. Hearing stories from people who have "been there and done that" can help determine what’s next on your own startup journey.

For more valuable takeaways relating to the start up journey, visit NORCAT on YouTube for videos from past seasons of Startup101 that provide practical, relevant and hands-on knowledge for those interested in starting their own business and register for our entrepreneurship education series LAUNCH.