Tom Hulme – Urban Design – UX London 2013

  • Urban design can teach digital a lot. No matter how we design cities, people will take their own paths. Eg Highbury fields with ‘desire paths’ through the grass made by Arsenal fans on the way to a home game. Or Brasilia – designed without pavements – because the designer thought people would no longer walk
  • Our job is to design something but the truth is in how it is used.
  • Many architect concept diagrams don’t show people – imagining it unused. We have to stop doing that in Photoshop!

1. Launch to learn

  • Don’t be precious. Don’t spend a lot of time polishing. Don’t spend so long designing that it’s obsolete before it’s finished
  • Like the Manhattan grid plan – build and learn as you go. They pivoted to introduce Central Park
  • Our job – we have to have a purpose and a vision, BUT we have to pick of something to launch. We will then learn far more
  • Keep the team small – 2 pizza team rule. All teams should have line of sight to customer
  • Have a vision

2. Stop fighting desire

  • View our digital products as an opportunity to see desire paths.
  • Accept that we will be wrong. Find out what people want and design FOR it
  • Search boxes tell you what desire paths are. Google learns what our desire paths are through what we put in
  • Have the humility to accept whatever the users of your product are doing is the TRUTH. It’s the product. Even though it’s not what you wanted them to do

3. Skuewhat? Skuemorphism

  • Brasilia created a vanity exercise to make city look like an aeroplane
  • Skuemorphism can be good – eg Trash can for delete. But skuemorph only to take friction away

4. Data needs context to be meaningful

  • Brasilia was designed with key assumption – no one in the future will ever walk
  • Don’t take data for granted – write human stories around data and challenge it
  • We have to start using stories to get away from being too data-oriented
  • Think through data stories / human stories / edge cases. Eg dynamic pricing of cars in NYC during Hurricane Sandy made prices go so high they alienated their customers
  • Automatically created / algorithm generated stuff is at risk of creating unexpected / unwanted results

5. Neither open nor closed

  • M8 in Glasgow makes city feel split
  • Think about the interesting bits in the middle that could be open or closed. Think about the bits we can open for people to see
  • Create products that are AJAR – not open or closed.
  • Googlemaps API wasn’t intended as an API but it’s now used everywhere. What’s your API strategy?
  • Better ways to be open to business / communities

6. You’re not alone

  • St Pancras station was commissioned by railway company. They knew how you arrive and depart affect what you think
  • Don’t pretend the user is going to only use your product – they will arrive from somewhere and leave to go somewhere
  • Need good examples of how to leave our product effectively. Don’t just revert back to the signup page if user logs out
  • Design for the bigger journey
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