User Experience is rarely something that we see. The times we see it most is, in our users’ faces when we spend time with them. But most of the time, it takes a long, hard sell to get the budget to do so.
I have done many workshops and presentations throughout my time as a consultant, for clients, employees and students. The one thing that I’ve seen consistently work is putting the audience in the shoes of a user. At the end of the day, everyone is a user. Everyone can relate to good and bad experiences, whether that be customer service, a mobile app or a website. And as a presenter, you hold the power to torture your audience. Provide that bad experience (that usually your clients are inflicting on others).
People love to a good whinge! And if there’s one thing we can all relate to, it is a bad website, product or service. We’ve all been there. Allow the audience to share their experiences with bad technology. Allow them to vent and be sure to highlight any obvious body language signs. Point out their facial expressions and the emotion displayed.
This exercise can adapt to the size of your audience. For smaller audiences, open the floor to discussion. Throw the question out there for a larger audience to make them think. Then ask 1 or 2 people to share their most infuriating experiences.
You could even turn the audience into a mini focus group. But be sure to use this if you are confident in your moderation and facilitation skills. People love to complain, and we often see users sharing lengthy anecdotes in usability sessions. Be sure to timebox this exercise!
There is nothing more frustrating than switching between tech eco-systems. Whether that be iPhone to Android, or Windows to Mac. People are attached to their phones, which makes this task easy, and requires no hardware from your side.
Ask people to pair up with someone with a different phone system (Android/Windows/Blackberry/iPhone etc.) and swap phones. Then search for an image online, using Google to keep tasks consistent. Save the image to the phone and then find the image.
The systems on each phones are quite different. If saving the image of the phone doesn’t stump users, the differences in file systems is great back up. If participants are not keen on having someone poke through their phone, have the owner of the phone drive. The other person then navigates and tells them what they would do.
The next exercise asks people to complete any task that fits your presentation theme, without using their hands. I have used this exercise as a lighthearted way to demonstrate accessibility. The goal for us as presenters is for people to understand the limitations of technology. There are people out there who do face this challenge, and this exercise in no way is a replacement to understand that scenario. This exercise gets people thinking about how they can achieve the same task they may have done a hundred times before.
I ran this exercise in support of the campaign ran by AbilityNet called Look no Hands, for a client event. The audience supported the cause by texting a donation to their number, by not using their hands.
Furthermore in the conversation on Inclusive UX why not learn a sentence or two in a different language, to introduce yourself. Around 73% of Internet users do not speak English, yet over 50% of the Internet’s content is in English.
Open up your talk with a few lines. Keep the lines simple, so that they are easier to remember. Something along the lines of “Hello. My name is …. Welcome to this discussion” works well. Using a long sentence which you’re more guaranteed that your audience won’t understand really does the trick. “Hello” and “My name is” are the first phrases most people learn in a new language.
You have to ensure that these are the first lines of your talk to make the most impact.
My advice would also be a language which is obscure to where you’re from. If you’re in Swedish, learning a language like Norwegian won’t do the trick. Besides, the more obscure the language, the less likely your audience will know if you make a mistake.
Remember to translate what you said and put your audience out of their misery!
Why not translate what you said into sign language too, if you’re talking about impairments and localisation.
Watch my introduction at TalkUX in Arabic and British Sign Language
The last exercise asks people to explore a website in a language they don’t understand. I ran this as part of my accessibility workshop for Ladies that UX London. The task was to book a holiday using the El Al website in Hebrew. At the end, people gave feedback saying that hadn’t realised how much they relied on icons.
This is another task which can be adapted to the theme of any workshop. Instead of people booking a flight, have them order food or purchase items online. The idea of this task is for people to realise what helps users when they have no choice to use a website in a language they don’t understand.
These exercises are tried and tested to aid explaining what UX is, to those in and out of the UX world. They are small insights into the different ways in which technology is used. Whether that is torturing your audiences in different languages or forbidding them to use their hands.
Always use empathy exercises with caution and not as a replacement of research. Often exercises which focus too much on building empathy can lead to fear of the topic being explained. This problem is more prevalent when it comes to explaining accessibility. The aim of these particular exercises is to aid you in explaining what user experience is. As a group they allow you to point out the faces people are pulling, which is exactly what user experience is.
Tried one of these exercises or have an exercise you’ve tried and tested? Comment below, or tweet me at @EChesters!
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