It was a chilly Monday evening. Whilst most people would head home after work, our work was just beginning. We were headed to the ICTAD Auditorium for a Tech talk about UX. We previously covered a few talks organized by UX Colombo but this was slightly different.

This was the SLASSCOM Technology Forum. Organized by SLASSCOM in collaboration with the National IT Week, which the honorable president Maithripala Sirisena declared from the 16th of November to the 20th of November, the forum would have a variety of topics ranging from business, to programming and everything in between.

We made our way into the auditorium. On screen was a video of Jared Spool on Using the Kano Model to Build Delightful UX. In the video, Jared explains about performance payoff where features play a key role in any software product but it can also be its’ Achilles heel.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of 99X Technology Ltd and Chairman of SLASSCOM, Mano Sekaram, was up first up to deliver the opening speech. He spoke briefly about SLASSCOM’s initiatives for the National IT week which were the tech talks, a business forum and finally Sri Lanka’s premiere ICT expo, Infotel.

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Mano Sekaram
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The speakers for the day were then introduced and we had Hasanga Abeyratne on stage first talking about the power of design.

Everything you see, is being designed by someone for something to serve some sort of purpose.

Designs are powerful. They can either be good for you, or bad for you. On screen a large meme face appears. Hasanga went on to explain that something as simple as an image can pass on a powerful message if used in the right context. People are attracted to simple things. It’s a matter of understanding the context and applying it. It’s the same with UX and UI as well. If you can come up with a good interface, you can pretty much do anything you want.

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Hasanga Abeyratne
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He then spoke about the creative process, a term that almost all UX designers would be familiar with. Master the creative process, Hasanga says, and you have yourself a winning product along with a powerful user experience. The creative process however, is a fickle thing. It needs time to grow.

A few points laid out about making use of design were:

  1. Make an instant connection – It takes an average of 16 seconds for you to decide if an app is worth downloading or a site worth visiting.
  2. Think about context and mindset
  3. Know what to measure
  4. Let the creative process take place

Make the change you want to see.

With that, Hasanga’s session drew to a close.

The next speaker for the day was Wyomi Ranasinghe speaking on People in UX. Wyomi, a manager at IFS talks about the various people involved in UX.

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Wyomi Ranasinghe
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She uses examples of well-known personalities involved with UX.Using Oliver Reichenstein as her first example, she goes on to explain just how important UX is.

For example UX is not UI. It’s not a step in the process, not about technology and not just about usability, it’s not just about the user, it’s not expensive either. It’s definitely not easy. Just because the problem seems easy, that doesn’t mean that the solution would be equally simple. It’s also not the role of one person or dept. It’s not a single discipline. It’s not a choice either. If you wish to remain in the industry, employing good UX is vital.

She also talks about the elements of user experience and 5 planes of UX as coined by Jesse James Garnett, those being

  • Strategy
  • Scope
  • Structure
  • Skeleton
  • Surface

The five planes are interdependent, but they are also flexible. Her next example was Jonathan Easton and his Mudd Model which marries UX, design and development.

She goes on to explain that whether you are involved in technology, design or from an business analyst’s point of view, or even as a developer, we are all a part of UX.

The next speaker was Dilrukshi Gamage talking about the right Tools for the right job. The first question. Is where do we begin?

She talks about tools such as personas, observations, mind-maps and other tools. Journey maps, timeline and stakeholder interviews are just some of the terms thrown at the crowd. Sure for some it may sound utter gibberish, but the audience was loving every moment of it.

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Dilrukshi Gamage
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All these tools help you communicate with your team members. Probably the most important1 aspect of teamwork is brainstorming. Be it a random voice memo stored on your phone or even a sticky note pasted on a wall, these are all methods of recording ideas.

She then talks about software such as balsmiq, Mockups and other tools that can help you design prototypes. Pencil and sketches are the best when it comes to designing a good UI, but these tools make the job a lot easier and more efficient to carry out. Her experience in focus groups, quantitative surveys, usability tests and A/B testing is what she speaks of as the final bit of her session.

Next up was Sukitha Nagallege, a software architect currently at IFS Labs, IFS. He talks about the projects that they do, mainly technology prototypes, new products and long term research projects.

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Sukitha Nagallege
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He takes an example of one of their projects called Streams. Imagine if a user is out of the country, and he/she wants to know the state of something. He uses a live demonstration of one of their apps titled “Vox” to show the interactions of their mobiles apps which according to Sukitha, use natural language processing to process status queries.

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The final session for the day was a panel discussion involving all the speakers. The first question asked was how to change the mindset of engineering towards a UX oriented approach. Another question was how to overcome technical difficulties. The key there is to take small increments and not take big risks.

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Seated L-R: Hasanga, Sukitha, Dilrukshi, Wyomi
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The debate of the day was whether or not to give the user what they need. As an example, they take the development of automobiles, where rather than creating the automobile, they could have just used a faster horse. While it may be practical, there has to be a balance of what the user can get and what the user wants. If they want all of the features and the kitchen sink, then there will be a compromise somewhere down the line. The key element is to identify exactly where said compromise would be.

With that the panel discussion came to an end and the panelists were awarded tokens off appreciation.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr. Sankalpa Gamwarige, Director of SLASSCOM.

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Dr. Sankalpa Gamwarige
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This was just the start of things to come. There would indeed be more events the likes of this, and we certainly hope so too.

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