Refresh rocked!

Any developer, designer or product manager who wasn’t at Kultuurikatel last Friday, 9th of September, missed out on a chance to be inspired by some of the best digital masterminds in the region. The annual Refresh conference brought together a full-house of nearly 400 participants and gave the stage to 14 international speakers, united by one goal – to make the web even more awesome and design even more exciting!

What sets Refresh apart is the high quality content, interdisciplinary program and in-depth case studies. While each speaker brought to the stage their own unique insights and experiences, some themes and trends kept repeating throughout the conference. 


Why, why, why?

The conference kicked off with a presentation by Martin Jordan and Kate Ivey-Williams from the Government Digital Service UK. They are on a mission to put a stop to the legal jargon on government web pages and implement proper people speak that the users with real needs and real problems can actually understand. Every step of the way they ask a lot of “why's“ – why is this specific thing on the page and is it really helping the users? The path of the users should be mapped and all the unnecessary complexity removed. Simplify! Take down the fuzz!

Designer and a design professor Amid Moradganjeh reminded the audience that lots of opportunities hide in persistently asking why. “Why“ challenges the comfort zone and makes the coolest ideas come forth. Start asking why from the day one of creating your product or service when the product is still in its rough form, because already polished products don’t encourage discussions. 


Don’t make your audience suffer!

Tiffany Conroy from SoundCloud compared the average password secured webpage to a beautiful garden surrounded by barbed wire – what the users really want is to get in, but to do that, they need to overcome the obstacles, such as signing in or creating an account. Each decision the user has to make in the process is like another trigger pull in the game of Russian roulette and could be the last move they make on the page before giving up and leaving. Some user experiences are simply best never to be experienced!

Duncan Lamb from TransferWise stressed that in the 21st century people don’t want to sign up for more work. Engaging with bad design and low quality products feels a lot like work though. While “fuzzy“ things such as aesthetics are often difficult to pin down, define and measure, it’s the key element separating the product that simply “gets the job done“ from the product that also delights, implements trust and drives lasting engagements. Keep away from the low hanging fruit - don’t build things you love to build; build things users love to use. 


Culture is the key!

Good products are born in a team effort. It seems to be a general trend that responsibility for enjoyable user experience is not divided by departments but rather shared equally. Amid proposed a provoking thought that design is too important to be left fully on the shoulders of designers. At the same time, designers should be closely involved in product development from the very beginning – after all, design isn’t something you can simply add later as an additional layer (that’s called styling!). The case of GDS UK sums this point up nicely – in their office, designers don’t hang around separated in the cellars and everybody in the office knows at least a bit about programming. This arrangement encourages discussions between various specialists that, not to forget, ultimately work for the same goal!

It is important to remember the core values of the company and to build a team where each and every member truly believes in those values. As an example, TransferWise is dedicated to hiring people with a strong empathy muscle, and that applies to all the employees, not just the customer service squad in the immediate frontline. The case of complete rebranding of Carto (former Vizzuality) proved that good culture is essential in overcoming big challenges as a company, which will initially become the best possible lessons. 


Refresh 2016 succeeded in sharing some amazing stories and offered a bucketload of inspiration. These were just a few takeaways from the hours and hours of noteworthy (and occasionally very entertaining) insights. If you missed out on the conference or simply can’t wait to re-watch some of your favourites, stay tuned – the video recordings are about to be uploaded HERE in the near future. Some of the photos can already be seen HERE.

See you all at Refresh 2017! 

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