29.05.2019

Hackathon 2019: powering up your hackathon with UX

The UX doctor will see you now

Hackathon time! Last week our brand new AE offices were abuzz with the collective brilliance of thirteen teams hacking away at a number of business and society challenges. If the idea of a hackathon doesn’t ring any bells, have a quick read here. If it does, read on to find out how you can make awesome ideas even ‘awesomer’.

It never ceases to amaze me what a dedicated team can achieve in 48 hours. Especially if they ask the right questions along the way. Enter the Seth & Dunn validation booth. Seth & Dunn helped our hackathon teams refine their business strategy and assumptions, in partnership with Buffl.

The User Experience Clinic

My wonderful colleague Joris Hias and myself had set up shop across from the validation booth with a User Experience Clinic. Need help with your UX? We can cure what ails you! With a mighty emphasis on the user experience by the way. If a team’s understanding of user needs and wants isn’t solid, even the prettiest UI will be nothing but lipstick on a pig.

Fortunately our teams were putting users front & center in their approach. One team for example, was building a prototype dashboard to help operators determine the optimal way to offload massive container barges. What made me especially happy, was that the way they chose to map the interface to their user’s mental map of the harbor. The entire dashboard was a representation of a container barge docking in the harbor, with the containers being directed to the proper yard lots. Even a logistical nitwit like myself could immediately grasp the operational context.

All we had to do in the clinic was nudge them in the direction of Gestalt principles to organize their information. With a high information density, you need to take into account relative size, composition, spacing, etc. to create the proper visual weights, which will guide a user’s attention. A quick win for an already awesome idea.

The KBC team, the winner of our ‘best business case’ award, was building an Amazon Echo Show interface for the elderly. A sort of brain training of their loved ones and social circle, that also makes it easier to reach out. Their Alexa interface also registered speech patterns, such as distress and sadness as an early warning system! In the UX clinic we got to sparring with the team on what the best way would be to build such a product.

How do the elderly interact with touch- and conversational interfaces? How do you even get them to interact with the device? It’s a budding UX research field (and it could probably stand to receive a little more attention) so a little Google goes a long way to validate some of your assumptions. The best thing to do though is to just get out of the building. A few photographs and a ‘Wizard of Oz’ approach (with you playing the part of Amazon’s Alexa), will teach you a lot more than locking yourself in a room for two days.

 

Ask the right questions

There’s a ton of other great ideas that came out of the hackathon (a blockchain zero waste solution, a gamified professional networking app, a personal learning trajectory tool, the list goes on….). The main takeaway that we tried to impart at the UX clinic (and the Seth & Dunn booth too) is to ask the right questions. The questions that a user maybe can’t articulate yet, but where the answers have to potential to change their lives for the better.

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