Digital Hampshire Roundup

Thanks to everyone who joined us last night for yet another successful Digital Hampshire meetup. It’s always great to get in touch with those working locally to us, and to see how alive our local Digital community really is.

Last night saw excellent presentations from our two speakers, Chris Cooper and Ross Chapman, each of whom packed their 30 minute sessions with a great mix of advice, case studies and insights.

For those of you who didn’t make it to this latest instalment, or are looking to refresh your memory of the talks, here we’ve compiled the key learning and discussion points from this, our first Digital Hampshire of 2016.

Chris Cooper – Smart Cities: Security, Risks & What Next

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Chris Cooper’s talk focused around the key characteristics – and examples – of smart cities, as well as explaining the importance that we adopt their principles do drive outcomes for our society. Along with this, Chris explained his company KnowNow’s revolutionary Trust app, and the crucial role that our personal data plays within a smart city.

One of the most exciting takeaways from Chris’ talk was his belief that smart cities’ time has come. We already live in a world surrounded by data points, and using these in an interconnected way could dramatically improve many areas of our lives. Even our smartphones generate a huge amount of information, so by owning one, we are already creating data points which could be used to drive smart city outcomes.

 

Crucial to our cities becoming truly smart, said Chris, was to shift towards an outcomes-based approach, where we look at how decisions and activities can broadly affect our society. Using the concept of a “Circular Economy”, Chris explained the importance that take an efficient, holistic approach to the problems and opportunities that we face.

The smart cities expert also noted the key components and characteristics which make up a smart city. Amongst these were a true sustainability, good governance, open data, collaboration and efficiency. Whilst certain cities could meet some of these criteria, Chris noted, there aren’t any which truly meet all in the UK at present.

To demonstrate a city making steps towards being smart, Bristol was used as an example in Chris’ presentation. The city’s council have opened up a huge fibre broadband network, using it to generate big data which can influence decisions made in the city. Monitoring everything from air pollution and congestion, to assisted living and even self-driving cars, this network is able to generate a huge number of data points which can be used to develop smart city outcomes.

Fundamental to our move towards smart cities, said Chris, is an acknowledgement that these changes will make our cities far more sustainable and efficient, and that by not making them, we will not be able to handle the rises in population which are expected over the coming years.

    Finally, Chris focused on the issue of personal data and consent. Whilst we must share our data to make our cities smarter, he noted, it’s important that this data is well-governed, and that we know as citizens how is being used. By allowing people to understand and control how their data can be used, said Chris, the power is put back into their hands. This is where KnowNow’s Trust innovation comes in, which allows people to control how much of their personal data they make available, and to throttle it so that their data-sharing benefits them.

Ross Chapman – 10 UX Design Hacks

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Ross’ talk was absolutely crammed with useful advice, and saw him share a few of the key tools, techniques and technologies which he uses within his role as Wiggle‘s Senior UX Designer. Explaining how he – and others – define user experience, Ross noted the importance that we see the discipline as incorporating “every touch-point we as a company have with a user”, and shouldn’t view UX as limited to certain interactions. Ross stressed throughout his talk how crucial usability testing is to UX design. His first hack was centered on this, explaining that a site called Peek can be used to generate free videos of real people using your site. Often – Ross said – professionals love the idea of usability testing, but don’t know how to implement it themselves. This first tip showed just how easily you can get this key process underway. Ross also highlighted that – whilst official channels are valuable – it’s useful to take any possible chances to observe people interacting with your site. Using a personal example of when his mum got very frustrated by a recurring pop-up on a large retail site, Ross showed that by watching everyday users, we can gain insights about our website which we’d completely miss otherwise. Without taking steps like these, it can be hard to tell whether users are making the journey that we expect them to through a site.

 

Although it’s productive to gain feedback from any available sources, said Ross, it’s also crucial to make decisions based a thorough understanding of your site’s typical user. By creating several personas on sites like xtensio.com – incorporating the user’s goals, frustrations, motivations and key characteristics – Ross has been able to make decisions informed by what real customers are likely to engage with. Another big takeaway from Ross’ talk was the fundamental importance of what he called “inviting designers into the boardroom”. This allows them to input from the very outset, and interact with the brief in a fluid manner. The UX expert stressed that designers should be empowered to ask questions, challenge the brief and learn throughout the design process, thereby ensuring that they fully understand and deliver on what’s expected. Also among Ross’ hacks was to use PowerPoint for prototyping, due to the fact that it doesn’t take any design expertise to make use of, so the improvement process can be more inclusive. Along with this, Ross recommended recording all user-testing, as in his words there’s “so much good stuff” which we may miss otherwise. Also, Ross likely surprised a few designers by recommending that they both do-away with post-it notes and print out their plans (on real paper)!

 

Of course, in this article we’ve only been able to capture a few key points from each of last night’s great talks, so if you’re after a little more information, you can see both presentations on SlideShare; click here for Ross’, and here for Chris’. We hope that all of you that attended last night enjoyed the event, made some new connections, and came away with some useful insights. We’d like to thank our great speakers, Chris Cooper and Ross Chapman for sharing with us, as well as all of you who gave up your Wednesday evenings to attend the meetup. Preparations are already underway for our next Digital Hampshire – we look forward to seeing you all again!  

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