FREDERICTON – UX Atlantic hosted a conference in June with world-class user-experience (UX) design experts from Google and Shopify on hand to share their experiences. Now out of that event comes renewed momentum for a lab that would help the region’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) create products that have world-class design.
New Brunswick Community College’s (NBCC) Centre for Applied Research in Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing has been nurturing the idea of a lab for a few years now and brought it to the UX Atlantic Conference, where the concept began to take shape and gain more support, says Fred Laforge, director and co-founder of UX Atlantic, a non-profit organization that seeks to enhance UX design capabilities in New Brunswick.
NBCC was recently awarded a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada toward equipment to begin Phase 1 of the lab.
Laforge says although UX design, which optimizes products for user experience, is becoming more mainstream, New Brunswick needs to develop the industry to make our companies more competitive on a global scale.
“If we want to create world-class products, we need to have all the ingredients, and [design] is one of the ingredients that we desperately, desperately, desperately need,” he said.
The UX lab would enable SMEs “to access affordable UX services like user research, user testing, user interface design,” amongst other services.
Laforge met with NBCC at the end of July to discuss the establishment of the lab. Phase 1 will be located at the Fredericton campus. Future collaborations may enable expansion to other NBCC campuses.
The UX Atlantic Conference was a two-day event where companies from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario learned about how to incorporate user-friendly design into their work cultures through keynote speakers and workshops.
Amongst the speakers were Meagan Timney, from Google, and Ricardo Vazquez, from Shopify.
Vazquez talked about the importance of being playful and connecting with one’s imagination when designing a user-friendly product.
“Play is human; it can be used for creative processes,” he said. “It doesn’t have to solve complex issues.”
He also said, “As adults, the pressure from society distances people from their artistic side, and we are left with systems that exploit instead of systems that explore.”
Event manager Kayla Johnson said organizing the event was a UX experience in itself. They wanted to provide maximum value for people attending the conference.
“‘How can we take it a step further and provide opportunities that people might not usually get in New Brunswick?” we asked ourselves. “That’s why we took that extra step and reached out to Meagan from Google, and Ricardo from Shopify.”
Laforge says conference attendees learned things from the keynotes and workshops they could apply to products being created by their companies – the ultimate goal of the conference and hopefully one day the lab that can facilitate ongoing learning and development.
“Everybody [was] impressed with the quality of the material,” he said. “People were engaged, working on their projects. When they had to present [them] they stood up proud and said, ‘we’ve learned so much, we completely changed the way we want to tackle our projects because of this.’ ”
This story is sponsored by UX Atlantic.