UX Scot’s little extras made a good experience great

I recently attended the UX Scotland 2014 conference held in Edinburgh.  Paula de Matos and I presented a hands-on tutorial about techniques for doing user experience design work in complex environments.

Our hands-on tutorial on "canvas sorting"
Our hands-on tutorial on “canvas sorting”
hands-on tutorial on "canvas sorting"
Participants getting stuck in to our hands-on tutorial on “canvas sorting”


It was a friendly gathering including: practical workshops, networking opportunities and engaging talks (see my sketchnotes plus Sarah’s, and more). Naturally, I thought it would be good to blog about the event but I felt that instead of focussing on content in a followup post this time, I’d write about the “meta-conference” stuff – aka the “little extras” – that made this conference stand out from the usual.

The UX Scotland’s little extras

Why bother with extras?  Because it’s a win win for attendees and organisers!  For each little extra I give some reasons why..

Little extra #1: Top notch, funky venue

Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. (Flickr: Anne Roberts)
Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. (Flickr: Anne Roberts)

Edinburgh is a beautiful (pretty posh) city anyway, but when I heard the conference was going to be held at a place called “Our Dynamic Earth”, I admit I was even more interested and very curious;  I thought it must be a cool art/design gallery or something.  After Google-earthing it, I could see it was in a great part of town near Arthur’s Seat and the Palace of Holyrood, but I had no idea it would be such a striking white “big top” building.  Surrounded by steep crags, it is actually an exhibition centre-cum-museum about geology.

Benefits for attendees

Edinburgh is already a plus, but this cool venue is a major tourist attraction too, so it made the meeting feel more like a jolly than real work.  This creates a good feeling for attendees, who have to take time out of their usual workload to attend.

Benefits for organisers

Location is a key factor when deciding to attend an event, so organisers may receive more registrants as a result of having a cool location and venue.  I also think it was a great choice to hold a cutting edge UX event here, because it helped to set the tone of the conference e.g. encouraging exploration of ideas that are out of the ordinary.

Little extra #2: Photo wall of attendees

A real-life Facebook was created during the conference.  Instructions were to take a selfie with the instant camera, decorate it on an index card, and write something about yourself and a message for other attendees to read.  The best effort would win a ‘design’ prize – which no doubt particularly appeals to an audience of designers/UXers.  The cards often included peoples’ Twitter handles, where they work, interests, etc.

Instant polaroid camera
I didn’t think they made Polaroid cameras anymore…but they do, and they look tacky retro cool!

A fine example of a UX Scot “Facebook” card…

Instant photo wall
Instant photo wall – who says we never print photos out anymore!


Benefits for attendees

Who doesn’t like writing stuff about themselves, right?  As well as massaging the ego of attendees the wall further encourages creative and informal atmosphere.  Obviously it was useful for networking, helping attendees to break the ice with each other and avoiding the need to exchange dull business cards/ scraps of paper with email addresses.  Another positive included providing a specific place to mingle in an otherwise large venue.

Benefits for organisers

Organisers can harvest the contact details and infos, which may be used for inviting attendees to future conferences/events.  It’s more fun than a survey/feedback form to find out what industries are represented at the event, for example.

Little extra #3: PhotoBooth

At the social event in the pub there was a pop up photo studio.  It featured a red velvet backdrop and suitcases full of vintage dressing-up props – awesome!  You had 5 seconds to choose new props before the flash would fire again.

In the photobooth with Paula
In the PhotoBooth with Paula

Again, it wasn’t essential…the social evening would have been good with nice drinks and smörgåsbord, but this little extra was so appealing (especially after a few drinks!)

Benefits for attendees

There is a sweet momento of the event to take away with you and show other people when you get back to the office.

Benefits for organisers

The things you remember best are the fun extras, this spreads the word because it’s a talking point.  The photo strip will no doubt be left on attendees’ desks on their return for folks to notice, etc.  The images are highly tweetable (another here), helping with the social media buzz organisers love.

Little extra #4: Live Empathy Doodle for Attendees

I use empathy maps to capture information about users/customers for user experience work, usually in workshops, but I thought this was a nice way to apply the model.  The idea is that you provide post-its or pens for attendees to write messages about their experience of the conference in real time and anonymously.

To ask attendees - how are you doing?
To ask attendees – how are you doing?
Benefits for attendees

For attendees it’s nice to be able to communicate any issues, annoyances or positive vibes anonymously – as they come up.  This approach is more effective and less onorours than a survey/feedback form for attendees.

Benefits for organisers

Feedback is captured in real-time so the organisers may even be able to act on some of the thoughts to improve the conference straightaway – as well as addressing longer term changes needed later by taking it away for analysis after the event.

Little extra #5: Tweet prize

This is such a small thing but when there’s a competition it incentivises behaviour.

Benefits for organisers

Social media buzz is encouraged, effectively marketing the event for next time and getting folks talking about the organisers’ products/brand.  By tweeting, folks that couldn’t attend can still see what’s happening at the event and may be enticed into coming next time (if it’s a regular event like UX Scotland).

Little extra #6: Ice Cream

Someone told me that it’s “only sunny for three days a year in Scotland“, so UX Scot used up 2 day’s allocation – it was 25 degrees with blue sky!  So, ever in step with the needs of the attendees, the organisers rolled out the ice cream, which was in cute little pots and in assorted flavours.  Simple, yes, perfect, yes!

UX Scot ice cream
UX Scot ice cream!
Benefits for attendees

What can I say, it’s ice-cream! It’s yum!

Benefits for organisers

Whether they had planned the ice cream in advance or not, it gave the appearance of caring about the needs of the attendees, so gained valuable “experience” brownie points!  As I’ve already said, it’s these little extras that people remember fondly and talk about on their return.

Your little extra ideas…

This is not an exhaustive list, if you have any more tweet me @jennifercham.

Thanks again to the UX Scotland organisers for a great meet up!


Useful links

UX Scotland 2015 conference page

UX Scotland 2014 conference page

UX Scotland 2014 Lanyrd page (This one shows you the attendees & speakers pictures and contact details)

UX Scotland 2014 Sketchnotes

My and Paula’s session slides on “Survival Guide for UX in Complex Environments”









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