5 Things We Learned from DiBi Conf 2017

“Without risk, there is no opportunity.”


It’s been a week since Design it; Build it Conference (DiBi for short) wrapped up for another year in Edinburgh. Named as one of the most inspiring conferences to attending in 2017, it did not disappoint - boasting an impressively diverse range of talks from different sectors across the tech landscape, one common theme wove the speakers and their topics together:



Discussions around identifying worthy risks, embracing the opportunities they offer and breaking out of comfort zones sparked throughout the two day event. Attendees came from many different backgrounds, which led to rich, multidisciplinary conversations between talks on the benefits of creativity industrywide.

There was so much to take away from this conference, so we have condensed our learnings down to five lessons that really stood out from the two days.


1. Manage Expectations


Vibha Bamba, an experience designer from Airbnb highlighted how often, users have unstated expectations which can be reaffirmed in the way we design a service or product. Shared economy apps in particular find this difficult, considering different users seek different things from the service.

People generally make decisions based on a balance between cost and quality. But often, it is not made explicit that there can be a trade off between the two, meaning users who choose a lower cost are left disappointed when the quality is low too.

Setting expectations through things like the experience, the interface and the copy are extremely important, especially on a platform that encourages a rating system. Nudges can be placed through the interface and experience at points of trade off so that a user’s expectations are set in advance.



2. Know risks that are worth taking

While risk opens us up to opportunities we may not have had before, not all of these opportunities lead to success. How can we decide which risks are worth taking when they seem so uncertain?

One of the key takeaways from dibi is that risks do not have to be guesswork. And while you might not be able to predict how successful a risk’s outcome will be, there are certain things that will guarantee a risk being unsuccessful. Molly Nix from Uber really drove this home in her talk where she defined a risk as not worth taking if:



  1. It does not solve a user problem
  2. It isn’t given a safe environment to be explored

  3. It’s design is not validated in the real world with real users.

She summarised this with this:


“A risk is only worth taking if it make people’s lives better and creates value”. 
Molly Nix, Uber



3. Don't see it as failing fast, but learning fast

Reframing the way we see projects that don’t fully meet the mark from ‘failed’ to ‘progress’ is something that makes for better products in the long run.

Hackathons, spikes and sprints were mentioned throughout the conference as ways to learn what is feasible, fast. Even more traditional organisations like RBS are embracing these startup inspired methods. And these techniques should be used throughout the product lifecycle to constantly pivot around the ever changing climate of tech.

“It is more risky to lock into a design than to be open to change. Positive reactivity is innovation.”
Molly Nix, Uber


In fact, Tobias Ahlin, a designer for Spotify, Github and now Minecraft, even encouraged using a ‘premortem’ method where, before going to launch, the project team would get in the mindset that the product failed and see what could have been the cause.

While this might be an extreme approach, the intention is the same - users and culture are constantly changing and if your product is not proactive, then is not respectful to your users.



4. We need an ethical code of conduct for tech

Dibi attracted cross creatives from startups and mature companies alike, which made it all the more important to have talks like that of Laura Kalbag of IND.IE, delving into the responsibilities we have as creatives for the technology we are producing.

As technology is becoming more and more personal, it is increasingly important to be ethical when it comes to our products. This includes what analytics tools we use, the data we request and store, the design patterns we use and the usability of our products.

Laura proposed a hierarchy of ethics for development, which respects human rights, human effort and human experiences.

Following in this tone, Yan Zhu of Brave spoke about security online and how the trade off of usability for higher security needs to stop so that users aren’t left vulnerable without their intention. There shouldn’t be an entry level to being safe online, it should be something that is accessible to everyone.



5. Design thinking is not just for designers

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the need to bridge the gap between engineers and designers. Big players like IBM and the BBC spoke of how they work hard on lowering the barrier between different teams through design thinking and emphasizing a community structure rather than a traditional, silo approach.


In fact, David Bailey and Nikos Tsouknidas of the BBC spoke of how they changed their design team to a UX&D, engaging development from the UX stage. But how do you get teams to engage in design thinking?


 "Show them the positive impact it makes on project outcomes and they will follow"
Chris Hammond, IBM Design



To finish, here's our favourite slide of the conference, taken from Louise Mushet, an Innovation Consultant from Macmillan Cancer Support.