Camp Digital- Top 10 insights from the day


Manchester hosts a UX conference covering “Design Thinking”, “Lean UX”, “Agile” and other elements of design and UX.

Last week, I went to Manchester for the Camp Digital UX conference. An intense day filled with talks and discussions- great insight and great value for money.

As described on the Camp Digital website

“Camp Digital is an inspirational conference that brings together the digital, design and UX communities for a series of seminars and workshops exploring the latest thinking in our industry.”

I want to share with you points from the day- my top insights, some notes from the day as well as some useful links (Thanks Phil for your contributions).

Top 10 insights

  1. IBM have taken design thinking and are adapting it to their own version, working closely with users. Their addition of ‘hills’ define goals and the approach is similar to the theory I wrote about in my realising dreams  article.
  2. Watch out for Atom Bank! They cannot share too much now but promise a fresh approach to banking- an online solution that is moving “your local branch” to “your personal digital branch”
  3. Guerrilla test internally and quickly to get quick user feedback built into the design and development.
  4. Understand stakeholders, walk in their shoes (read their journals/ newspapers etc) and present to them in a way that works for them- clear, succinct, short documentation.
  5. Design for inclusion and everyone benefits.
  6. Ask why 5 times to understand the real issue that you are designing for.
  7. Mission (goal) over orders (detailed plan) – value intent over sticking to the plan
  8. Educate stakeholders waterfall is not MVP (minimum viable product)
  9. If it’s painful do it often – this can apply to anything!
  10. “Good design is good business” Thomas Watson Junior 1973 (2nd president of IBM)


Notes from the day

Stewart Bromley and Nick Wiles, Atom bank | Splitting the atom  @atom_bank

  • A solution only works when it all works – referring to the end to end customer experience.
  • Respect others by treating others how THEY want to be treated (not treating others haw you want to be treated)
  • Edison worked in a lean, fail early way- it is not new! He learned how to fail over 10,000 times!
  • Make the content become the architecture – in Atom banks case, the numbers.
  • Rethink the navigation- maybe just use the breadcrumb as the complete navigation solution.
  • Allow users to action numbers there and then- like Pinterest with the hover over actions.
  • Guerrilla test internally to get a quick response.


Daryl Walker-Smith and Richard Halford – IBM | Creating ‘hills’ to frame your releases around user-centric market outcomes, not feature requests.

@darylws  @halfordrich

  • IBM have tailored traditional design thinking to suit their needs. They have added ‘Sponsored users’, ‘Playbacks’ and ‘Hills’.
  • Sponsored users – End users that are part of the design process- like a persona but an actual person who is involved as the project progresses.
  • Playbacks – Demonstrating what you have done what you say you are going to do.
  • Hills – An aspirational goal for users, a succinct objective, a focused objective that aligns the team and helps to drive development work. It is not a milestone or roadmap or a solution. If a hill is too big, it can be broken into three smaller hills and they can be broken into three smaller hills.
  • IBM Design Thinking – they are spreading this across the company, hiring 1000 design thinkers.

I found this video that explains what IBM are doing…

  • “Good design is good business” Thomas Watson Junior 1973 (2nd president of IBM)
  • Principle of design thinking – Understand explore prototype evaluate.


Fritz Von Runte National Institute for health and care excellence | Gathering positive engagement from stakeholders who don’t understand UX



  • Learn, think, test.
  • Simplify stakeholders’ requirements in their presence.
  • Turn opinions into questions questions.
  • Business goals are not user needs.
  • Always go to research knowing what you want to discover.
  • Show stakeholders user testing but don’t let them facilitate.
  • Get in the shoes of stakeholders, Learn about stakeholder language, read the books the stakeholders read.
  •  Present learnings in a succinct manner- clear bullet points.
  •  Define actions- an action is not a solution.
  • Prioritise information for stakeholders when presenting back to them.
  • Present with an information hierarchy like in an advert.
  • Rapid prototyping is great but first design the service.
  • Find out what pain points we are improving.
  • Leave drawings and wireframes for the end of the meeting.
  • If working on wireframes without stakeholders, do various versions – Visualise something that they may suggest and talk – there may be an obvious solution that you know isn’t the best- sketch up and use sketch to show why it doesn’t work.
  • Let go of the ego.
  • Defend best idea not your idea.
  • Define and really understand what success is with stakeholders.
  • Interviews open ended but tests are focused.
  • Learnings define new problems not new solutions.
  • If improving pain points – test on the same type of users at the start and at the end.
  •  Make sure testing isn’t a like or dislike- remove the subjective.
  •  Validate the solution not the work – does it meet the criteria set out at the start?

Four points from Fritz…

  1.  We can have lots of fun – when people relax they are more open to give ideas. Stakeholder involvement doesn’t have to be stuffy.
  2. There’s so much we can do – look at the potential of what you can achieve together.
  3. It’s just you and me – focus on the people in the room and think big- don’t let external factors restrict ideas when coming up with ideas.
  4. I can give you more- if the stakeholders don’t like the options then we can generate more ideas.

Ben Holliday, Department for Work and Pensions | Why design matters? How a design-led process delivers better digital services.



  • Exposure hours – The hours each team member is exposed directly to real users interacting with teams designs.
  • Empathy is like a lens – not something you see but something you see through- the more empathy, the less cloudy the lens.
  • Complex is ok, complicated is not.
  • Average products ignore complexity, bad products add complexity.
  • To deal with complexity we need to see it first! – visualise using a user map and map out the information architecture.
  • The role of Designers and ux is to… Make sense of mess, help our teams and ultimately the users navigate complexity and help the team understand the needs of users.


Write a hypothesis statement…

“Because I think ______ is true, I think that doing ________ will make this happen. We can prove this if ________ is ________.”


  • Have to live with a problem to understand it.
  • Design is the space between what we know and deciding what we do.

 Sarah bridges, Go on uk | The importance of research and partnership in tackling digital exclusion



Basic digital skills consist of…

  • Managing information
  • Communicating
  • Transacting
  • Problem-solving
  • Creating

What changes when we get old?

  • Physical speed,
  • Memory and processing
  • Hearing
  • Sight
  • Physical movement limitations


  • Older people more likely to read through all information and blame themselves when things go wrong
  • More mechanical view of the world – press harder and longer on touch devices


Cennydd Bowles,  Twitter | The ethical designer


  • Design has the power to challenge the business to be more ethical for user interests
  • A good designer is an honest designer (when something is a hunch don’t make out like it’s a fact)
  •  Future friendly design – sustainable design (don’t design something to be thrown away in a few years)


Coleman Walsh | Lean UX: Five lessons from the Prussian Army


  • Mission (goal) over orders (detailed plan) – value intent over sticking to the plan.
  • Give soldiers (teams) autonomy.
  • Focus resources on breaking through (solving a problem) then exploit obvious opportunities.
  • Be open to change (get rid of sacred cows i.e. only designers can design, etc..)


Kate Dale and Paul Cottam, Sport England | Leave your ego at the door. How to stop corporate pride getting in the way of excellent UX.

@kate_dale  @paulcottam

  • Stand up to corporate pressure – use analytics and evidence (even better if there is an independent chair)
  • Clear objectives.
  • Avoid adding tweaks and exceptions.
  • Understand stakeholders (better than themselves even)


Chris Northwood, BBC Future Media | Continuous delivery – How the BBC is delivering better software faster.


  • Continuous delivery: remove bottlenecks, empower teams, fast feedback.
  • Automate everything.
  • Have small vertically sliced features (story definition from product owners)
  • Educate stakeholders waterfall is not MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  •  If it’s painful do it often.

Imran Younis | Lean UX and making sure that everyone in your team is on the same page   @ImranYounis

  • Ask five whys to really understand the problem.
  • No facts inside the building – get out to the users to understand.
  • Are you actually solving the problem? Ask every 2 weeks.
  • Understand before development what users want.
  • Build personas – Journey map with stake holders a day in the life of each persona.
  • When device testing try ‘Bring your own device’ and ask colleagues to test. People interact differently when they are using their own device which they are comfortable with.
  • Embed legal and compliance into your teams
  • Libraries great place for user research as people often have time to help when they are there.
  • Showcases should be used to show business value not to show the amount of work done each sprint

Milkshake marketing

A company wants to increase the sales of milkshakes so they trial different flavours to find the winning flavour. One wins hands down. They brought this to market.

The result- no change!

Ask a different question…

What job causes you to ‘hire’ a milkshake?

On a long boring morning commute one hand is free and a milkshake takes a long time to drink- keeps full all the way.

Milkshakes are sold, not because of the competition, or the flavour…

Understand the job to be done and then the product becomes obvious.


The marshmallow challenge

18 minutes to build tallest tower to raise a marshmallow to the highest height. You get spaghetti, tape and a marshmallow. This team building activity is a metaphor for hidden assumptions.


Affinity sorting

Run ethnography (observing users) and document using post it notes. Use a separate post it note for each action. Afterwards group into themes then create actions from this.

A good way to user test forms is to mark the use of each element either a 1 or a 0. Do this for all users tested to form a heat map of the fields that are causing issues. You then know what to focus on for your improvements.



“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Henry Ford




Camp Digital was a great event. I hope to go next year- I definitely got my money’s worth. It is interesting to see design thinking really starting to impact software and the corporate world. Around ten years ago I spent a couple of weeks at an internship with IDEO London. Without knowing it then, I learned about design thinking and the stages of innovation. People like David and Tom Kelley, Bill Moggridge and Tim Brown have kicked off a user centric way of thinking that allows designers to harness ideas from users and business people.

The role of the UX designer is to help the stakeholders understand the needs of the users.

Camp Digital- Great location, great content, great value! Thanks!

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