UXLX: The Experience of UX Lisbon

Bill Buxton chatting to Bruno Figueiredo

Bill Buxton chatting to Bruno Figueiredo


UX Lisbon is a UX Conference that has excelled to become one of the best digital conferences. A huge congratulation goes out to Bruno who takes UX so seriously he plans everything in great detail to ensure his attendees leave as friends and have a fabulous time.  He and his team put together a fantastic conference of great food, wine tasting, dinners, great venue, great speakers and even a closing sunset cruise.

Lisbon is a wonderful city so getting out of  cold, wet, London did make the extra cost of flights, food and hotel nights more bearable. While a lot of attendees get sent by their company getting budget & permission in companies where UX is not widely understood can be itself a challenge. I went on my own steam because as a UX practitioner I cannot afford not to stay current. Our practice depends on it. This conference provides a unique opportunity to collaborate on an international level with three days of workshops and talks.

However, it is the subjects and the shared common understanding of what UX  at an international level that makes this a truly great conference. The majority of UX conferences seem to be either at an academic level or at the practical level of the “junior tool kit” of code and how to do wire frames. At the tool kit level there is always the bickering of which tool is the best or whether prototypes should be Axure or HTML which gets in the way of what UX is about.

Conference lounge area

Refreshing to be able to leave that down to personal taste and talk about the principles of UX at a thought leadership level. The attendees as well as the speakers are from all around the world giving the conference a true international representation. I enjoyed seeing speakers represented globally rather than all the same names.

The level of the attendees and representation of the UX community ranged from students to some of the biggest names in the industry. This makes it a fertile ground for getting to know what is happening in the wider industry. Some of the workshops and talks can be a bit basic and more of a subject matter introduction. My only suggestion would be to have more sessions aimed at the senior level to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas as well as techniques. The more you talk to people and swap stories the more you get out of it. Fortunately this can easily be done over a glass of sangria!

The conference in Lisbon focuses on the creative and strategic aspects of UX. The tools are an open mind with a pen & paper.

Bill Buxton asked some one, in the audience, who confessed to using a stylus, “what is wrong with your finger?”.

Bill Buxton
Bill Buxton

Clearly a stylus in the mind of Bill  is unnecessary. He may have a point as we move into gestural input devices and others that borrow ergonomics from musical instruments. He presented a pre-palm pilot device based on the trumpet keys. I enjoyed this talk the most. Amazing how the Parc guys from the 70s are still the more interesting and relevant today!

I cannot say it enough…if as UX expert you are obsessed with coding standards then you are probably missing the big picture!

Having a common understanding of UX is critical. User experience practitioners need to develop understanding at an international level. Products aimed at international customers is more critical than ever as emerging market economies continue their rapid expansion. With Internet and mobile usage in particular, the recent adoption rates have been astronomical. We are all working now as part of a larger eco-system.

I found UX Lisbon very reassuring. At last we seem to be heading towards a Common Manifesto of What User Experience is.

Some key points I noted from the talks I attended were:

  • UX industry hampered by a lack of industry standard, formally trained UX Practitioners
  • More coming in from cross disciplines with poor UX understanding and focus on deliverable and tactical UX
  • More getting degrees in computer science instead of UX (focus on technical instead of human & design aspects)
  • Cultivate the large range of skills required [Arnie Lunds skills map]
  • Provide thought leadership, inspiration and strategy as well as build bridges between teams, clients and users
  • UX requires cross training to be multi-channel, multi-platform, trans-media and physico-digital
  • Expand creative thinking and take inspiration from music, dance, art, design. Feed the creative brain.
  • Champions are necessary as UX tends to get shut out of the executive level – some one needs to sponsor UX
  • Sketching…sketching…sketching
  • Mastering the art of being great story tellers and paying attention to the spaces, pauses and transitions.
  • Ubiquitous computing is pushing the boundaries and increasing the importance of UX
  • Multiple inputs, touchpoints, interfaces, devices and connections
  • Critical thinking and creative are the most important skills to cultivate
  • Expertise in social media, gamification, writing, planning content, persuasive design, user research, accessibility, mobile, usability is a given. No one should not be expert as this is business as usual now.

Greg Smith – User Research Director, eBay


What I enjoyed most of all was to exchange ideas and talk to like minded people and share stories.

The shared experiences is that UX can be highly frustrating as we are often pushing UX along in an uphill battle. When we are not arguing to get the value of it understood we are arguing to cut out the crap and stop shipping poor products with terrible experiences.

“Everything should be as good or better than Apple” – Bill Buxton. I have been saying this and it seems to still fall on deaf ears as there is almost always an excuse  of the user experience gets a low priority. Everything is a compromise and a mind field of constraints. One of the most common refrains is that there will be a next time or a phase 2. Steve Jobs may have been described as tyrannical but he made sure the UX was in phase 1.

The good news is that technology is no longer a constraint. The functionality and data has arrived. Everything is possible now.

New books for more food for thought

We need to work on the other barriers and fight for quality!

Then there is the constant fighting with product managers, resource managers and delivery people to stop the obsessive focus deliverables and make it about outcome. Good UX is hard but so rewarding and cannot be measured in hours and deliverables. UX people need to step out from behind computer monitors to develop their creative skills.

This is not the kind of conference where you walk around collecting gumpf from stalls. There were only a few high quality stalls selling UX books at 40% off, UX Pin (great tool for corporate workshops when I struggle to get people using crayons),

And after all that – Good UX is invisible. It is only the bad UX that is noticeable.

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Friday ended with the best custard tarts in Lisbon from Café Pastéis de Belém brought in for our mid-afternoon tea and followed by sunset cruise on a schooner.  This is not your usual conference!


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Thanks for reading please share or leave a comment!

1 reply
  1. Bruno Figueiredo
    Bruno Figueiredo says:

    I’m really glad you enjoyed it. That is incredibly rewarding to our team. I hope you can come back again next year.


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