Key take-aways from the 1st day of the MEX Conference

Photos from Day 1 of the 6th MEX Conference, 2nd - 3rd December 2009, London

The 6th MEX Conference was opened in London today by Marek Pawlowski, Editorial Director, MEX, and Norbert Metzner, Research Director at MEX, bringing together some of the most creative minds from across mobile, media, digital and academia. The 2 day event is the key stage in a research, debate and ideation process which started several months ago with the publication of the MEX Manifesto, entitled: ‘Enhancing mobile user experience in a multi-platform world‘.

This article provides a brief summary of some of the key points from the 1st day. The complete conference output of videos, presentations and creative materials will be available to purchase after the event – please contact Marek Pawlowski ( or +44 7767 622957) if you’d like to be notified when it is available.

The core theme of the Conference is the role of mobile devices and wireless technologies in bringing together great multi-channel experiences, spanning a broad range of digital and physical platforms. It addresses a question facing an increasing number of brand and service designers: how do we deliver across multiple platforms (e.g. PC, mobile, in-car, smart appliances etc…) and establish a balance between a consistent experience and an experience optimised for the unique characteristics of each individual platform.

The day saw a deliberately diverse programme, ranging from inspiring thoughts on the nature of creativity in a multi-platform environment to practical techniques for effective prototyping across multiple devices.

Presentations were used throughout the day to provoke new thinking and provide the intellectual ingredients for in-depth breakout sessions. During these interactive discussions, small teams started working together to address 3 multi-platform design challenges: living life in the kitchen, driving in the car and commuting on the move.

Each team is led by a facilitator (Jo Rabin, Willem Boijens, Harm Willem-Hogenbirk, Chris Thomason, Giles Colborne and Sofia Svanteson) and supported by illustrators-in-residence from the design course at Brunel University, who are tasked with helping the groups to create visual outputs.

Tomorrow the teams will complete the creative process by delivering their multi-platform user experience designs in the closing session of the conference.

The full output of the conference will be available to purchase as a package of videos, presentations and sketches, but we’ve also tried to pick out some highlights from the 1st day to give you a flavour of the discussion:

The 1/100 – 1/20 rule. Cited by Eva Ferrari and Dr Jane Lessiter of Goldsmiths University, this number relates to the psychology of multi-platform user experience. We notice only 1 out of every 100 things around us and of that 1 thing, we will remember only 1 in 20. This is the challenge user experience designers face as they compete for customer attention in a multi-platform environment.

All of our data, all of the time. Michael von Roeder, Managing Director of Iconmobile, talked about how user’s want to believe the cloud makes all of their data available to them on any device, any time. However, in reality, this would lead to chaos and sensory over-load. The role of the network will be intelligently filtering this information to make it usable.

Test the worst case scenario. Dr Chris Roast of Sheffield Hallam University emphasised the importance of ensuring the worst possible testing conditions when doing user evaluations of multi-platform experiences. Unless we are prepared to test the most bizarre and diverse combinations of user context, we will never discover the insights which enhance the overall experience.

Multi-platform is not the end of the story, within multiple platforms there are also multiple layers. Kristoffer Aberg of Sony Ericsson and Giles Colborne of cxpartners touched on the same theme in separate presentations. The multi-platform experience exists at many levels – it can be any combination of multiple UIs, multiple input methods, multiple tasks and multiple connection methods – this leads to huge variation in potential user journeys.

High investment = low iteration = bad practice. Bryan Rieger of Yiibu talked about the importance of using prototyping techniques which allow you to iterate quickly and without fear of losing your investment. The more complex your prototypes and the harder they are to develop, the more likely a team will feel it has invested too much to discard something they know is not working.

Courage is a tool. Sofia Svanteson of Ocean Observations opened the conference by talking about the need for cross-disciplinary teams to have the courage to critique others and to accept criticism themselves as an essential part of the learning process, especially when expanding into new platforms.

A final, abstract provocation on the theme of multi-platform experience was provided by Guillaume Largillier and Gareth Williams of Stantum and Jazzmutant. Over canapes and evening drinks, they performed an experimental piece of electronic music using the Jazzmutant Lemur touchscreen instruments, showing how music comprises many different strands of sound and weaves them together to create an overall experience.

The 6th MEX Conferences continues tomorrow, with more cross-industry insights from Mark Payton, Editorial Director of Haymarket Consumer Media (the publishing company behind titles like ‘Stuff’ and ‘What Hi-Fi), Oded Ran, Head of Mobile at Microsoft UK, Willem Boijens of Vodafone and Lindsey Green of FRANKLY + GREEN, who will talk about the multi-platform experience of museums.

The complete conference output of videos, presentations and creative materials will be available to purchase after the event – please contact Marek Pawlowski ( or +44 7767 622957) if you’d like to be notified when it is available.

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