The future of CX and UX, in a world of connected products The UX Crunch @ The Bio Agency (Thurs 16 June 2016) Review

UX Crunch Bio Agency

Website carousels have a bad name in UX circles. And when I arrived at the Bio Agency’s Central London office (decorated with awards and an office dog), I was worried I had hopped on a real-life carousel of bullshit.

There were too many flashbacks to bad experiences with agencies that are all flash and no substance.

I was wrong though – I actually enjoyed the latest iteration of UX Crunch (mostly).

The WhatUsersDo team and I were welcomed by two friendly ladies (the marketing and events manager, and the head of talent development). They seemed to take a genuine interest in what we do and made us laugh with some surprisingly candid anecdotes.

There were 3 parts to the actual event (minus the networking part, during which I mostly spoke to people I already know):

  1. A presentation about the Bio Agency and what it does
  2. “From dead products to smart devices” – a talk about “the connected world” and “transfiguration”
  3. “An open forum to debate CX challenges” – where people got to ask questions

Let’s get at this thing – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Presentation about the Bio Agency – by Veronica Naguib, Head of CX

It’s hard to be critical of a business for promoting itself during an event it’s hosting (we’ve done that before too). But my eyes do tend to glaze over whenever that part of the evening rolls round.

Veronica gave the presentation and played us a video – but much like the work of a skilled assassin, it didn’t hurt and was over quickly.

UX Crunch Audience

There was some typical puffery in the description of what the agency does – e.g. “Digital change agents®” (which they’ve actually registered as a trademark). But Veronica joked about that fact in a self-aware, self-effacing manner that was disarming.  

I was relieved to see a slide where tangible services were described. I became assured that I hadn’t wandered into a meeting for a covert law enforcement agency (such was the air of self-aggrandisement).

 VERDICT: Not good, not bad… a necessary formality

From dead products to smart devices – by Stuart Whyte, Senior Strategist

Stuart started his talk exactly the way he should’ve – with a selfie of himself and his baby (people love babies).

More importantly, he pointed out that words like “strategy” and “innovation” have been ruined by poseurs and bullshit merchants.

“…true innovation happens to meet a burning need that already exists. It doesn’t happen and then try to convince people that it’s needed.”

I felt relieved that I would neither be dealing with an enemy of UX, nor bombarded by pseudo-intellectual, half-baked ideas masquerading as “insights”.

Stuart made the point that true innovation happens to meet a burning need that already exists. It doesn’t happen and then try to convince people that it’s needed.

He gave examples of bad innovation – like a “smart” oven that reads recipes and automatically sets the right cooking temperature. Shout out to all the homies who’ve gone decades without oven-cooked food because turning the temperature knob is just too much work.  These are the so-called dead products, because no one needs them.



He also gave an example of good innovation – like a smart doorbell with a camera on it. So, if your Amazon delivery comes while you’re at work, the delivery man or woman can ring the doorbell and it’ll send a video feed to your phone. You can video chat and give instructions on where to leave your package. Stuart perceived this to be a smart device – a product that meets an existing, genuine need.

A connected world

Stuart talked about a connected world – where lots of smart devices interact with each other and coexist seamlessly. To illustrate, he played an animation showing what would happen if the burglars from Home Alone were to break into a modern home, full of connected smart devices like NEST.

It ends with the burglars being forced into the kitchen by the machines, where they horribly scald themselves with boiling hot water. I think I’m a little twisted because that idea made me laugh.


Smart Home Whitepaper

Stuart talked about transfiguration – which seemed to be about the move from physical to digital, and from product to service. For example, we went from LP records (physical) to MP3s on iTunes (digital), and then from iTunes (product) to Spotify (service).

He explained this using graphs that I thought were unnecessary – they gave things an air of pseudoscience, in my opinion. But I am certain some other people found them useful.

Transfiguration, Stuart said, was driving the move towards a connected world – illustrated by Uber moving into food delivery (UberEats) and (as pointed out by an attendee) investing in driverless cars.

At this juncture, the conversation evolved (or maybe regressed) into a Blade-Runneresque imagining of the future. There was talk of a time when machines will be very sophisticated and integrated into everyday life. Some people were scared.


Blade Runner

How does all this tie back to UX?

The question seemed to come down to this – what differences are there for UX professionals between designing for a single product or interface versus designing for multiple ones that fit together seamlessly?

What are the differences between measuring and capturing data (particularly quantitative) for connected products versus purely digital ones (e.g. a website)?

What are the differences between measuring and capturing data (particularly quantitative) for connected products versus purely digital ones (e.g. a website)?

An attendee spoke about his experience of having to wire all the electrical appliances in a building to a single remote control/interface. This remote control was going to be handled by a man who admittedly didn’t know much about technology and wasn’t too interested in it.

Our UX Hero had to make sure the remote control was super-simple and left little room for error, yet comprehensive in the scope of things it could do.

No one really answered the original questions with authority and clarity (not in my opinion, anyway). But the discussion did allow us to segue smoothly into the next part of the event.

 VERDICT: Thumbs up.


I am sceptical about the idea of “Transfiguration” – it has happened in some cases… but is it an authenticated socio-technological phenomenon? I’m not sure. And I think this part of the event produced more questions than answers for UX professionals. But it was interesting, progressive and relevant. I’d rather have Stuart’s talk than endure cliché UX topics that have been covered more times than Donald Trump’s comb-over.

An open forum to debate CX challenges – by Veronica Naguib, Head of CX

Veronica stepped back to the fore at this point, to moderate the open discussion part of the event.

Going back to the evolution of Uber, there were some suggestions that drivers might play a different role in a future with driverless cars – that of personal concierge. An upgrade in the customer experience department… but attendees noted that the best Uber drivers already play this role.



There was also the conclusion that even though most connected products currently provide a terrible CX, this was a necessary stage of product evolution. As more attempts are made to create connected products, we’ll get better at doing so – but those messy, early attempts need to be made.

We even touched on the relationship between marketing and UX. There was a sense that poor cohesion between marketing and UX can lead to a bad customer experience. Sometimes, marketing promotional materials make promises that the UX team knows the product can’t deliver. But because both teams aren’t talking, the business is left with disappointed customers.

“…true innovation is happening in places no one is looking – like AgTech (agricultural tech).

The conversation invariably swung back towards the topic of innovation. Stuart noted that true innovation is happening in places no one is looking – like AgTech (agricultural tech).

One guest explains that she went to an award show where a company was lauded for designing a gadget that can be attached to a cow’s tail and track its movements. Depending on how the cow is wagging its tail, a farmer can diagnose a whole range of physiological conditions and act swiftly. This saves time and money.

There was also talk of drones and how farmers in Australia use them to monitor farms occupying more land mass than some countries. Farmers can apparently monitor soil composition and density, and capture the welfare of their entire crop fields. If only Mel Gibson had one of those in Signs.


Australian drones

One guy talks about an app he’s worked on, which records your golf swing and sends it to a pro for analysis. His question was, “In a rapidly changing environment, should you anticipate further innovation while innovating?”

What if a smart golf club that analyses your swing comes along? Stuart replies that such a golf club already exists. He explains that’s why innovation should be driven by a desire to meet an existing need – not the need to create a product.


Smart Golf Club

If that’s your focus, you’ll create the best possible solution, not simply the one you want to create. Then you won’t exist under the looming threat of extinction.

A moment of comic relief came when a UX recruiter in attendance asked whether all this transfiguration and connected world business might make UX redundant.

“A recruiter, you say?” Stuart replied. Laughter bounced off every wall in the room. We moved on.

I like to think my role at these events is to neither be seen, nor heard – it’s a pure reconnaissance mission. But I couldn’t help asking whether our hosts thought quantum computing would allow us to harness the avalanche of data we currently find too much to control, and provide a better customer experience.

If it will happen, it won’t be soon, they replied.

 VERDICT: Thumbs up.


The open discussion didn’t cover the topics I expected it to but I got other things from it. Veronica allowed the conversation to flow nicely and because of that, it was inevitable that we would sometimes veer from the strict topic of discussion. It was also cool to hear the diverse experiences of working UX professionals with the latest technologies.

Overall verdict

I enjoyed UX Crunch. I enjoyed listening to the ladies and gents of The Bio Agency. If you’re curious about either, I’d say check them out.

I hope to attend future UX Crunch and other events (probably in a wig and a disguise), so I can bring you more unbiased reviews and summaries.

If you have any thoughts or questions, hit me up on twitter @timi_olotu.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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