This past week was Mental Health Awareness week across Aotearoa & the theme was “connect”. From reading & experience, it seems clear that feeling cohesion with others, acceptance, inclusion & the ability to relate to others keeps our esteem high and our sense of worth fuller. Mental Health Awareness week has been hosting conversations online and in person at events from Northland to Southland. They have been exploring what it means to create more empathetic spaces where feelings of connectedness can flourish.

In Wellington this week some members of the Lifehack community went along to a user experience conference called UX Design Day. The conference was a big hit with 350 participants of all ages and backgrounds, and one of the central themes was the importance of putting connection at the top of the priority list when designing a product or service experience.

User experience design is about removing all the barriers to an experience of connection, whether that be at a coffee shop in the customer service design, to a web page with great navigation. At the conference, Wez Yun, the Creative Director of Samsung came from San Francisco and shared his vision for what experiences of digital connection could look like in the future. “Having helped design two operating systems and having worked for Motorola, Blackberry, and now Samsung, I feel like the future will have less brand centric online engagement. Information and connection won’t be limited to whether you’re a mac or a PC. People buy many different devices, iPhones, iPods, laptops, Samsung phones, Note Tablets, and none of them do what we want them to do – which is provide us with one central experience of convenient, accessible connection.”

UX Design Day was about more than apps, and UX design is about more than customer-centric sales. Designing for the user experience is about design thinking which maximises the flow of engagement with other people. It’s about going beyond making what the average user wants, because one set of features or one type of support doesn’t fit all, but about paying attention to, and appreciating diverse ways of accessing connection.

It was great to have Curative and Enspiral from the Lifehack community engage in the theme of Mental Health awareness week through UXDD, and there are some new insights for the program and the teams about the benefits of design led thinking in reducing the barriers to digital experiences of connection.

We’re happy to have already brought a little user-centred design thinking to the weekends around the country – helping to bring together people to design and prototype solutions in a weekend.  But for us, it’s just the beginning – over the coming weeks and months we’re going to be developing this thread into a blog series to help the Lifehack community tool up to create better solutions.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to find out more about User Experience Design, check out the great Resources page from UXDD, or indeed this interesting-looking free online education UX course to get started.

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