Digital Summit ATL Reflections – Part 2

Today I wanted to go over another instance at the Digital Summit ATL conference where I saw Improvisation and what it teaches cross over into UX and Design (or is it the other way around?). I went to the Round-table: UX and Design Trends featuring:


Michael Salamon | Director of Experience & Principal, Lousy
Cliff Seal | UX Designer, Salesforce
Austin Knight | Lead UX Designer, Hubspot

Yes, once again, Austin was involved in one of the talks that crossed over into improvisation. I may have to convince him to go take classes at Improv Boston or Improv Asylum.

During the talk the question was asked, and I’m going from memory here, “When do you decide to use what is considered the latest and greatest design trend on your site or what you’re currently working on?”. While sitting in the audience I immediately thought of “flat design” and thankfully Cliff Seal said the same thing as I was thinking it. Cliff you are my UX whisperer. I believe during the answers by the panel “latest shiny object” or something like it was mentioned and it made me think of the Improvisation concept of “side support”.

In improvisation side support is used to clarify or heighten something that is happening in a scene on stage. Players on the side are watching the scene and looking for ways to add detail to what is going on or to heighten and add tension to what is going on.

Heightening Example 1:

2 improvisers are sitting in their chairs having a conversation but at this point in the scene it has not been established where they are. A supporting player on the side could enter the scene as a waiter coming to take their orders OR as a fellow office worker dropping off some reports. In both cases the side support has added new information to help clarify something. In these examples, WHERE the scene is taking place and possibly, who the main characters are.

Heightening Example 2:

Using our restaurant example from before, perhaps a character in the scene is going to propose to his girlfriend after desert. However maybe one of the players on the side decides to enter the scene as an ex who still loves the character about to propose…OOOPS. Now we have more tension in the scene and a “what’s gonna happen now!” moment.

In both these examples either clarity was added OR something going on in the scene was heightened to add some tension. Where side support in improvisation fails is when the improviser coming in to offer the side support is coming in for their own selfish reasons. Maybe someone heard a line of dialogue that made them think of a funny line that has nothing to do with what is going on in the scene. BUT because the improviser wants to get a laugh they go out anyway, deliver the line and more than likely just took a lot of energy out of the scene. The improviser wasn’t serving the scene, they were serving themselves and their own ego.

Now you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with UX and design? Well here it is…if you are adding the latest and coolest design trend to your site because it’s “what’s cool” and NOT because it actually helps your users then it’s probably not worth it to add it to the site. You’re adding it because you want to keep up with the Internet Joneses. Look at the new design trend(s) and ask yourself “If I add this is it going to make it easier for the users to accomplish their task(s)? Will it make this page easier to understand?” If the answer to those questions is yes then by all means work towards making the changes.

So the next time you’re looking at the latest and greatest designs and you’re thinking about adding them to what you’re working on think of improvisation and side support and ask yourself “Do I want to add this because it’s going to help the site’s/app’s users OR am I doing it so I look good and because I’m keeping up with the current trends for the sake of keeping up with the current trends”.

Yes and,


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