ED Goes To… Leeds Digital Festival 2017

Simon Read
By Simon ReadUX Designer
8 minutes to read

Leeds Digital Festival is an annual event bringing together some of the best local minds in website development, design, marketing and management.

A week-long celebration of the growing digital industry in our city, it features talks, workshops, live music and more. Here are some of our highlights from the week.

Reinventing Data and Next Generation Decisioning

What was it?

An insight into the growth of data usage in Sky's products and where they see the technology heading in the future.

Where was it?

Sky Bet Leeds offices.

How we’d sum it up

The sessions was very tech driven - it showcased the data model Sky use and the various systems that help them crunch the numbers. Sky's aim is to develop a real-time system that allows analysis of live data and provides customers with an instant user experience.

They use a complex framework and build a lot of their own data pools by utilising a number of open source and commercial products.

It was interesting to hear how Sky manage large-scale data projects and how it's used to drive new features and products.

Tiny Talks - Design & UX Express Lunch

What was it?

A quick-fire look at how user experience is the responsibility of the entire team - not just designers.

Where was it?

Another at Sky Bet Leeds offices.

How we’d sum it up

Members of the Sky Bet design and development team explained - in as few points as possible - how user experience design included everyone in their office.

This encompassed a wide range of UX points; desirability studies using members of the public, testing and user experience testing within the company, First Principles Thinking (here’s a good write-up, if you’re not quite sure what that is), UX design sprints as well as using data to predict future user behaviour.

Tiny Talks have a set time limit and each presenter’s slides are limited to just a few seconds each, forcing each one to really condense their topic down and focus on just the key points. This really helped move things along and keep each presenter on their toes.

Goal's Digital Review of Football in 2016

What was it?

Goal.com took us through a month-by-month look at how they became the most shared website in the world in 2016.

Where was it?

Banyan Bar & Kitchen

How we’d sum it up

Goal.com’s ability to react to the quick moving world of football news as it happens has made them the top destination for football related content on the web.

Goal.com have a network of people around the world prepared for every eventuality. It's found that this combined with a little creativity results in accurate, original and entertaining content that the football community loves to gobble up.

It's prowess for effective simplicity is clear from it's social statistics. For example one simple scene from BBC's Planet Earth 2 with commentary of Messi played over the top generated over 206 thousand shares on Facebook alone.

We also asked how Goal.com find a balance between creating engaging content and click-bait. They explained that click-bait would negatively affect the user's experience and they wanted to focus on creating valuable, lasting content.

Leeds Love Search

What was it?

Leed agencies gathering to give their insights into Technical SEO, Content Marketing, Link Building and PR and analytics.

Where was it?

Headrow House

How we’d sum it up

The first presentation was on artificial intelligence optimisation delivered by Neill Horie of Home agency. Voice searches in search engines have increased since the launch of Amazon Echo and virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana.

As people are performing more searches with their voice, searches are becoming more conversational. This suggests that now more than ever it's important for brands to focus on optimising long tail keyphrases. Over the past few years we have seen algorithm updates which force websites to include increasingly relevant information in their content. Content now needs to be seen as factual and authoritative rather than generic or filler text.

When you enter a query in to Google, it has started implementing a featured snippet at the top of organic results. This is an extracted piece of text from one of the top results which they believe is answering the user's query. This is an example of where artificial intelligence can be used and optimised.

The next presentation was delivered by Carrie Balloch of Branded3 on the topic of gaining links in a spammy industry.

The main points covered were:

  1. Content needs to be relevant but not promotional. It's important to remember that creativity will help you gain links and give the media a reason to send their audience to your content.
  2. How to build relationships and trust with media sources.
  3. Be reactive with industry news or 'newsjacking'. For example creating content around popular news stories that are happening around you, such as an election, a new film etc.
  4. Build a calendar to include popular events throughout the year which can then be used to create interesting content.

The Tech Off! Creatives versus Coders

What was it?

We’re cheating here a little as this one was technically part of Leeds International Festival - but we enjoyed it so much that we wanted to include it here.

An interesting evening full of showmanship, pizzazz, hot-air and compelling arguments in the age old debate of coders vs creatives.

Where was it?

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

How we’d sum it up

Two teams of four have five minutes each to make their case as to why creative is better than code and vice versa. The speakers were varied from copywriters and data architects to testers and account handlers all duking it out to win the audience's favour.

The winning speaker (IVOR, the wildcard creative due to last minute drop-outs) argued that without creative we would live in a world of data, statistics and binary absolutes. Creatives take data and tell stories, and it’s stories that communicate ideas, persuade people, and cause change. I couldn’t have agreed more.

It was great to meet and hear from other agencies and experts in our city. Bring on Leeds Digital Festival 2018!

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Articles by Simon Read

Designer at Enjoy Digital. Interested in web and user interface design, and graphic design both online & offline.