• More on European UX Events

    In Adaptive Path’s newsletter of September 28, I shared my views on the European UX scene. In response, several people wrote to me with additions to the landscape. Below are the most interesting ones, followed by my impressions of 3 more European conferences: Euro IA, UX Russia and Design by Fire. And yes, I will count Russia as part of Europe in this respect.

    Updates to the European UX Landscape

    • I did not mention UXCamp Europe, but that event attracted 400 attendees last May and plans are forming for next year’s event. (thanks, Henning Grote!)
    • I did mention one London IA community, but apparently the largest and most active IA/UX group in London is this London IA community. (thanks, Matthew Solle!)
    • Amy Knox asked about the difference between the European UX scene and the US scene. Søren Muus was faster than me and he published an answer on the website of the newly created European Centre for User Experience (the ecux is the new name for the European IA network mentioned in the “overdoing it” section of the newsletter).

    Impressions of 3 recent European conferences

    I was fortunate enough to attend 3 UX events in the last month. Each was interesting in its own way:

    The sixth Euro IA conference was held in Paris this year and I was happily surprised by the quality of the presentations. Having been part of the conference team for the first three editions of this event, I know the organizers try to be inclusive and will sometimes prefer a wider geographical coverage of Europe over pure quality (which is a good goal!). And, with 9 European countries covered (UK, NL, DE, PL, IE, FR, BE, IT, CH), plus Canada, the USA, Brazil and Japan, there was definitely a diverse set of presenters. I enjoyed sharing Adaptive Path’s experiences with Faceted Navigation (slides here) and attended good presentations on Designing Beyond the Glowing Rectangle, the HSBC Brazil Intranet Redesign, When Info Exchange Brings Service Intelligence, Why We Should NOT Focus on UX, the panel on advertising, and Social Media for Samsung, amongst others. (see the full program here).

    This year’s keynotes were a bit disappointing, with opening keynote speaker Oliver Reichenstein musing over why he chose the name “iA” for his company, dismissing his own diagrammatical attempts at mapping the field of UX, and calling every iA activity IA. He made up for it in the Q&A session, helped by the audience. Paul Kahn of Kahn + Associates closed the conference by walking us through examples of (interfaces to) unstructured, semi-structured and structured data, almost without commenting on the examples or the developments that made it possible, let alone giving us a look at the future. The one quote worth noting for me was that users of interactive systems are now often manipulating meta-data, although mostly without knowing it. That used to be the job of Information Architects and has now clearly landed in the realm of the mass-amateurisation of everything.

    But the main program was good, the conversations in the hallways intense, the drinks and food were excellent (thanks to our local guides!) which allowed us to network in relaxed settings, so I think the European IA community is doing fine and all it takes for the 7th edition to succeed again is an attempt by next year’s team at finding more inspiring keynote presenters.

    I was invited to present on Day 1 of UX Russia (I believe I have to thank their sponsor Lou Rosenfeld for suggesting my name to the organizers). The UX Community in Russia is growing fast, and the organizers of the conference made last-minute arrangements to allow all 400 participants in, instead of the 250 they planned for.

    Day 1 featured international speakers, including UPA Board members, as well as presenters from high-profile Russian companies like Yandex (Russia’s largest internet company) and co-organizer Usabilitylab. My contribution to the program was a structured overview of real-world deliverables in a broad range of disciplines (from business strategy to project management and design process specification).

    Day 2 saw three parallel tracks in Russian on themes such as “E-commerce”, “Financial Services”, “Telecommunications”, “Social Networks”, “Information Services and Media” and “e-Government and Accessibility”. From what I could make out from the Twitter stream, there were quite some (backchannel) discussions around several of the presentations; a sign of good audience participation and active knowledge development.

    Together with Bill Buxton and Eric Reiss, I was asked to participate in a press conference about the state of UX in Russia where it seemed that the press in Russia could use some education on UX; they mostly asked technology- and accessibility-related questions without going into design. And then I found out that the UX certification panel turned out to be about certification of usability specialists, not so much UX generalists (although the opportunity to teach people UX-related methods was identified).

    As I tried to indicate in my presentation, many aspects of a UX project influence the end user experience. Usability, which seemed to be the main focus of a lot of attendees, is just one of them. Next year’s conference will have to facilitate education of attendees (and their peers) in embracing that wider look at UX.

    My third conference this “season” was Design by Fire, named after the interaction design blog of Yahoo!’s Andrei Herasimchuk. Andrei himself was present and gave a lighthearted presentation about do’s & don’t when influencing management around UX teams. I also got a second chance to see Bill Buxton perform as he opened the conference with a talk about how research can uncover the hot applications of the future: all you need to do is look under the radar. Two “critical resources” he mentioned were eBay and Amazon, as they allow you to buy unknown products from the past (like his touch-screen Casio calculator watch) and read about unknown (to most people) inventions, respectively.

    The conference had a good vibe, great food, and a couple of surprising sessions such as a dance/acrobatics performance and Ianus Keller’s clay homunculus modeling exercise.

    I believe Design by Fire is ready for a parallel-tracks program and/or more demos or breakouts like the one with Bill Buxton and a Surface-like contraption that happened in the morning. The workshops the day before were pretty successful too, I believe. My Good Design Faster workshop (slides here), modeled after the edition that Leah Buley gave at UX London, was sold out.

    Again, like I said in the newsletter, I would love to hear how the UX community is developing in other geographical regions. Comment below or email!

    There are 10 thoughts on this idea

    1. Søren Muus

      “[…] “UX” I think falls further behind in Europe but I think that is less to do w/ maturity and more to do w/ the aforementioned influence of the other transdisciplinary design practices.”

      @ Dave Malouf: That is a very interesting thought, and I absolutely agree with you. I also think – and this may sound odd – but the english word “User Experience” is not directly translatable to any other Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Flemish, Luxembourgish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, icelandic and a few others). And what clients don’t understand, they don’t buy. So instead of spending time and effort teaching clients, UX professionals in Northwestern Europe might also chose alternative labels when talking to their clients about UX.

    2. Dave Malouf

      Hey there,

      To add a few events:

      UXLX (User Experience Lisbon) will be taking place in May for the 2nd time with an amazing crew. As will UX London also in May for the 2nd time. I was at UXLX and can attest that the event was great!

      On the long road, keep an eye out for Interaction 12 which will be in Dublin. Not a regular thing like most of the other events listed, but will be in Europe for sure.

      Service Design Network has traditionally been in Europe and other Service Design events are in Northern Europe. Don’t know where you are limiting UX to (kinda felt IAish). There are a host of unconferences in the SD community as well.

      Umea has 2 events a year on Interaction Design

      Frontiers of Interaction is in Italy annually

      There is also now a regular UI conference in Norway but I’m forgetting its funky name. Maybe someone can help me out.

      Then the other cross over (besides service design) are the host of graphic design, new media design, and just design thinking events around the continent. PICNIC in your home town was a GREAT UX+ event that I would highly recommend and I hear that events like Lift and Shift are also very good for the UX inclined/interested.

      Europe is a rockin’ machine of design interest all over the place and in many ways is way ahead of the US/Canada when it comes to design, design thinking and service design. “UX” I think falls further behind in Europe but I think that is less to do w/ maturity and more to do w/ the aforementioned influence of the other transdisciplinary design practices.

      — dave

    3. Peter Bogaards

      In this near comprehensive overview of EU events and initiatives, I would like to add my observation that these social gatherings are primarily aimed at UX practitioners of all sorts. It definitely provides them the opportunity to connect, listen to (mostly US.UX) presenters, and share ideas, lessons learned and issues they have.

      Another important part of the European UX scene is academia. Europe has a very strong research community in UX. Just as two examples, I would like to point to the group of the previous European COST294 project and participants of the recent Demarcating User eXperience seminar.

      As (some) US.UXs might say: “It’s academic, so it must be European.”

    4. Sanne 't Hooft

      Hi Peter,

      “DxF – …ready for a parallel-tracks program and/or more demos or breakouts…”

      On the contrary – we like to scale down the DxF conference a bit to make it a little more intimate and personal – one of the key things we cherish in our conference (and would love to see elsewhere as well 🙂

      Ideas for (pre- or post-) conference workshops, discussions, sessions … that facilitate professional (and social) interaction between the participants are always very welcome of course.

      mvg,

      Sanne ‘t Hooft

      Design by Fire team

    5. Eric Reiss

      Interesting thoughts, Peter.

      Even though you live in Amsterdam, this post suggests that perhaps you are no longer in the mainstream of what moves and shakes in Europe. I know you have a new job and a growing family. These take time and devotion and I commend you on your priorities. But that you thank both Henning Grote and Matt Solle for letting you know about about two major European initiatives suggests that the community has moved faster than you have.

      Just for the record, there were also at least 18 other relevant conferences within the EU this past year, which you did not mention in this particular article. For example, the Polish, Italian, and German IA conferences. And UX Lisbon and UX Brighton, plus Webdagene in Oslo and WebExpo in Prague. And a dozen more. (thanks to David Malouf in Savannah, Georgia for highlighting some of these in a previous comment). There is also an online, multi-national UX community that is rapidly gaining traction throughout the EU and beyond.

      I congratulate you on joining Adaptive Path, which prides itself on thought leadership. But I’m wondering what role you see for yourself beyond the AP community and what your specific point was in posting this article. To crowdsource a greater understanding of the European UX community? Or to promote your personal participation in three recent events (I enjoyed our day of sightseeing together in Moscow last Friday).

      Cheers,

      Eric

    6. peterme

      Eric–

      Stop with the disingenuousness. Peter never set out to be exhaustive, and has been thankful to those who fleshed out his prior report.

      And is there anything wrong with providing a perspective based on what’s been seen? It would be strange if Peter reflected on the European UX community through events he didn’t witness.

      I’m appreciative of the information you (and others) provide on yet additional European UX activities. But for you to do so with such underhanded praise around a new job and new family (“I commend you on your priorities”) is beneath you.

    7. Eric Reiss

      Dear Peterme,

      Sorry you felt this was disingenuous. Our dictionaries apparently define this differently. I made my point clear in my very first sentence.

      As the Yanks are wont to say, “we call ’em as we see ’em”.

      Cheers,

      Eric

    8. Peter Boersma

      Before more people start suggesting additional European UX events that should be listed here, I encourage you to read the original newsletter essay (http://adaptivepath-org.ap.reccenter.com//ideas/newsletter/archives/092810/index.php). It should give you some perspective on why this post is written the way it is.

      Several suggestions made by Dave and Eric are mentioned there: UX Lisbon, UX London, the Italian and German IA conferences, plus the pan-European IA/UX network. I also noted that there were UX events in Brighton, Florence, Luxembourg, Prague, and Sofiya.

      But, as Peterme suggests, I do not want to be exhaustive, if only because everyone is entitled to their own definitions of both UX and European.

      I do want to encourage other UX practitioners to look around, see what’s happening in your city, country, region and specialty (such as Peter Bogaards’ pointer to academic events), and explore further. That is also why I encourage others to report on their situation, so we can share and learn.

      This focus on sharing and learning is one of the reasons why I joined Adaptive Path. As our “about us” page says: Our mission is to deliver great experiences that improve people’s lives, while sharing our advances in the field with our clients, partners, and peers.

    9. Henning Grote

      Hi Peter,

      thanks for including the UXcamp Europe in yout follow-up post. Just to give you and your readers a small update: UXcamp Europe will definitely happen again. We aim for the last weekend of May (as in in the two previous years) , that would be 18th/29th of May 2011. I will post more Information here – especially about registering for the event – as soon they are definitve.

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