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!