Report: UX London 2011

User experience event wows attendees and speakers alike

Andy Budd

Andy Budd: "Our aim is to cherry-pick the best UX speakers and expose them to a UK audience."

The third UX London concluded on April 15, after three days of wowing user experience designers with a series of events and workshops. According to Andy Budd, UX London curator and Clearleft MD, the aim was again to attract the best speakers and bring them to the UK, and to raise standards within the industry. This year, topics included sketching, workshop facilitation, UX leadership skills, guerilla research techniques, A/B testing and prototyping in code.

For Budd, there were a number of highlights: “Alan Cooper has inspired a generation of UX practitioners so we were delighted to have him speak in the UK for the first time in around 15 years. Slightly more contentious but equally enthralling was Oliver King’s talk about the similarities and differences between user experience and service design. And we wrapped up the first day with one of our favourite speakers, Matt Jones from Berg, giving a delightfully cerebral talk about a future dominated by artificially intelligent devices.“

Cooper certainly seemed glad he made an appearance, and told us “UX London was a top-notch event with enthusiastic attendees at a fun venue,” and other speakers similarly enthused about the event. Information designer Sunni Brown said that the “content of multiple workshops at UX London suggested that the participants had an intense interest in learning how to better design and lead effective meetings,” adding that “even with the inevitable conference fatigue by the third day, participants seemed to have enough interest in the topics to hang in there”. And Giles Colborne, cxpartners’ managing director, called UX London a “well curated event”, adding: “The organisers get a good mix of speakers, nudge you towards the kinds of thing that will excite your audience, and are very subtle about it all. Plus the audience is very smart and up for a challenge. That made my job as a workshop facilitator a real joy.” Like Budd, he considered Jones’s talk a highlight: “He talked about how the internet is coming full circle. We’ve moved from atoms to bits and we’re now returning to atoms again as we start to discover our robotic future and a world of connected objects. He dared the audience to dream and do more, and sent everyone out on a high.”

Attendees also appeared motivated and excited by their three-day stint in London. “What I look for from a conference are inspiration, practical ideas and contact with brilliant practitioners,” said Gumtree product manager Steve Green. “UX London delivered on all three, with interesting keynote presentations, and hands-on workshops facilitated by the people writing the source books on UX. I was pleased to discover that the conference presenters were not ‘vanilla’, in that they held some impassioned positions that begged debate and further questioning from an engaged audience.”

Stephen Hardingham, head of design for Channel 4 Online, remarked that he “came away from the conference armed with a fistful of new techniques and tools to try out in the real world and a wealth of contacts and resource material to further inspire,” and Johanna Kollmann, senior user experience consultant at EMC Consulting, was excited about “learning from ‘thought-leaders’ in the field of UX,” but also found the social side of UX London stimulating: “It was great to meet UX professionals from all over Europe, and the social events were great fun, bringing the London community and attendees from abroad together.”

Although largely aimed at experienced professionals, freelance designer Damian Gribben told us he was hugely grateful for UX London’s student bursary. Having impressed Clearleft with, based on the idea of the golden ticket from the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he was one of three students provided with a free conference pass. “The calibre of speakers was incredibly high, and many had written the definitive book in their field,” said Gribben. “I cannot thank Clearleft enough for the opportunity. Without the student bursary, I would not have been able to attend, and the methods, tools and processes that I learned have already inspired ideas for upcoming projects. I will definitely return to UX London in the future.”

When such a future will be has yet to be determined, since Budd says the Olympics has skyrocketed the price of London venues in 2012: “But we are considering different locations and formats, and in the meantime we’ve got Ampersand and dConstruct to look forward to!”