Along with former resident, and tour guide Graham Smith showing me the sights, we headed up to Manchester, home to some of the greatest American food I have ever eaten, a thriving web community, trams, and a very special new event - Talk UX.
The team that put it together are undertaking a mean feat, one which many of us are now working hard to address. On the opening page of the program it reads:
“We aim to create an open space to meet, learn and collaborate within UX. We want to change the way conferences are run and held, and we need your help.”
And they certainly have. Held at Manchester Town Hall, the room which housed the talks was open, spacious and provided a comfortable atmosphere not just to sit and listen in, but also to speak in. There was even a room for speakers to sit quietly, prepare, chat and rally one another and rehearse. For many of the people on the stage today it was their first time in front of such a large audience and not just those in the 300 Seconds section of the day; a series of 5 minute lightening talks.
It is also no coincidence, that Talk UX was on this particular day with International Women’s Day 2015 on March 8th. Organised by the founding members of Ladies That UX , one of the many steps towards achieving their goal of organising conferences differently comes in the form of the speaker list. There is no fanfare, there have been no lengthy blogposts, justifications, or propaganda. The lineup was 99.999999% female. The outlier 0.000001% was.. me. The approach to this, is genuinely what made it such a great event. This wasn’t about creating a women-only event, instead it has proven that it is possible to organise an industry event - in this industry, that has an abundance of exceptional people ready to share their experiences and learning with the rest of us.
It was really nice to be one of the speakers at the event, forming 1 of 7 new speakers within the 300 seconds session, a huge thanks to Lily Dart for organising it, and encouraging me to do it.
Emily Heath , UX Architect at BBC in Manchester provided insight into how digital services at the beeb are structured and the true challenges they are facing with being one of the first large organisations to establish themselves on the web back in 1997 and the amount of technical debt that has incurred. Her talk was based on the research her team have been doing into the card design pattern and how it is improving their ability to share content across the many BBC domains. Whilst I still do not believe that this belief that the metaphor is the solution (because to me it is enforcing a physical constraint) it is certainly helping many organisations finally designing content-first, and the visually, mobile-first.
Heidi O’loughlin delivered two spellbinding tales, the first an origin story of Snake, I had no idea the turmoil this age-old friend went through, child to a Scandinavian model, and the Anaconda from Anaconda. A crushing story of responsibility and love at first bite. Heidi then shared insight into something that has concerned me for some years, the lives of inanimate objects made animate, as seen in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as we learnt how inquisitive young chip the tea cup was.
Mikela Perera spoke about things to consider when designing for children covering the pitfalls and gotchas of user testing with toddlers, how to find candidates and where to run testing. She also touched on the fact that many people forget that when conducting testing within children, there are a number of audience groups based on age-ranges but also to consider learning ages and those with learning difficulties and disabled children. Along with the accessibility case-studies from Rebecca Topps and Elizabeth Chesters this area proved to be a thought provoking topic throughout the day.
Everyone within the 300 seconds session were great, but I have to shine a light towards Claire Gowler , who brought to everyone’s attention that forms are offending many people without realising it because we’re not considerate to the gender variances that we either don’t fully understand or realise even exist. I would love to see more from Claire and on this topic in the future.
Helen Arney of The Festival of the Spoken Nerd got everyone to sing a Googol, in celebration of their first DVD release titled Full Frontal Nerdity, which she informed us has incorrectly been categorised on Amazon as Porn, rather than Science Porn. I hope somebody can fix this IA debacles soon.
The standout talk for me came from Alberta Soranzo , Director of UX at We Are Friday. Alberta has spent a great deal of time researching an area I have thought an awful lot about in recent years, the question of what happens to my data when I die? However, whilst most that have looked into this area have been around digital preservation, Alberta wants to go out like a viking warrior, burning on a boat at sea and then gone forever. Turns out, if you thought it was hard to organise bequeathing your digital assets to a loved one, you should try expunging yourself from existence. I greatly look forward to Alberta’s video going online so that I can share with everyone here, particularly her discovery of the Yahoo Japan service for announcing you’re dead.
Talk UX has shown how great conferences can be created. More case studies and less theoretical beard stroking, more diverse speakers, nicer venues and great cakes. I sincerely hope this time next year I’ll be talking about how great the second one was too.