Crafting The Perfect Design Conference

Here’s an exercise for you: pick a random month – doesn’t matter when – and pick a major city. Finally, pick the design conference you’d like to attend. What started as an odd (to me, at least) trend has grown into an international phenomenon: web design conferences are everywhere. And they aren’t just for W3C geeks anymore; they’re for everyone! The only problem? Choosing the one that’s right for you.

Most designers know they should attend conferences. Working in organizations that aren’t known for impeccable design – or worse yet, working on their own – these designers can feel incredibly isolated. Part of the cure to the common design rut involves discussing ideas with others, learning something new, and changing their perspective.

So discussion is obviously a good place to start. But what about paid workshops? informal break-out sessions? un-conferences, even? Because there are simply so many options around getting the conversation started, it’s easy to understand how some conference organizers get it wrong. Luckily, most get it right.

We need a montage!

In the past, some of our favorite conferences have included An Event Apart, dConstruct, and, of course, UX London (which we’re excited to be sponsoring this year). But in the spirit of making good things even better, we’ve begun to discuss the particulars of conferences with their organizers, thinking of ways to improve these fantastic events.

The “perfect” conference

If it existed, the “perfect” conference would obviously bring with everything we love about the aforementioned conferences: inspiring speakers, fantastic venues and, of course, amazing after parties. Moreover, it would help clarify the impact of design to those unfamiliar with it (like TED). But maybe that’s just me. On the homepage of UX London, Don Norman describes his prior experience with such an event:

I came. I listened. I stayed. Great event, great speakers, great crowd, great venue. Learn, network. enjoy. Isn’t that what great conferences are all about?

Don Norman

Which makes me think: “oh yeah, there’s networking!” We all have reasons we love conferences, and organizers are constantly trying to improve. What are your thoughts?

Share your thoughts and win

An Amazon Kindle

Because we’re not terribly experienced with organizing these kind of events (though the idea has crossed our minds…), I wanted to know: what might potential attendees—in this case, our readers—like to see? Potential choices include:

  • Target audience Does it cater to newbies or advanced practitioners?
  • Tracks Does the conference offer multiple sessions at the same time?
  • Time span Is it held over just one day or two?
  • Subject matter What kinds of topics does it cover?
  • Speakers What speakers—from what backgrounds—would you expect to see/meet?
  • Additional Options Are there workshops? City tours? Breakout sessions?

To help get the party started, if you will, our friends over at Clearleft and O’Reilly are upping the ante, providing an Amazon Kindle for your time. Well, make that two Kindles.

Here’s how to enter

For your chance to win one of these fantastic prizes, just:

  1. Follow UX Booth and UX London on Twitter
  2. Leave a comment on this post detailing your perfect conference might look like. Be sure to include your twitter handle!
  3. We’ll announce winners on February 3rd, contacting you via Twitter.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that these kindles come pre-loaded with over $100 of O’Reilly titles? Chock-full of books related to design and development, they’re easily worth about $250 apiece.

By sharing your thoughts, you’re much more likely to attend an event catering to your desires. We’ll see you in the comments below, and at UX London in April!

The winners have been chosen! Congratulations to Mike Houghton & Andrea Moed!

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Comments

  1. Target audience Does it cater to newbies or advanced practitioners? — Both I think, a conference with 2 tracks would be nice. The same speakers could speak at both levels. That way we are helping newcomers, yet not boring more adv. developers/designers.

    Tracks Does the conference offer multiple sessions at the same time? — I don’t really like this concept, except for what I noted above. I always seem to have to make tough choices, and sometimes regret missing certain sessions.

    Time span Is it held over just one day or two? — One day seems to be enough. This is tough though. It directly impacts cost, and I personally don’t have a ton of cash to invest.

    Subject matter What kinds of topics does it cover? — Usability issues in design and development, Coding practices, common patterns, emerging patterns, how to create a ui library

    Speakers What speakers—from what backgrounds—would you expect to see/meet? — Unknown here, a lot to list, it really depends on the topic I suppose

    Additional Options Are there workshops? City tours? Breakout sessions? These are all items that impact cost, however, they are indispensable, so if the topic is right for sure! A city tour.. not really necessary.

    Thank you for the opp. to win a Kindle, always wanted one of those awesome buggers. My kids and I read a ton, and have been wanting one of these! Don’t make me buy it! lol!

    More importantly, Thanks you for asking this question, I hope the answers go to serving the community at large, not just those of you in London. This information could be useful to conference planners all over this industry, making the conferences more available for people like me, living in a predominantly rural area, and a large family that depends on my income… aka BROKE!

  2. For me, the biggest frustration I’ve had with conferences is the lack of “layering”– making sure there’s content for both beginners and more advanced users. Often I’ll read a course description and it seems to be speaking to my level, but when I walk in the room it’s immediately clear that it’s not right for me (too basic, too technical, etc). Part of this can be handled through better course descriptions, but I also appreciate it when I have the ability to leave the “bad” course and join another one that’s more my speed (instead of wasting the rest of my time).

    This speaks to your point about “target audience,” but I think that conferences ought to act as a bridge– instead of only catering to the best or to the newbs, a careful balance ends up benefiting everyone.

  3. Good speakers are a must (obviously). Social hour and networking after the main events are where the real information is talked about, remembered and gathered. I also always like it when there are separate “classes” you can take to tailor a conference to your specialties.

  4. What I’ve really enjoyed about conferences in the past is variety in skill level. I’ve attended conferences where the program topics are “one size fits all”, which usually leads to information that isn’t new or useful to many. I also like a good mix of informational/lecture style, practical demonstrations and hands-on activities. Great networking parties after hours are always fun too!

    One thing that I’ve always hoped for in a conference but have yet to see is a way to take it with you once it’s over. I always get bummed out when a conference has multiple tracks and I have to choose between two must-see topics. What if there where a way to take all the talks and demos home with you? Maybe this is in the form of an access key to conference videos online? Food for thought…

  5. I love meeting and listening to speakers that have written books, and speakers that have developed methodologies or heuristic listings. They always have a greater notion of how things are done.

    What I don’t like is that sometimes conferences are focused on complete beginners, or parts of the presentations at least. I’ve had the bad luck of attending conferences that still explain what the web is all about. There should be a way to separate beginners’ presentations.

    I also have a serious problem with the Track handling in conferences. I’m ok if it’s handled by advanced or beginner levels, but I hate it when it’s Designer track and Developer track. I do both, so what can I do if there are simultaneous presentations that I want to see? For me it would be perfect if those two weren’t separated. And nowadays we all need to know both, maybe not in depth but otherwise designers and developers never come to a real understanding.

    In this regard, I would prefer it was divided by days. A day of design and a day of development, something on those lines.

    Additionally, an optional third day of workshops to apply the theory would wrap it up quite nicely.

    And, of course, networking events are very important. If there isn’t an effective way to interact with the rest of the attendants, there’s always missing at the end.

  6. Target audience: Leaning towards advanced with a couple of boot camps on emerging technologies.

    Tracks: Two days, multiple tracks.

    Subject matter: UI design best practices. Tools. Existing and missing standards. Mostly, though, it needs to blow my mind rather than rehash what blogs are already saying.

    Speakers: Teachers from Parsons, Hyper Island, UW and Ümea. From the web world, Ryan Singer, Luke Wroblewski and Dmitry Baranovskiy. Also, the folks behind the Cocoa Touch and Palm UIs would also be cool. A researcher or two (e.g. Jakob Nielsen) might be interesting, but shouldn’t dominate the conference.

  7. Mary Lojkine January 21, 2011

    For me, a great conference is all about new ideas and new skills, so inspiring speakers are a must — the rest is the salad garnish.

    I prefer events with a mixed audience and multiple tracks providing something for everyone — more chance of having conversations that stretch my thinking when there are people with more/less/different experience to talk to.

    A one-day conference is just a really long meeting. Prefer 2-3 days, so it’s an event rather than a blip in my calendar.

    Logistics matter. If it’s in a basement with no phone signal (generally a good thing), let me know beforehand, and let me know whether there’s WiFi and how much it’s going to cost. Think about the bottlenecks (registration, lunch) and manage the experience — can you put up some posters, or give people something to read while they queue? These things really matter if they come immediately before or after a presentation on user experience or service design!

  8. A conference with multiple tracks preferably based in a theme. 2 days in length.
    ideally there would be an à la carte option, because sometimes I really want to hear or can only fit a few speakers into my schedule.

  9. Caroline Cornelius January 21, 2011

    As a student, what I would look for is something as an introduction to what the possibilities of the ideas are. In most cases, something towards the advanced levels would help. I always felt that may be an example would explain things neater to me.

    Even though there is a possibility that there might be multiple sessions at the same time the participant might be interested in, multiple sessions help package more content in shorter period and that would be my preference.

    Timespan wise, I would prefer a two day conference because as a participant I wouldn’t be able to complete/learn everything in a 9-5 arrangement. A two day arrangement also provides scope for the key “networking” factor.

    I would probably want to see more people with hands on experience with the technology- industry or innovative research. Some information that I can take back and use.

    City tours might not be really necessary but a travel information on what the hotspots are might be good. Usually, we always end up fixing different arrangements that a city tour doesn’t work out.

  10. I am about to attend my first major design conference (An Event Apart Seattle), so I don’t have past experience to inform my suggestions. However, I have been to other types of conferences and can say that I hope to find speakers that offer more than what I can find on a quick scour of their blogs. Speakers who offer insights that augment the value of what they’ve already contributed to the field.

    Catering to a more experienced audience would be beneficial for all experience levels. Veterans can learn about new topics in their field, and newbies get the added bonus of interacting with the veterans they aspire to be.

    I’m hoping that’s my experience in March…

  11. It’s great to see this article and even better are the comments as we are in the process of pulling together a Midwest regional UX conference in Columbus, OH in April 2011 that is a collaboration between IxDA Columbus and COUPA. I’ll definitely be checking back to see more comments as they come in, and I’ll be at IXD11 in Boulder if anyone wants to talk about what they want to get out of a regional UX conference.

  12. I consider a conference worthwhile if I learn something new from a master, and if I get to talk with people who are exploring the same questions in their design practices as I am, from a totally different angle. To those ends…

    Target audience: A range, from “practiced” to “expert”, short of “seen it all”.

    Tracks: Multiple tracks are good, because practiced designers’ interests are diverse. To alleviate the session conflict problem, I suggest that speaker sessions be followed by adjacent pop-up expo halls each featuring a small, speaker-curated group of designers demoing projects relating to the themes of the session. That way, people who miss a session of interest can stop by the popup expo for that session afterward, see what was talked about and chat with people who were there.

    Time span: Two days, the second of which is more audience-participation. This can be an unconference format, or sessions with opportunities for focused discussion and debate.

    Subject matter: 1/3 subjects designers are talking about with each other, 1/3 how to meet new needs that clients/companies are expressing lately, and 1/3 invitations to reflect on one’s own practice.

    Speakers: Masters with different palettes of skills: animation, video, graphics, game design, location-aware design, design for mobile devices and networked objects. They should be able to speak to the strategy or motive driving the design, not just show ‘n’ tell. If the speaker is not a gifted storyteller, include a moderator who can ask good questions. Represent contexts other than the U.S. and Europe. And please, not 90% men.

    Additional options: Elaborate tours aren’t necessary, but it’s nice to have a bunch of local hosts who can each take a small group someplace interesting: that could be a design studio, great place to eat or drink, cool block of galleries or stores, their choice.

  13. I think the best set of speakers are never (or not necessarily) the most relevant ones, but ones who can release the most inspiration in a handful of minutes of a short speach. In the field of webdesign I do not really think I could get reaally much inspiration from an established brainiac on the field of IA or a veteran of wireframing (it is likely I already digged that topic from top to bottom), but rather from thinkers of other fields who can showcase their knowledge so that those can be applied very much widely on other fields – like UX. My best experiences lately have been to hear Douglas Rushkoff and Jesse Schell talk. They are not web UX experts but they have knowledge and views, which can be adopted on almost any fields.

    As for the time span: if I travel abroad for a conference I like it to last 2 or even 3 days, so that I feel it was worth traveling around. If the conference is in town any 1-day event (or even shorter) is just fine.

  14. Suryesh CHATWANI January 22, 2011

    I am a newbie and I have recently developed some interest in this area. So a perfect conference for me would be:
    1) Definitely targeting newbies
    2) Tracks multiple sessions if you are targeting both advanced practitioners and newbies, as newbies can get lost if it becomes highly technical.
    3) Workshops are preferable,since newbies can get some hands on experience
    4) Expecting to see a lot of people like Steve Krug and people who havent written books but still apply these concepts in everyday life.

    Thats all folks, from a newbie!

  15. Joanne Quinn January 22, 2011

    Choose venue carefully – interesting city with conference site within walking of cool places, so you don’t have to rent a car; be sure not put same level type speakers at the same time; provide a full color handout of all powerpoints, etc at the end to go home with; include segments that inspire not just practical stuff – it’s great to just hear folks talk about what they’ve done.

  16. 3 things are really important in a conference for me.
    The first one is the quality and relevance of the content. It’s pretty frustrating to pay for things we already read a few months ago on some speaker’s blogs.
    The second is to be able to value this conference to my own customers and clients. Coild be something like a badge on my website and the level I reached (2 workshops and 4 hours in the cafeteria haha).
    The third and the most frustrating by now is networking. Usually you go to conferences with a or some friends and you stay with them, lost in the ocean of people. And most of the time when you try to talk to someone, you look like the freaky geeky guy that wants to make friends… So it would be great to have efficient hubs for networking. You never know, it can drive to exciting new projects or businesses.

  17. Though I’ve only been able to attend one of the conferences mentioned above (An Event Apart), I’m pretty sure all of them are great – perhaps even “perfect” for the very reasons that you’ve listed. And while there is probably space for another UX-centered conference based on the established pattern, I’d be interested in an alternative approach that combined some of my favorite conference elements into something new.

    There are three things that stand out to me as things I love about conferences. First, I love listening to great speakers (my expectations have less to do with learning something new and more about being inspired by stories and new ways of looking at things). Second, I love meeting people (even though I’m relatively introverted, the opportunity to sit at a table table and talk shop over a cup of coffee with peers can be invigorating and a great way to make connections). Third, I love studio tours (a peek into the creative environments of other designers is always interesting).

    So here’s a seed containing an attempt to blend these loves together in a new way. I’m thinking of something akin to the operating room experience where the apprentice surgeons are looking down through the glass up above, taking notes while the expert surgeons are at work down below. Except instead of a person being operated on, it’s a project being created. One difference might be the need to choreograph the experience instead of doing a “live” improv act in order to compress what might normally take weeks (with some seriously tedious moments) into one or two engaging days. The actors would be professional designers from a high-profile firm. The venue would be a local theater. The set would be a recreated studio. The project could be a website or application for a local non-profit. There could be an MC that sets up (or otherwise discusses) each act in the performance. The participants might be afforded the opportunity to offer constructive criticism or commentary at certain points. And, of course, there would be plenty of opportunity to discuss the show over coffee.

    That’s all I’ve got for now. In hindsight, this kind of conference might be more trouble than it’s worth. But whether you come up with something traditional or something alternative, I’m looking forward to your new event!

  18. 1. I often find myself wishing that conferences would stop trying to cater to everyone.

    I feel like most programmes are pitched at the mid-range in an effort to please everyone but that always leaves me feeling short-changed: talks about topics I know well are stale and fail to challenge me, and topics I don’t know well leave me feeling like I’m missing something.

    I think conferences should either pitch themselves at the expert level or have multi-track programming with clearly labelled expertise levels.

    2. What’s with all the conference centres?

    I am a science-fiction fan (make of that what you will) and I attend science-fiction conventions. The best ones of these are held in a hotel.

    This means that everyone is installed into this alternate universe for the duration of the event. The atmosphere is amazing. It creates a great chance to get to know people socially – the entire convention passes through the bar at some point and we usually all eat in the hotel, sitting at different tables with whoever happens to be there.

    Conference centres are so corporate and don’t create the community feel that I think makes a really great conference. And there’s nothing worse than having to eat alone because you couldn’t find a group of people to go out to a restaurant with.

    3. Teach me something tangible.

    I’ve seen some really inspiring talks and at the time I’ve been totally fired up but then I step back out into the real world and people ask me what I learned. Often I haven’t learned anything I didn’t know, I’ve just shared my passion with like-minded people.

    And that’s great and everything, but it’s really hard to maintain. The feeling fades.

    But if you teach me something new, it stays with me. So those workshops conferences always charge extra for? Why can’t some of those be part of the main programme? If you’ve got a decent multi-stream programme going you can keep the numbers down by having other awesome things on at the same time.

  19. The perfect design conference that I would like to attend?

    Caters to people with experience (with things for newbies, but not centered around them).

    Multiple tracks.

    Two days, or three. Especially if I’ve traveled far.

    Covers the thinking/feeling process of design. How people work. Philosophical discussions about what design is and what it does for society. Does not favor an art-school perspective, but instead favors a real-world, I-learned-this-by-doing-it approach to design. Covers practical stuff like HTML5 and CSS3 — but gets deep into what this new technology is doing for us human beings, and what might result. For example, what happens after you already know all about media queries, and you want to design for them? How does that really work? It’s too easy for presentations to spend all their time on Intro to This 101, and not have time to get to the heart of the matter. (I say as I work on the Intro to HTML5 Technology presentation I’m giving tomorrow. :P)

    To me, what I yearn for is:
    1) Really smart and experienced people speaking.
    2) Talking about the deep stuff, and what they are thinking these days about how to do this design work.
    3) In a calm, not too packed / not too big setting.
    4) With a chance to meet people and talk afterwards.

    I could care less about loud parties and shiny extras.

    How to make this happen is tricky. When an expert-level talk is given to a newbie or mid-range crowd, they are unhappy. And we are “experts” in very different ways. But perhaps it’s possible… that’s what I want, and you asked.

    (twitter: jensimmons)

  20. Twitter: @sean_ryan

    Target audience: A bit of both. While I might consider myself an old hand in certain topics, I am a newbie in others. Having presentations that cater to both ensures I will always have an opportunity to learn something I don’t already know. Which leads us nicely to…

    Tracks: I have often seen tracks based on certain popular trends, or even ones that are completely random. However, I have never seen tracks divided by skill level. Off the top of my head, if you had two tracks – beginner and experienced – and the topics were aligned by time (for instance, HTML5 in the 10a slot, Mobile in the 11a), it would allow me to more easily select the appropriate session to attend, and never end up in the “I like them both which one do I go to” (or the opposite) situation that I often find myself in.

    Time span: I would have to agree with some other folks that one day just seems too short. However, I would rather have one day of great stuff than two days of half great and half filler.

    Subject matter: For me personally, it is UX. This can be a fairly broad subject that can cover a number of topics, from coding HTML5 to sketching to Photoshop to information architecture.

    Speakers: Don’t much care who in particular, as long as they 1. know what they are talking about, and 2. know how to speak. Based on some of my conference experiences, that combination is rare.

    Additional Options: Personally, I hate the networking idea. I am there to learn, not to schmooze. I know I am in the minority in this, but I hate conferences that dedicate large portions of time during the conference proper to “networking.” I would prefer these types of events to happen in the evening, after the core sessions are over for the day.

  21. @KerryGardnerMN January 27, 2011

    1.Target audience:
    •Students
    •Practitioners at all levels
    •The people who hire IA/UX Designers

    2.Tracks: Multiple sessions – preferably concurrent sessions that are aimed at different audiences.

    You won’t have a conflict if you run a seminar on breaking into the business at the same time as a round-table discussion on the merits of automated versus person-to-person user testing.

    You might run into trouble if you have Don Norman giving a seminar at the same time you are holding a round-table on building a valuable Design Curriculum due to the fact that Mr. Norman can’t be in two places at once.

    Certainly, you would want him in that round-table, no?

    3.Time span: I like 2-3 day conferences. It helps to make the days productive and opens the door to “after-hours” networking and play-time.

    4.Subject matter/Speakers:
    I wholeheartedly agree with others who have said they want the speakers to be unique. I want new information that I can’t get by reading someone’s book or blog.

    Bring in someone who can teach us how to sell our service to the people who don’t get what we do and/or don’t see the value in what we do.

    I’d like to hear from someone in Training & Organizational Development. These people deal with a lot of human-computer interaction and behavioral psychology. Maybe this kind of expert can bring us a new level of understanding of our end-users.

    Someone from the Press could also bring a different perspective to our group. Newsrooms and Journalists face a host of issues around trying to morph a broadcast or newspaper product into a meaningful digital offering. Learning what their unique issues are may help us to better understand how we can help them.

    5.Additional Options: I would love to see some expo-type content between sessions. The reps hawking their new technology wares love a good opportunity to demo their products. Even though I find most sales pitches to be irritating, I like to be able to see a proper product demo and ask questions of the seller.

  22. John Wickee January 27, 2011

    I believe one of the most important things at conferences for me is having more than one track. I like to have a choice of sessions. Obviously too many choices at one time leads to missing out on sessions you want to attend. Having at least 2 choices is nice to allow me to customize my experience for myself. I also like 2 days over one, because it allows it to be a little more relaxing and less rushed to get everything into one day. Plus, with the multiple tracks, the most popular session can be offered on both days, paired with different sessions to allow people to get the option to not miss out on it. Allow me to mold the conference to my liking.

    (TheFakeMrPi)

  23. Target audience
    I think as far as audience goes it should cater to all level’s of experience in Web Development, but would be nice to see a selection of “clients” there.

    Tracks
    For my “ideal” conference there attendants would have a 3hour lecture and over about Preperation, Design and UX

    TimeSpan
    For my idea it would need to be a 2day event, or a very long 1day

    Speakers & Subject
    I would want some of the people I read, so UXBooth authors for discussing UX and some authors from Smashing Magazine discussing smart design techniques.

    Additional Options
    My ideal conference would be a semi-event. Say 1 “fake” client for 10 developers. You sit through the lecture there go into your group to work with the “fake” client, you plan, sketch-up and work out what the client’s needs are then how to achieve there goals.

    Following this each group would get 1 rep to stand up and share the problems they occured and what they came up with to overcome and take a few short Q&A’s. Finishing up with some mini-awards for the top group (or top two or three).

    This would give everyone the opportunity to experience and learn about several different problems, meet new people and get practical knowledge as opposed to just notes on the topic. If anything discussed was missed or avoided there could be a closure seminar just to re-inforce that information to the users.

    It would most likely be very confusing the first year but if made into an annual event I think it would draw a strong crowd.

  24. I have never been able to attend a conference because the company I worked for didn’t believe in staying up to date. When I left to start my own company, all I want to do is learn more – but I still have yet to go to a conference.

    http://twitter.com/orderofout

  25. Target audience : Regardless of who it caters too, it should state so clearly. I hate wasting time by going to talks that sound interesting, but don’t teach me anything because I got the ‘level’ wrong.
    Tracks: Multiple tracks can be good if videos are provided afterwards, I hate to miss out on stuff! I can sometimes spend ages deciding which track to attend, but if videos are provided afterwards, it eliminates some of my agony.
    Time span: Two days is better because it gives people more time to network between the conference days. Also it is easier to justify travelling far for two days rather than just one.
    Subject matter: This could be anything, but I prefer real life examples and case studies.
    Speakers : A variety, and not just the same speakers year after year. Although established speakers certainly tend to be good and knowledgeable, I really enjoy hearing from people I don’t already “know” from books/blogs/ awards.
    Additional Options Are there workshops? City tours? Breakout sessions?
    I really enjoy workshops, and breakout sessions. I think conferences should be followed by a one day “hackaton” were you work on something with the people you networked with, using the knowledge and inspiration you got from the conference. (And no, hackatons are not just for developers, for instance some of the best “open gov” hackatons results I’ve seen are when people have improved the user interface of government services, and present data is such a way that makes it is easier to interact with and understand).

  26. Martin Bloksa January 31, 2011

    First of all I ve neverí been at any conference, but your article started me to think about it …

    Target audience: In my opinion the best solution to offer it for all 3 categories newbies, advanced and professionals

    Conference should not offer more session at the same time… Only in case of 1 dedicated only for newbies, and the seconds for professionals

    Time span: in my opinion two days are the best solution

    Subject matter: theory, principles, ideology and some how-to-do

    Speakers What speakers— it is necessary to bring some “celebrities” (people Well known) just because everybody wants this…

    @martin_bloksa

  27. For me, the biggest take-away from attending a conference would be a real-world, practical skill that I learned. In my experience, the talks can sometimes be too short and limited. They might cover an interesting topic but more as a brief overview.

    My ideal conference would have in-depth talks that really give me a solid understanding of the subject. Something that I can go home and start working on immediately. I think this process would ideally include hands-on tutorials or mini-workshops.

    Realistically, at the end of the day I don’t want to learn a little about a lot of subjects. I want to learn a LOT about a couple of subjects that matter to me.

    Oh yeah- @chrisobs13

  28. Hailing from deep within the Midwest makes it difficult to attend most of the exciting design conferences you mentioned. In addition to bringing them deep within the heartland, I would request a few items:

    1. Social Broadcasting. Twitter, Facebook, Ustream. Whatever you can use to help me attend remotely would be very much appreciated.

    2. Check-In Tools. Something like a sign-in sheet. This would help me connect with those in attendance, even if I didn’t get the chance to connect with them in person.

    3. Conference Recommendations. Working “remotely” makes it difficult to find events that are happening locally since they happen so rarely. Having a recommendation tool that can make it through the black hole would be useful.

    These three items are just a few off the top of my head to help include those of us who aren’t living in the big cities to get more involved with the design community.

  29. I often feel such events are designed to educate but end up attempting to sell something.. such as someone’s latest project, promote their company.. etc. This can be really off putting.

    I want to walk away having learned something new which i can apply to future projects.

    You need engaging speakers, exciting topics, allowing attendee’s to walk away inspired.

    And finally, as people seem to use social media to interact with people during these events, why not utilise this by allowing live feedback.

  30. I have always wanted to attend one of those popular conference’s held every year.. But as a freelancer I have had a hard time justifying the cost of the conference, travel and not to mention the time. I am more inclined to watch and listen to podcasts taken from the event. I am happy to pay for this as long as it is the “right” price. (cheap).

    In answer to your questions..
    - The event should have multiple tracks for newbies and experienced alike.
    - I think multiple days makes sense to allow for the most flexibility in getting to all the sessions.
    - Speakers should be people working in the industry not just speaking/writing about it. I like to hear stories of real projects and real clients.

  31. Having attended conference across several industries and specifically to design, I can say that the following are important factors across the board:

    Semantics:
    1. Make sure there is enough parking available within walking distance of the venue.

    2. Ensure that A/V has been thoroughly tested. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into breakout sessions to have speakers yelling because the mikes went out.

    3. Copies of presentations should be given for every session.

    Details:

    1. Conference should be at least two days, no more than four.

    2. ‘Sales Pitch’ sessions should be kept to a minimal. By this I mean sessions that everyone wants to attend, but in order to take advantage of fully a product must be puchased.

    3. Workshops, breakout sessions, panel discussions and networking opportunities within the confines of the conference are all very helpful. After parties and city tours should be left for before or after the conference – come early/stay late.

    4. Would love to see development tracks, i.e. scheduled sessions that build throughout the day. Example, intro track: text -> html -> css -> publication. Or best practices: brainstorm -> structure -> sketch -> trace -> design.

    5. SPEAKERS. Well known and respected speakers drive attendance. Get the big names, get the best crowds, get the best conference.

    6. Lastly, i would love to see case studies from development groups on how they took a project from concept to implementation, and the steps it took to get there.

  32. Target audience and Tracks: two tracks, one for newbies, the other for “advanced”. A few things shared with both tracks (opening and closing keynotes, obviously; meal breaks; brainstorming and career-building; perhaps networking tips, too.)

    Subjects:
    1. UX in an Agile development cycle.
    2. Sketching (how to, and why).
    3. Conducting user tests for websites & mobile devices.
    4. Mapping out your career + mentoring (if separate, then in both tracks, but from each POV: why you should mentor & why/how you should find a mentor).
    5. Beginning/advanced Graphic Design for the UX designer. (So UX designers without graphic design training can pick some up, or polish their existing knowledge.)
    6. Beginning/advanced typography for the UX designer. (Same thing for typography.)
    7. Beginning/advanced HTML+Ruby on Rails (or Python, or Javascript) for the UX designer. (Same for programming.)

    Speakers: The usual people, plus people from “nearby” fields (emotional design, human factors, amusement park planning, architects especially concerned with how their buildings affect people emotionally, etc) to provide unexpected points of view.

    Additional Options: No city tours during the conference, though a message board to let people coordinate tours afterwards. Workshops on *real* networking (not how-many-business-cards-can-I-collect networking), and Product Design Guild style “cooperation sessions” to let people get feedback on things they’re actually working on.

    Which city? San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego.
    - @uxgreg

  33. Because UX is a reasonably young and small field, I’d be inclined more to an “Intermediates” conference. Something that would provide value to those who are already professional, but wouldn’t alienate complete novices.

    I’m actually a huge fan of multi-track conferences – it appeals to more attendees and the attendees and the variety thereof add as much value to the conference as the speakers (I find).

    @andrewheins

  34. My comment is the first one, I couldn’t find a way to edit it to add my twitter acct.

    Twitter: elementvine

  35. As a marketer, I’d love to be able to attend a design conference that helped me understand not only basic principles of design, but how to more effectively work with designers to get what I want out of their work, how to make a designer’s life easier when working with/for me, how to evaluate design appropriately, etc.

    I would absolutely attend a design conference that presented this type of material for non-designers.

    Thanks!

    @JoshSummerhays

  36. nanofino February 3, 2011

    Hi!
    I couldn’t make it to any UX conference since i´m in Argentina, but i attended to some about Design, from print to digital, etc.

    The things that botter me most where:
    So much artistic-oriented and less functional: It´s ok t show some artistics works, artists as speakers. It´s always welcome and I celebrate that. But design is not art, at least not just that. A funtional approach to design is a “must-be” in all talks.

    Self-promoting talks: Ok, the speaker has done great things, that’s way he is speaking. But let talk about a “how to”, a more theorics and that kind of stuff, and please dont let it to become a portfolio slideshow.

    About what i would like to see:
    Target audience: Everyone, newbies and advanced. Maybe, as someone before me says, you can overlap some sessions if are different target oriented, but is important to include as much people as possible.

    Tracks: just dont overlap session with the same target audience.

    Subjects: wide range of topics but contemporaries and future of the fields.

    Speakers: those with successful proven works and theories.

    Additional: workshops are great. And it could have a good activity that makes people interact together (discussion in smalls groups, or things like that).

    Hope it helps!

    twitter: @nanofino

  37. btw – my twitter handle is BVRE.

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