Learn and Network: A Round-Up of Some Great UX Conferences
Conferences are a really fun way to develop your UX career. You get the opportunity to learn both theory from speakers and practice in hands on workshops, meet like minded people, and discuss the challenges you are facing with people who have experienced similar ones! Above all, conferences are a lot of fun! Throughout my design career I have had the opportunity to participate in many conferences as an attendee, and more recently, as a speaker.
There are so many events that take place all around the world – and many different niches and levels of event production. The following round up is by no means exhaustive, but should give you a taste of some my personal UX event highlights that happen throughout the year! Most conferences occur on an annual cycle, with some staying in the same location every year and others making a call for host cities and happening in varying locations.
The User Experience Professionals Association was founded in 1991, and has been running an annual conference since 1992. The conferences tend to take place in the USA (with some exceptions), sometime in June, July or August. The 2017 UXPA conference is happening in Toronto, Canada, June 6-8. The conference covers a range of UX related topics, this year’s schedule includes UI design, UX research, career development, analytics and more.
UX STRAT Europe
This year’s European UX STRAT conference happens in Amsterdam, June 15-16. UX STRAT focuses on a more experienced audience, in the fields of user experience, customer experience, product design and service design. The conference is a single track conference, with two days of talks, followed by a workshop day. The topics are targeted towards leaders, for example embedding UX in company operations, or strategic design approaches to creating eco-systems at Adidas or Deutche Telecom.
Adaptive Path’s UX event, UX Week, takes place annually in San Francisco, and is in its 15th year. The four day conference aims to ‘deliver new tools you can put to use immediately.’ A single track conference that is expertly curated means this event has a reputation for high quality content. The 2017 event takes place from August 29 – September 1. Speakers this year include Roman Mars of 99% Invisible, and a responsive design workshop with Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane. UX Week tackles a wide range of UX topics, with lots of inspiration and practical learning.
While I haven’t attended UX Week itself, I have spoken at Adaptive Path’s Service Experience Conference, and that was an incredible experience. I can definitely vouch for Adaptive Path’s events – both the content they curate and the attention to detail paid to attendee experience. I hope to make it to many more Adaptive Path events, including UX Week! Side note: their vimeo channel is a treasure trove of past talks.
UX STRAT USA
Boulder, Colorado will host this year’s UX STRAT USA conference, September 18-20, 2017. Like its European counterpart, UX STRAT targets seasoned leaders and practitioners in the UX, service and product design space. Many speakers this year are in house designers at companies like Capital One, Disney and Etsy. The workshops and talks focus on strategy and more advanced topics. Typically the conference involves one day of workshops with two days of talks. While I have never attended this conference, I have heard great things about it, in particular from a past manager of mine who found it was really good for more senior design leaders.
Fluxible is a smaller UX conference, and since 2012 takes place annually in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. Fueled by the region’s excellent Universities and tech scene, Fluxible has sprung up as a “UX party disguised as a conference.” This year, it takes place September 18-24, with speakers such as Dave Gray and Aaron Irizarry.
This conference really knocks it out of the park when it comes to attendee experience – I’ve been to Fluxible several years running, and I’m looking forward to this year too! Amazing food (chocolate covered bacon! food trucks! taco bar!), a conference song, the festival of interstitial music, and a goat check… with real goats! All of this on top of great content and speakers mean I always have a really great time. If it sounds like I’m raving about this one, it’s because I am.
Midwest UX has been running since 2011 in, well, the Midwest! It originated when people from the Columbus IxDA chapter and a UXPA chapter connected and envisioned an event together. Midwest UX aims to create a grassroots, community feel for their conferences, and the events pay lots of attention to small details. The conference tends to have a more accessible price tag than some of the larger global conferences, and tackles a broad range of UX themes. In 2017, Midwest UX takes place in Cincinnati, October 12-14.
I spoke at Midwest UX in Louisville, 2016, and it was a blast! The conference had a really fun, friendly feeling, all while delivering great content. I really enjoyed the conference keynotes, and the afterparty was fantastic. Definitely a great conference for making friends and learning about the UX scene that exists outside of San Francisco and New York. Highly recommend!
This conference started life as UXCamp Ottawa, and became CanUX in 2011. CanUX is a multi-day, single track event that takes place in Ottawa, Canada. In 2017, the event runs November 3-5, with two workshop days prior. The event showcases an international and Canadian community of speakers on UX, including giants of the field such as Mike Monteiro, Dan Saffer and Dana Chisnell. The event includes a broad range of practitioners from academia and industry exploring topics such as robots, Hyperloop, and design research methods.
I attended CanUX last year, and loved the quality of the event and content. As a single track event with a larger audience, this conference delivers lots of energy, and the best conference MC I’ve ever seen! Attendee experience is well thought out – for example having lunch at local restaurants in randomized groups so that we got the opportunity to meet new people.
The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) hosts annual conferences in Latin America and North America/Europe. Interaction, the global conference alternating locations between North America and Europe annually, has been running since 2008. It usually takes place in February or March, with Interaction ‘18 taking place in Lyon, France, February 6-8, 2018. The conference hosts a workshop day, as well as a student design challenge and the Interaction Awards. Attendance is up in the high hundreds, with Interaction 17 attracting 1,000 people to New York City.
The speaker alumni list is full of design luminaries, from well-known design agencies like frog and IDEO to product companies such as AirBnb, Microsoft and Google, as well as independent designers and academics. Attendees tend to be mostly industry practitioners. Keynotes tend to be curated, with an open call for speakers curated to round out the remaining speakers and workshops. This was one of the first big design conferences I attended, and it remains one of my favourites! Always full of food for thought, and an awesome community vibe.
The IA Summit takes place in North America and covers topics relating to information architecture, user experience and content strategy. The summit is now in its 18th year, and this year’s event will be held March 21-25, 2018 in Chicago. The conference attracts practitioners and seasoned speakers, such as Abby Covert, Donna Spencer and Peter Morville. In 2017, two days of workshops were followed by three days of keynotes, talks, and even a portfolio and resume review booth! This conference also includes poster displays. I haven’t made it to IA Summit yet, and it’s on my list for sure.
SIGCHI is the Specialist Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, a group under the Association for Computing Machinery, which was founded in 1947. Since 1983, they have been running a flagship conference simply called CHI. It takes place in April or May, with the 2018 CHI conference planned for April 21-26 in Montreal, Canada. The conference tends to be more academically heavy, with an emphasis on presenting CHI Papers – original research in the field. Other components of the conference include demos, or poster presentations of research. I attended CHI in 2014 in Toronto, and was struck by the huge overlap of the academic research world with the concerns of UX design practice. I made some great friends that I keep up with through Twitter, and they keep me connected to the pulse of what’s happening academically in our field.