This year Auckland is playing host to UX Homegrown, a one day conference of 20 talks and workshops about UX practice in New Zealand. It takes place on the 21st of July with a pre-conference evening of 3 talks on the 20th of July. Design Assembly recently spoke with Matt Gould who, along with Emma Pittar and Gerbrand van Melle, organise the conference. We wanted to find out more about what people can expect from this year’s UX Homegrown.
Hi Matt, can you tell us a little bit more about UX Homegrown?
To quote our own website, it’s a submission-based and community curated indie conference with the goal of growing the level of practice across our whole country. We showcase what UX looks like in New Zealand with the best untold stories and high profile projects from our community’s stars.
There’s a few design conferences around already, why start another one?
It’s true there are already some really good design conferences in New Zealand like Webstock and Semi Permanent, as well as events like Gather… And UXNZ had just started when we launched the 1st UX Homegrown as well. They are all great events in their own right, but they were all either highly curated conferences with a focus on star overseas speakers or, in the case of Gather, a sort of un-conference kind of thing. We need those I think, but we’d seen how UX Australia used a submission-based format where you submit a proposal and the community feeds back on what they want to see. That format really raised the whole level of UX practice and discussion over there and we felt that was missing here. We wanted that same outcome for ourselves.
What is it about that format that raises practice levels?
It uncovers stories that are you would never discover if you just picked people you already knew of. And the community gets to identify the stories they really want to hear. Some of them are working in contexts that are really unique to New Zealand. So learning about what succeeded and what failed in that New Zealand context is really fascinating and valuable. We have some great conventional stuff like an amazing case study from Kirsten Stevens and Macushla Howell about some work PWC did with BNZ, but also some really unique stuff from amazing people you might not have heard of. Like Sarvnaz Taherian talking about UX for mind controlled tech, and Haunani Pao talking about behavioural design for medical marijuana. This kind of conference really connects people working in UX here and helps them to support and learn from each other. These are people not just talking about their ideas but using UX methods everyday in real projects and getting amazing results.
How do you make a conference like this work?
You give it many many hours! For Emma, Gebrand and me, it’s all done outside of work hours and really eats our lives as it gets close to the date. A large part of it is making sure that the presentations are top notch, stuff like supporting our speakers with professional training and giving them opportunities to get together to practice their talks and support each other. That also helps to grow our community’s confidence and ability to talk about the value of their work outside of the conference.
We also spend a lot of time on the experience of the day itself, stuff like making sure there is good food and coffee, little touches like the graphics and music that link the talks together. We really rely on volunteers for that, we’d be stuffed without our volunteers organising AV stuff, doing promotion and supporting our speakers and attendees on the day. They are the difference between a bare bones series of talks and a really great experience.
And the sponsors too, who mean we can do things like pay for speaker training, after party stuff, all the good things that make it a great day.
So, it’s the talks, workshops and the overall experience all together. The idea is that you go away from the conference really invigorated, but also with some concrete knowledge about how to get better outcomes from your own practice.
Is it hard to find enough good talks this way?
No, the opposite. We were blown away by the quality of submissions this year. There were definitely talks we wanted to include but couldn’t. That’s why we’ve introduced an extra pre event evening with some speakers we couldn’t fit in but felt were too good to exclude, and also workshops after lunch for the first time. And, we still had to say no to some really compelling talks. Hopefully they will resubmit next year.
What kind of people go to UX Homegrown?
Mainly UX practitioners, mainly senior people. So researchers, UX designers, service designers, etc. But also managers, product owners, developers, graphic designers and product designers. The whole gamut of people involved in UX really.
How did you personally get involved in UX Homegrown?
I think I spent a few years trying to talk other people into doing it, and finally picked it up when it started to look like a submission-based conference wouldn’t happen. I was involved in UX capability building through our training initiative UX Gym, and my co organisers, Emma and Gerbrand, were also involved in design education, so we decided we might as well try and get it going ourselves.
What’s next after this one?
For the next one we’re going to continue to fine tune the experience and we’re going to try and do more to make the conference as welcoming and inclusive as possible. We already work quite hard at that, little things like we read that not paying speakers means it’s more difficult for less privileged people to talk at conferences, so we pay all of our speakers… But we could do a lot better, I think. We’re honing up on what needs to be done to make a conference really inclusive and will really focus on this next year.
Find out more about the 2017 UX Homegrown conference and purchase your tickets here: http://uxhomegrown.co.nz/