I’m standing for UK Liaison in the UKUPA December elections

UK UPA logo

This month the UK Usability Professionals’ Association (UK UPA) has introduced 4 new roles into the committee to help reduce workload and share responsibilities. In my opinion this is a great idea, especially as the roles are so clearly defined, allowing each person to have a very specific focus and function.

UK Liaison

Of particularly interest to me is the position of UK Liaison, a role designed to represent the UK UPA outside of London and support new and existing regional UX communities. The main requirements of the position are to:

  • Provide the main point of contact for and lead UK UPA activities around collaboration with other UX/Usability groups outside of London
  • Build relationships and liaise with existing and potential UK chapters
  • Be the first point of contact for all UK chapter queries
  • Make members aware of related events, and advertise London based UK UPA events to other UK  groups
  • Take a lead role in ensuring that speakers and resources are shared across other groups events where possible

History

Although I think the UK UPA does a great job I believe this is a role that has been lacking for some time. Back in August, during the main committee elections Jane Austin (now Vice Chair) asked for questions to be posed to candidates.

Although I work for a ‘regional’ agency our clients are spread far and wide and naturally a portion of my time is spent working in London. It’s because of the amount of time I spend in London that I’m able to engage with the UPA and attend events, but I know many people who aren’t so fortunate. I’ve felt for some time that the association is not fully representative of the UK, and focuses a disproportion amount on London.

Following Jane’s request I posed the question, how candidates would support UPA members and the wider industry outside of London. I was surprised by the level of discussion this raised and soon realised I wasn’t alone in my opinion.

Since, then it’s played on my mind and I’ve wanted to do something to help support regional communities, but haven’t really known in what form to express this. So it was great to find out that the UK UPA were creating the new role. Although, I’m sure my chances are slim I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t stand. So last week I submitted my nomination for the post of UK Liaison.

Voting opened on Monday 22nd November and I now have a nervous wait until 15th December when we find out the results.

The quality of competition I face is high, with nominations coming from both Bunnyfoot and Flow Interactive, two agencies I have the utmost respect for. Although I personally don’t know the other candidates, Nick and Greg, I’m confident that if I’m not successful the position will be in very good hands.

Vote

Having said that, please vote for me! Unfortunately only UPA members are eligible to vote, if you are a member please consider my nomination. You can find out more about my nomination as well as the other candidates on the election page of the UK UPA website and you can cast your vote on SurveyMonkey.

If you’re not a member I’d still really appreciate your support. Although voting is only open to members UK UPA, events are open to all so it’s important that everyone has a say in it’s future.

If you have any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share I’d be really interested to hear them so please leave a comment or question below. How do you think the UK UPA can better support regional UX communities? What would you like from the UK Liaison role?

Dorset’s digital landscaping

Last week I posted an article on the Meetdraw website comparing the digital industry of 2002 with the current situation that has helped fuel the success of our little series of networking events.

The aim was to engage with local agency folk and to encourage discussion, as well as help build awareness of Meetdraw of course! We are under no illusions that the potential audience for the events is limited by the relative size of the community but the the amount of interest the post received exceeded expectations massively.

You can take a butchers at the post ‘Looking back and making lists‘ on the Meetdraw website. Feel free to add your tu’pence worth to the comments, the more the merrier.

If you’d like to know more about Meetdraw read about the first event.

A quick and painless review of Meetdraw3: The Meetcounter

IF you don’t already know (and if you don’t where have you been) Meetdraw is a series of informal meetups organised for and shaped by people working in digital.  Its for anyone work in or interested by digital; whether designer, developer, blogger, UX practitioner, account pimp, social media guru,  search specialist, twittaholic or student.

Nice to meat you

The latest instalment, Meetdraw3 lovingly referred to as ‘The Meetcounter,’ took place on Wednesday 14th October at The Winchester Pub in Bournemouth. Thanks to Creative Advantage and the Dorset Design Forum we were able to secure funding for the event so all the eager beavers who turned up early enjoyed free drinks and pizza. The grumblings from the late comers was noted, written down and securely filed away in the nearest recycling bin.

It was great to see lots of familiar faces and catchup with old friends but also a great opportunity to welcome some newbies to the way of the meat.

Strawberrysoup with Limes!

The boys from StrawberrySoup in attendance (photo by Adam Wintle)

Once again we had a cracking turn out and everyone seemed to agree that it was the most successful Meetdraw so far. Although we made a conscious decision to change format and venue with each new event the consensus of opinion this time round was that The Winchester should be our home from now on so for the time being, at least, it looks like it will be.

IMG_2552

The Meetcounter full with questions (photo by John Parker)

Thanks to everyone who turned up and especially to everyone who helped out on the night, I’d list out the names but there’s too many to mention and I’d hate it if I missed someone out.

What next?

Attention now turns to the next event and the last for 2009, Meetdraw4: The Christmas Meetball (we will literally never get tired of meat based punnery). We really want to finish the year off nicely so hopefully with the continued support of Creative Advantage we’ll be able to do something that is even bigger and better.

If you’d like to help out in the future please let us know we’re always happy to hear from people.

Related stuff

Geeks in the garden of Eden: a review of Bamboo Juice

Bamboo Juice
I’ve just returned from the Bamboo Juice web conference which was held on Friday at the Eden Project in Cornwall. If you’re not familiar with Bamboo Juice here’s a brief explanation in the organisers own words:

Bamboo Juice is  a one-track, one-day web conference, held at the Eden Project, in Cornwall.

We’re aiming it at ordinary web designers and developers, doing websites for clients… not the lucky few who work at Facebook or Yahoo! As such it’ll be: affordable, relevant, balanced, easy to get to by public transport, green and will include free entry to the Eden Project.

I thought I’d put together a brief review of the conference in a similar vein to my FOWA Dublin post from earlier in the year.

Speakers

Prior to the event the line-up looked strong and I was looking forward to the varied mix of presentations. However, for this review I thought I’d limit it to the talks that I personally got the most out of.  These were:

  • Jeremy Keith (ClearLeft) – All our yesterdays
  • Relly Annett-Baker (Poppy Copy) – Copywriting for the reluctant
  • Paul Boag (Headscape) – Winning business in tough times

All our yesterdays (Jeremy Keith)

Jeremy Keith (@adactio)

Jeremy Keith (@adactio)

I was really looking forward to hearing Jeremy Keith’s talk. I haven’t seen him present before but had heard good things.  The format he chose was really engaging and covered the concept of standards, past, present and future. It was interesting to hear about his take on the evolution of communication methods through time from basic language, to the first printing press and beyond.

Towards the end he focused more on the concept of copy-writing and his personal take on ‘intellectual property’. It’s pretty hard to explain everything that he covered sufficed to say you probably had to be there!

As much as I enjoyed Jeremy’s talk I felt it may have been pitched a little high for the audience and didn’t seem to fit well with the conference as a whole, this is not to say that it was a bad presentation however, far from it.

As with my review of Carsonified’s FOWA Dublin conference I thought I’d highlight the key points I took from each presentation.

3 things I took away from Keith’s talk  ‘All our yesterdays’:

  1. The history of standards – it’s too much to cover here but all the information on the history of standards from the forming of language as a way of communicating to the Gutenburg press through to  Joseph Whitworth and on to the birth of the Internet and Tim Burners-Lee was fascinating
  2. Mickey Mouse destroyed our freedom – Something to do with copyright law… but again very informative!
  3. The biggest threat to the web is not technical its legal – Keith made some really valid points about how much we entrust our data to third parties online and how grey the lines of ownership become, especially the misnomer of ‘intellectual property’.

Copywriting for the reluctant (Relly Annett-Baker)

Relly (@rellyab)

Relly (@rellyab)

I knew very little about Relly AB before heading to Bamboo Juice but was hoping for a strong presentation on copywriting. As you’ve probably guessed from this blog I’m not a particularly good writer myself but this is something I’m trying to improve. Obviously when it comes to the topic of User Experience good copy plays a major part. With this in mind I wanted to be able to take a lot away with me from Relly’s talk.

Unfortunately I don’t feel this was the case. Although she was a very engaging speaker and was obviously very knowledgable I didn’t think the presentation acheived what in my opinion it set out to do;  convince people to put more emphasis on writing good copy.

Being a User Experience designer I know only too well how much I need to focus on the benefits to sell usability to clients and to a certain extent colleagues and although RellyAB did a good job of providing a basic introduction to the subject I didn’t feel it presented a strong enough arguement.

Having said that I was still able to take a lot from it.

3 things I took from RellyAB’s talk ‘Copywriting for the reluctant’:

  1. Be authentic – Believe in what you’re selling, provide tangable guarantees as to what it will do for the user
  2. Copywriting is a part of the Information Architecture – Copywriting should be considered as early as possible and ideally form part of initial user research so that common language can be understood before the IA is defined
  3. KFCK=Know what the REAL benefits are communicate them. F=Feel – empethise with the end user. C=Call to action – make sure there is one, make sure the copy is engaging enough that the user ‘makes like a toddler’ – “I want it now! now! NOW!”

Winning business in tough times (Paul Boag)

Paul Boag

Paul Boag (@boagworld)

Having seen Paul present before and also had the pleasure of meeting him I knew his talk would be a good one. He had the last slot of a very long day but took no prisoners and instantly woke every up! Being the geek that I am I actually listened to the latest episode of Boagworld on the drive down to Cornwall which was a bit of a shame as many of the pionts he made were covered in the lastest Podcast. However, he expanded on many of his points and definitely gave some food for thought. You can see his presentation ‘Winning business in touch times’ on Boagworld now so I won’t go on about it too much.

Paul’s presentation was in my opinion the best of the day, it balanced the need to inform and educate nicely with the need to inspire. Although most of what Paul covered illustrated how similar Headscape is to Redweb (something we discovered when he came in to speak to our designers late last year) it was still nice to have things confirmed and to know that you’re on the right lines.

3 things I took from Paul Boag’s talk ‘Winning business in touch times’:

  1. The audience – Although not directly linked to the presentation Boag was the only presenter to interact with the delegates and actually define who the audience was
  2. Marketing shouldn’t be a dirty word – People buy from people, not from brands
  3. Why spec work is evil – Spec work is evil, period. However I really liked the way Paul explained how he communicates this to clients. Basically, if you do spec work for 3 clients (A, B and C) during the pitch process and you only win 1 of the contracts (A) as a business you have to pass on the costs of the other pieces of spec work (B and C) to that client (A). Therefore by asking for spec work the client is effectively increasing their own bill. Paul probably explained this better but hopefully you get the general gist.

Was it worth it?

With any conference you always have to consider whether it was worth attending and by this I don’t just mean was it a good experience but was it financially worth it? In the current econimic climate (yawn) was it worth not only the conference fee but the expense of travelling to it and more to the point the time away from the studio to attend it in the first place.

The venue was fantastic and for a first conference I thought Rich Quick and his team at Rich Quick Design did a great job. The quality of the speakers was high and for £99 a ticket it definitely represented value for money.

That said I think there is definitely room for improvement if it is to run again next year, which I hope it does.

Knowing your audience

As mentioned above Boag was the only person to actually question who the audience was and the response he received was a real surprise. When it transpired that only a very small percentage of the attendees were freelancers Paul mentioned that this was not what he’d be told which leads me to believe that the organisers had miss-read their audience quite substantially.

This helped explain a lot as all the presentations seemed to pitch at different levels and to different interests. In my opinion if Bamboo Juice is to succeed long term it needs to learn from conferences such as Dconstruct and pick a theme so that the presenters can tailor their talks to suit the audience. As well as supporting the presenters is this way it was be useful to research into who the conferences audience actually is. Hopefully the organisers will now strike up a dialogue with the attendees to help shape the next Bamboo Juice.

Better picnics

A nice addition to the event was the concept of picnics – time dedicated to break out sessions were attendees could host discussions or mini-presentations. However, the general concensus of opinion was that the picnics were all quite poorly attended which was a real shame as some people seemed to have gone to a lot of effort to prepare them.

In hindsite if the picnics had been advertised in advance and delegates were asked to register interest before arriving they might have been more successful

The ultimate question – would I go again?

I’d like to think if Bamboo Juice was on again next year I’d attend, but only if it matures. For a first attempt it was well organised and of benefit but in what seems like an already crowded market with the likes of the Carsonified events and the fact that most people would have to travel a long way to get there it needs to learn lessons quickly.

If you have any comments on this post or Bamboo Juice in general I’d be really interested to hear them.

Related links

Update: I briefly met Clive Walker at Bamboo Juice and he’s also written a review over at his blog entitled ‘Bamboo Juice at the Eden project‘.

A monster has been created and its name is Meetdraw

Meetdraw - an event for creative digital animals... grr.

Meetdraw - an event for creative digital animals... grr.

What’s Meetdraw? I hear you cry, well cry no longer. Meetdraw is a series of informal get-togethers organised for and shaped by digital people. Basically its a meetup for anyone work in or interested by digital; whether designer, developer, blogger, UX practitioner, search specialist, twittaholic or student.

Meetdraw was born out of the desire to bring all the people passionate about digital on the South Coast together. A bunch of us  got talking about the lack of a solid community in the area and decided that the best course of action was to simply set a date and then organise an event that would hopefully start the ball rolling.

The inaugural event

The date we ended up picking was Thursday 12 March 2009, last Thursday in fact. The venue ibar in Bournemouth. We wanted to make sure we had a venue that suited the event:

  • big enough that we could fit everyone in comfortably
  • small enough so that we didn’t rattle around or have to share the space
  • close to transport links so that people from outside of Bournemouth might be tempted to come
  • free of charge to keep the cost down
  • and somewhere not too polished so as to nicely match the ethos of the first event (and the ibar certainly isn’t polished!)

A nice little bonus to using the ibar was that there are multiple screens all around the room so we were able to setup visuals, have a #meetdraw twitter feed on rotation and allow people internet access (which invariably ended up having porn splashed across it).

On the night

After weeks of mild panic, worrying that we wouldn’t be able to get everything sorted in time, the night was upon us. Frustratingly I had to head up to London during the day, unable to do more than simply sit back and watch as hundreds of emails flew between Meetdrawers hectically setting up for the night ahead.

By the time I arrived at 5pm the venue was setup and looked fantastic, then as 6 of us stood around silently hoping that if we all concentrated really hard we might just be able to control the barmaid through the power of our minds into opening the bar it started to dawn on us… ‘what if no one shows?’

"http://twitpic.com/219dm - Woohoo! 30 mins in and #meetdraw is filling up nicely"

"Woohoo! 30 mins in and #meetdraw is filling up nicely"

Thankfully by 6pm sharp our minds were put to rest as if by magic people started to poor in to the ibar. Half an hour later we had well over 50 people chatting eagerly and networking their little hearts out.

By 8ish we peaked at around 100 people successfully reaching the maximum capacity for the venue! Although we tried to play it cool I don’t think a single one of the Meetdraw10 could hide their excitement at the number of people that turned up to the first event.

Thanks have to go to everyone who showed up including all the students from Bournemouth University and AIB, Strange, Redweb, Refreshed, Strawberry Soup, Clickfire, Higher Sites, Experience Solutions (sorry for not getting a chance to speak to you!), BoysToys magazine, Adido, Mallmus Media (thanks for the photos) and everyone else… if I could list you all I would. But more importantly thanks to everyone who had a part in organising the first event you’re all legends. If you want to know more about the people behind the event head over to meetdraw.com.

What next?

It seemed that the main question being asked of us on Thursday night was “so what next?”.  I don’t think you could possibly ask more from a first event that the majority of people there want to know when the next one will take place, what the format will be and most of all how they can get involved.

Throughout the night we pimped out feedback cards so everyone could help us shape the next event. Money was put behind the bar as an incentive if one was needed but thankfully everyone chipped in and gave us their tupence worth.

Next week we’re getting together to work out what happens next and to trawl our way through over 100 f**kin’ feedback cards! Moving forward we really want more people to get involved in running Meetdraw.

If you’re interested in helping out in anyway please leave a comment below, send a tweet to Meetdraw or speak directly to one of the ’10’!

if you don’t want to help out but are interested in attending the next event follow Meetdraw on Twitter for all the latest guff.

Related stuff

Kickass: a review of FOWA Dublin 2009

fowa_dublin_graphic

Last weekend I managed to get out to Ireland for FOWA Dublin but unfortunately have only now found the time to write something about it!

I’ve been to Dublin a couple of times before and enjoy it more and more with each visit. This year I’m focusing on getting to as many events as possible in the hope that some of the great stuff thats talked about might actually sink in at some point and make me a better designer.

When I first heard about FOWA Dublin it made me wonder which would be cheaper; a train ticket to London plus accommodation or a flight to Dublin with accommodation. Having Bournemouth airport just a stones through away helped and it turned out that Dublin was fractionally cheaper. So accompanied by m’colleague David Burton we headed off to Dublin. Along the way we picked up a few other Dorset residents so by the time we arrived at FOWA we were a happy band of six – me, Burton, Tom, Jake and Mr and Mrs StrawberrySoup Neil and Keith.

Obviously taking so long to write a report has its downfalls and one of those is someone invariably beats you to it. Dave Concannon has written a pretty concise review of FOWA Dublin over at his blog ‘Ape of Steel’. If you want a complete rundown of the event head over to Dave’s blog to find out more. However, more annoyingly I’m not even the first person to blog about it out of our merry travelling band of designers! Tom’s written a great post about the trip to Dublin as well so once you’ve finished reading this rambling mess of a post head over to Tommy-boy does FOWA Dublin 2009.

Seeing as both Concannon and Tom have already done such a good job I thought I’d just keep my feedback to the sessions that I personally got the most out of and just share with you the main points that stuck with me. This isn’t to say the other sessions weren’t as good just that I didn’t have the faintest idea what they were talking about. Something about frameworks, a girl called Ruby and scrobbles, not sure whatever it means but it sounds painful. Anyway, here’s the presentations that I got the most out of:

  • Ryan Carson (Carsonified) – “14 ways to better webapps – Lessons learned from the acquisition of Dropsend.com”
  • Eoghan McCabe and Des Traynor – “Unconventional web applications”
  • David Heinemeier Hansson – “The Real World”

14 ways to better webapps (Ryan Carson)

Ryan Carson on stage at FOWA Dublin

Ryan Carson on stage at FOWA Dublin

First up was Mr Carson himself with an insiteful look into the in workings of webapp aquisition. Although this isn’t necessarily something I can see myself getting involved with anytime soon it was still beneficially to see some of the basic pitfalls layed out such an easily digestible way.

The style of presentation was straight forward and to the point and although not necessarily revolutionary or particularly inspiring every conference needs this kind of  step by step ‘guide to…’ to help ground things every know and again.

3 things I took away from Carson’s “14 ways to better webapps”:

  1. Signup. 37Signals Highrise saw a 200% increase in signup based on minor changes to a prominent call to action, namely changing the wording from “free signup” to “See plans and pricing”.
  2. A/B testing. More 37Signals love from Carson in the form of a link to this post –  ‘Writing Decisions: Headline tests on the Highrise signup page.’
  3. Be obsessive. Basically obsess over your analytics, always know the cost/revenue per head, and be sure to use your app every day, it’ll help you relate to your customers.

Unconventional web applications (Eoghan McCabe and Des Traynor)

In my opinion this was without doubt the best presentation at FOWA Dublin. Until now, I’m sorry to say, I haven’t been aware of Contrast.ie, the company represented by Eoghan and Des, although I am aware of some of their work, namely Qwitter.

slide 20 of 194

slide 20 of 194

The guys presented on the subject of conventions “a set of expectations that rule the way we view the world around us” and specifically they’re use within web design. The presentation moved between analysing the benefits of using conventions through to knowing when to break them. They presented at a million miles an hour and although at first I was dubious having mentioned that they had 200 slides to work through they did it so slickly it didn’t seem to matter.

They did a great job of simplifying down the idea of conventions and reinforcing the notion that by using them we reduce the friction of the users experience and reduce the learning curve of a given system.

But they went on to suggest that sticking with conventions restrict innovation. Furthermore as a designer if you stick with doing what everyone else is doing its just plain lazy.

I could go on but I won’t. Sufficed to say it was a great presentation and I can’t wait to watch it again when the video gets released later this week. In the meantime if you’re interested in finding out more take a look at the slides.

3 things I stole from Contrast:

  1. Conventions are good. Reduce friction and reduce learning curve.
  2. Conventions are bad. Kill innovation and breed laziness.
  3. Stop the sell. Webapps don’t allow the user to ‘own the app’. Branding is forced on to you at every opportunity unlike Basecamp that stands as a shining example of how to do it properly.

The real world (David Heinemeier Hansson)

To be honest following the car crash that was the ‘120 seconds of madness’ where start-ups were invited to pitch their ideas to the firing squad, sorry I mean expert panel, I wasn’t sure I’d take much away from the headline set a feeling that was reinforced by D2Hs harsh loud delivery peppered with the odd F word for dramatic effect… oooh edgy.

Once I was able to find a way to fashion my own socks into industrial strength ear protectors I actually started to enjoy the presentation and between the naughty words I find alot of really interesting stuff.

  • The real World is pessimistic, it’ll always knock your ideas and tell you why it wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t work.
  • There’s no such thing as too simple. If someone says its too simple you can be sure it’ll work e.g. iphone, Basecamp.
  • Don’t plan – plans rarely ever work.
  • Have the strength to say NO. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to your customers/clients but listening to them doesn’t mean you always have to say YES.
  • Popularity won’t make or break an app. Everyone has to start somewhere, popularity is built slowly and you have to work hard to get it.
  • Don’t just build something and sell it. Stick around and invest in making it successful. Just because someone bought it doesn’t make it successful.

And finally an inciteful look into the inner workings of 37Signals in the form of a quote from the man himself, D2H:

“Create a product good enough that people want to take it away and pay for it. Take profit home and play with it.” Simple.

3 things that D2H said that made it passed my socks and pierced my eardrums:

  1. Simplicity. Making something ‘too simple’ doesnt make it a bad idea.
  2. Say no. Listen to your customers but don’t be afraid to say no.
  3. Invest. Don’t sell out straight-away, invest yourself in the product and make it successful.

Amplified 09: networking at the network of networks

amplified

On Tuesday, after a rather pleasant lunchtime meeting in Hoxton with Justin Windle (Soulwire) and Mark Ng (@markng), I popped along to Amplified09 flanked by Redweb’s answer to the Chucklebrothers, David Burton and Carl Martin.

If you haven’t heard of Amplified before its a “network of networks with the intent of creating unity and collaboration throughout the digital/creative/production/media industries.”

I was planning to write a post on the whole experience but luckily Carl beat me to it and pretty much covered everything I was aiming to! So if you want to read the post I was going to write read Carl’s post (Review: Amplified 09 (Tiger Tiger, London) #amp09) instead.

In short the event seemed to be a real success. The concept of breakout sessions every hour where groups could discuss predefined topics was an interesting one and something I hadn’t been a part of before. As I’m currently helping to setup a new event, in the form of Meetdraw, it was really useful to see how Amplified09 worked and there was definitely some elements that we’ll be looking to incorporate into Meetdraw in the near future.

Over at Mobile Advertising Matters Carl’s already highlighted the 2 main issues to come out of Amplified09  but to reiterate:

  • Timing – an hour seemed like a long time but by the time sessions had been setup and introductions made it soon ran out.
  • Facilitation – it was nice that everyone involved in the discussion were equal but I think it would have been far more productive for each topic if there had been a facilitator to assist.

Further to Carls points:

  • Rules – I really liked the 3 rules;
    • The 1 tweet rule – Only tweet once, after a session has ended. Mention the best thing about that session and include the event #hashtag
    • 1 mouth 2 ears – Everyone needs to participate, don’t just talk at people, but also don’t sit back and just listen
    • The 2 feet rule – If you’re not benefiting from a discussion get up and walk away.

Although certain elements left me disappointed I don’t think I’d rule out attending a future Amplified event as its always good to meet new like-minded people and I’m sure given more time I’d learn to appreciate the setup more.

If you were at Amplified09 and have an alternative outlook please feel free to comment below.