May 2015 - Midwest UX Conference 2015

Get Your Hands Dirty


Think, draw, embrace, joke, leverage, defend…grit, magic, trenches, games, curiosity, sharks…complex, dirty, awesome, real, thriving, honest.

OK, you’ve piqued our interest.

The submissions are rolling in and it’s a great time to be a Midwest UX Program reviewer. The UX community does not disappoint when it comes to submitting proposals. We’re pouring over fascinating topics and the beginnings of an engaging, compelling conference experience are emerging. We’re excited about the potential for the gathering of people and exchange of ideas that will happen in October. Thank you. And keep them coming.

People, ideas…and things. One of the great parts about practicing UX design is that our discipline has this wonderful balance of thinking and doing; reflecting and making. And let’s face it, we have some pretty cool techniques and methods that we can deploy to get our work done. We want to celebrate this aspect of our discipline at this year’s Midwest UX conference with our Hands-On sessions. These sessions highlight skills, methods, and techniques that UXers can practice in order to capture ideas, understand people, facilitate decision-making, present solutions, reach consensus…you get the idea. What can you share with colleagues about effective ways you’ve found to do your work? Do you have a method for fast-but-thorough note-taking while engaging with users? What’s your secret weapon for visually summarizing research data? What’s the closest you’ve come to waving a magic wand to convert sketches into low-fi prototypes? What are your favorite templates? (The only thing a UXer loves more than a whiteboard is a template.)

Convert your insights into a Hands-On session and show your colleagues what you’ve got. Attendee feedback from previous conferences shows that people crave learning new skills. These 40-minute sessions will provide attendees with some practical methods that they can try back at work. We’re prepared to set up our venue with small-group seating around tables to facilitate digging in and collaborating on-the-spot if that helps. We’ve got you covered.

C’mon. Get your hands dirty. You know you want to. Submit your proposal today.

Midwest UX, Pittsburgh-Style

I didn’t volunteer to be on the Midwest UX 2015 organizing committee. My husband tricked me into it.

Bobby was the lone member of the Communications Committee and he asked me to help with “just this one small thing.” He’s as savvy as can be when it comes to social media and most things digital, but writing just isn’t his thing. I’ve been writing professionally for a while so when he needs words, he comes to me.

I wrote some of the copy on this site and since I hadn’t attended past Midwest UX conferences, I read through marketing materials from previous years to get up to speed. What I found interesting is what I believe differentiates the conference from some of the others. Midwest UX founders tap into UX professionals from host cities to take the lead in organizing the conference. Erik Dahl and Brandon Stephens are heavily involved in selecting speakers and choosing conference topics, but the organizing committee is shaping the experience.

Why does it matter who organizes the conference?
Because the decisions we make about everything from venues to menus are based on firsthand experience. Think about it, an out-of-town planner would consult a “Best of” website, read a bunch of reviews or call a Chamber of Commerce and then choose whatever theater, restaurant or caterer was recommended. If you’ve lived in Pittsburgh for a while, you know there are a lot of amazing restaurants, fantastic venues and quirky other places that won’t show up in any guidebook. We’ve chosen places we’ve come to love through experience and they’ll likely be places attendees wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

It’s about who you know and who knows you.
Countless messages have gone back-and-forth between committee members about who knows what person at which company or agency in town. Technology changes quickly and, as UX professionals, we acquire new skills and tend to want to move on to different professional challenges. In other words, we may change jobs more often than the average bear. What that yields though, is a large extended network of folks we can contact to participate in and contribute to the conference. It’s also a network of influential people who can share content about the conference out to an even wider circle of influencers.

You’d think relying on new people to execute a conference each year would be stressful for Midwest UX founders. If past years have been anything like 2015 though, they’ve had volunteers who are as committed as they are to creating an interesting, memorable conference experience. This Pittsburgh-based organizing committee is planning a conference built on the strong foundation Erik and Brandon have established, but adding our collective experiences to it to make it our own.

Our hope is that we’ve created a conference that is unmistakably Midwest UX with an atmosphere that is uniquely Pittsburgh.