I’ve just spent a couple of happy days in Atlanta with user experience folk from around the world. UPA conferences always create a variety of emotions.
At times it’s a sense of frustration that it seems to be a slow-changing forum on the fast-changing international design scene. Just as the world seems to be waking up to the importance of user experience, UPA can seem a little shy about stepping forward into the limelight. Personally I worry that the association could get shouldered out of the way by more ambitious groups looking to take the lead in the user-centred revolution that’s taking place.
Also, it can sometimes seem that there’s too much focus on practice: perfecting the detail of methods and techniques, with too little about the bigger picture and how UPA needs to engage with other professions. This is a reasonable criticism, but the busy sharing of ideas and approaches is also a strength.
The reason I enjoy UPA conferences is exactly because of this focus on tradecraft. Professionally it’s really nourishing to spend some time away from the everyday, thinking about the things I do every day.
Whether it’s a session about body language in moderation with Brooke Baldwin, spending a few hours with Google’s Tomer Sharon talking about stakeholder management, or getting some ideas on street research with Martin Belam from the Guardian, it’s good to get some thinking time – especially in the company of so many talented and experienced people.
Next year’s theme of Leadership for the conference in Las Vegas is a good choice. I think it’s time to ask ourselves if we have the appetite to lead the way, and how we develop the skills to do it. Personally, I want to be sure that the elevator we’re on has buttons all the way up to the top floor.