Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

UX in all the Odd Places

05/27/2016

I had a bit of a crisis last fall. My pal Andrew Mayfield asked me to keynote UX New Zealand. Of course I was dying to go to New Zealand. But they wanted me to give a new talk, and the very thought makes me sweat. What new things might I have to say about UX? Do I even do UX anymore?

After all, these days I spend my time putting out books and putting on conferences. Web sites and apps? Not so much. I’m not even sure I know the difference between a breakpoint and a touchpoint. So who am I to talk to UX practitioners about UX? 25+ years in the field, yet here I was, suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.

Many false starts, meltdowns, and 4am Keynote sessions later, I finally had a breakthrough. It’s not that I don’t do UX anymore. It’s that UX applies to way more than apps and web sites. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade doing extensive UX work on traditional products, like books, and physical experiences, like conferences. So that’s exactly what I covered in my UXNZ keynote. Books and conferences are experiential, so yep: the work still counts as UX.

D’uh. I guess it’s one of those oh-so-obvious observations that aren’t so obvious when they pertain to you.

But it is a liberating feeling. And it’s renewed my excitement about UX, because:where doesn’t UX apply?

Conferences offer almost unlimited opportunities to UX the hell out of stuff. With our last virtual conference—Product Management + User Experience—we found that basing our program on user research was immensely valuable, helping us select both speakers and topics. And many of you agreed; there was a strong correlation between your participation in program planning and your desire to actually attend the event.

So we’re doing it again with our next virtual conference—Design Research for Everyone, which is slated for some time this fall. Here’s our question: What do people who aren’t UX practitioners need to learn about design research?

Please help us do our user research by letting us know who should speak and on which topics—and sharing this with others who might be interested.

What odd contexts are you finding ripe for UX? Please comment below; I’d love to hear your stories of UX in non-traditional places.