The highly anticipated Midwest UX 2014 user experience conference is just around the corner, so I checked in with Noelle Webster, one of four primary volunteer organizers from the host city of Indianapolis. As you would expect from a UX conference, the Midwest UX website is packed with great information, but I did come up with a few questions of my own that I think help to shed a little more light on why every UXer, developer, designer, marketer, content creator, strategist, beginner and forward thinker in Indy should register and attend.
The organizing team was very deliberate in choosing to bring this conference to Indy. The city’s UX and design capabilities are growing as rapidly as Indianapolis itself, and the organizers wanted to make sure the community continues to support that growth and remains connected. The hope is that this conference will help to fortify those connections and foster an even stronger community.
Up to 400 people are expected to attend Midwest UX in Indianapolis, which is now in its fourth year since the concept took off out of Columbus, Ohio. According to Noelle, ticket sales have been doing great! There are local, regional, and national attendees signed up. They’d really like to see Indianapolis represent at the event. She’s hoping Hoosiers and Indy residents will take advantage of the event’s proximity and attend an awesome conference right in their back yard.
How were the speakers, workshops and other activities chosen for this year’s Midwest UX?
Before we even had a call for speakers, our team set out to learn about conferences and get feedback from our local community at the Indy UX Salon meetup group. What we heard is that our community wanted to change the normal conference experience. We wanted to make things together — be collaborative, not just sit and listen to speakers. So we researched the Maker Movement and decided to apply an underlying theme of “making” for the conference.
Additionally, as an organizing team, we wanted new content, not the same things you hear at every conference. We wanted our attendees to learn about what they need to know in the future. So we also wanted to use the theme of “What’s Next in UX” as a lens for content.
We had a two-month open call for speakers in late Spring. We received and read through 271 submissions — no small feat! We met many times and filtered through the talks, using the criteria of: are they a new or seasoned speaker, are they from the Midwest, and is their topic in the vein of what’s next? It took about four weeks in June and July to deliberate and narrow it down to 24 speakers. In addition, we selected seven speakers (including the keynote) who are very seasoned in these topics and invited them to speak at the conference. In total, we have seven speakers at six workshops, and 32 speakers at 31 conference sessions.
Recognizing that each session will have its own takeaways, could you identify some overarching conference takeaways for attendees?
We’re talking a lot about emerging technologies, wearables, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. The conference seeks to bring answers to how these things will impact the human experiences designers will be making in the future. How will new technologies impact the industry? How might career paths change? How will we need to change the work we are doing to adapt to the new ways people interact with the world because of how technology affects us? The takeaways will be grounded in addressing these questions.
What are the three most important things you would say to someone who has never before attended, but definitely pre-qualified (like many TechPoint subscribers)?
- This conference is a grassroots initiative to build strong UX, design and tech communities in its host location. It’s organized locally by a team of folks who want to support and strengthen the Indy community of startups, developers, designers, UXers, marketers, content strategists, product managers and owners, etc.
- This is a low cost, high value conference. A conference of this nature on one of the coasts will cost you around $4,000-5,000 for travel and conference fees. This is right in Indy’s backyard and it’s only $350 for 2 days of outstanding content and activities.
- Midwest UX is specifically designed to be laid back. You won’t be bombarded by sales, or have any high-pressure situations. We’ve made sure this experience will feel like you’re just hanging out with co-workers and friends learning about what’s next in designing and building experiences for the UX, design and tech industries.
— Midwest UX (@midwestUX) October 14, 2014