In August I was part of UXWeek, the premier user experience design conference, and it was a huge success!

UX Week 2011 was held in San Francisco between August 23rd to 26th. Design professionals from all over the world gathered for four days of community, inspiration and skills building. Now in its ninth year, the UX delivers new tools you can put in to use immediately, not to mention a bunch of new friends and colleagues. I was part of the conference and here are the highlights of my experience

– Almost all the sponsors, at least 5 out of 6 with standing, Zappos, Samsung, Code for America, Salesforce, Opower, Vitamin T, and organizer company Adaptive Path were looking for UX people to hire. Are we missing people with UX skills?

– The conference was opened by Jesse James Garrett, he welcomed everyone and presented the Adaptive Path iPad app. This was a nice app with videos of all past UX Week conferences and much more.

– First keynote was from Jaron Lanier; he started playing a weird wind instrument and surprised everyone. His presentation was about the history of avatars and how technology only made a couple of people very rich when it could be distributed much better and make everybody happy.

In January 2010 Lanier published the book “You Are Not a Gadget, A Manifesto”; which the New York Times described as “necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day is reshaping culture and the marketplace”. I noticed a phrase of Jaron, almost at the end of his presentation he said “came on guys to change user experience you need to be bold”.

– Latter I assisted in Todd Walthall’s presentation. The subject of his dissertation was “When Left Meets Right: How a Senior Business Executive With a Self-Professed Love of Numbers Learned About the Power of Visual Thinking and UX Design”.

Todd works for USAA, a Fortune 500 financial services company offering banking, investing, and insurance to people and families that serve in the United States military and number #1 in customer service by Forrester Research. He explained how USAA transformed its online user experience to the next level. The company core values are service, loyalty, honesty and integrity. The most difficult part was to align all the executives about what it means to have a digital experience.
Another interesting fact and to take in consideration of this company is that USAA was the first company that published an iPhone app to deposit checks remotely!

– Then Chad Jennings, VP at Blurb, presented “Designing People-powered Products”. He talked about an explosion of new online business models and technologies that enable people to create their very own product lines without the need to set up a traditional brick and mortar shop. This user-generated industrial revolution—or People Powered Products — means people can truly unleash their creativity and produce retail-quality products. Examples of these trends are Nike, Cafe Press, Blurb and more.

– The next conference was in charge of Kristian Simsarian, the Chair of Interaction Design at California College of Art. She talked about the importance of educating the next generation of interaction designers. The Interaction Design Program’s mission at CCA is to create a leading undergraduate educational experience to train future designers. Starting in 2010, and facing a huge number of challenges such as the lack of precedent undergraduate programs, technology’s fast rate of change, etc. The first class will graduate in 2014!

– Mark Trammell & Jesse James Garrett talked about “Creating Engagement on Twitter”, case study/research about engaging twitter users after his/her sign-up. The main highlight of the research was that the twitter model (bring you to twitter and made you to stay) evolved from celebrities, friends and me to celebrities, friends, me, news, passion and local. In the presentation Mark and Jesse showed different sign-up screens, workflows, and the addition of a third step on sign-up process which increased engagement on 29%.

– Later was the turn of Paul Adams, Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook. He presented a very interesting topic “How our social circles influence what we do, where we go, and how we decide” Paul talked about a couple of attractive points about social media and how people are influence by social networks. First of all, he presented the different types of connections strong (about 5 people) and weak ties (average of 150 people), how people create different groups around activities, hobbies, family and passions.

Paul also talked about the decision process to by things and how we are influenced by strong ties.

Closing his session, he sent a clear message: “The process of buying/influence is changing from A to B. Where A is a traditional blogger/reader model to B social media buy/influence”.

– At last, Adam Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Hipmunk, spoke about “UX As Product Strategy: Differentiation in a Crowded Market”. Hipmunk is a better flight and hotel search site that stand out from a crowed online travel market. Adam talked about how his company used user experience as product differentiation. Here are some screenshots:

Main search page

Flight page, in this case showing results based on agony, waiting time:

Hotel page, showing heatmap based on tourism attractions:

This was a huge event. I am very happy to have been part of the UXWeek!
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