15th September 2016
The North remembers. And by that, we mean the North of England hasn’t forgotten NUX4 and is surely looking forward to this year’s event. To be fair, not just the North, as NUX5 is once again likely to attract people from all over the country, besides some pretty well-known international speakers.
In 2015, Barry Briggs was the pro UXer able to spare a few minutes out of his busy schedule and talk about NUX4. Fast forward one year and it’s now time to meet the new chosen one: Rick Threlfall, Principal User Experience Architect at Waters and one of the brave people behind NUX5.
Although the event is only three weeks away, Rick had a few minutes to answer our questions about the conference.
🎙 Let’s start with your involvement in NUX. Is this a long term love story or a recent affair?
The short answer is: not from the start, but I’ve been attending for around six years and involved in organising for nearly three years now. I was purely a fascinated attendee during the first three. Since moving over to the organising team, I’ve helped with the free monthly events, our two workshop events (NUX Camp) in Leeds along with NUX3, 4 and now 5.
🎙 NUX5 is close and you are expecting around 600 people to attend the event! Looking back to the first NUX, which was attended by around 100 people, do you now feel like you have created a monster that cannot be stopped?
[Insert laugh!] I believe everything needs to be worked on to keep momentum and interest, so while I’m not so sure about ‘cannot be stopped’, we are genuinely excited about what we do for our day jobs. It might sound a bit cheesy, but having that passion and wanting to put back into the digital community is what gets us excited (and panicky and a bit stressed) about creating an affordable conference with big name speakers.
It’s vital to us that this event stays both not-for-profit and also retains a community feel. These, and not wishing to tempt the bubble to burst, are key reasons we decided to stick to 600 people.
🎙 Last year, Barry Briggs mentioned NUX’s “shambolic” elements and added “there’s no danger of any ultra-slick professionalism with us”. Are you keeping up with the tradition in 2016?
At the end of the day, we are a bunch of designers and researchers who love our work and want to get an event together for everyone who wants to come. I’ll say that, on the day, the team really comes together with the goal of making it a great experience for all. I’ll be camped out backstage trying to keep things on schedule, while the rest of the team (and our wonderful volunteers) will look after various aspects of the front-of-house.
There is a certain shambolic community event element, although I’m hoping that stays mostly behind the scenes on the actual day. This is also why, for the last three events, we have had a compere on stage.
🎙 What can we expect from Boon Sheridan’s and Henny Swan’s keynotes? What about the other speakers?
Boon’s talk will most definitely be entertaining; he always comes packing a slightly off-the-wall element; but with a very solid underlying meaning and take-homes. From him, I think you can expect a very inspiring and informative.
For Henny, we’ll be getting some real-world stories and a strong practical edge on how to bake accessibility into our solutions without compromising the experience at any level. Henny has a stack of experience and wisdom in the realm of a11y, we’ll get some solid and sage advice given that can be used right away.
All of our speakers are terrific story tellers with a stack of experience to draw on. I met Boon, Glenn and Karina at UX Week (a conference in San Francisco), and that’s also where I saw Boon and Karina speak for the first time. Seeing the talks and how the audience reacted was what inspired me to suggest that we invite them over.
Along with the three international speakers, we have four home-grown. Between them, they’ll be covering quite a range of topics with that practical edge I mentioned being a theme for a number of those talks – something to really take back and put into practice. Along with the keynotes, we’ll hear about security UX (often topical and often missed!), conversational user interfaces, recognising and tackling ‘wicked’ problems and a couple more that will be revealed soon.
🎙 Tell us a bit about this year’s NUX Camp, which happened in April in Leeds. Are you already planning the next one?
We had terrifically positive feedback from this year’s NUX Camp and we’ve started planning (we’ve also started planning the NUX6 conference). We’ve been looking at timing, venues, workshop hosts and putting a few key pieces in place. As we approach the conference date, our focus is there, of course, but once that’s done we’ll be back on it. Got to keep the momentum going!
🎙 Overall, should people brace themselves for any changes to the typical NUX set up?
We’ve added a few tweaks, and we should have some pretty cool goody bags. Other than that, we’ve kept the overall format largely unchanged. We have a retrospective every year to discuss what worked and we always welcome feedback – both bad and good. Without testing and feedback, you don’t know if you are making the right product.
🎙 Personally, what are you really looking forward to do on the day or which speaker are you most excited about?
Since I hang around backstage coordinating the schedules and prepping the next speaker, I don’t actually get to see much of the talks until I watch them back on video! I do love that whole experience, though. It’s very intense – around 10 hours of feeling wired –, but it’s a rewarding kind of intense. I enjoy the whole process and the best bit, to say something cheesy again, is when the attendees have had a great day!
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