Category Archives: Events & Conferences

Events and Conferences featuring UE-related topics

#MuC15: “What exactly is a UX manager?”

Today at Mensch & Computer 2015 conference, Ulf Schubert and I held a panel on the topic of “What exactly is a UX manager?”. I’ve been interested in that topic ever since I started managing UXers, about two years ago, and have been looking for ways to improve my skills at UX management, looking at various programs but not quite finding the one I wanted to go with. So when the Call for Papers for the MuC15 conference went out, I realized this was the best opportunity to get the discussion started – in the German-speaking countries (there’s been a lively discussion on the international stage anyway, e.g. Brandon Schauer, Margaret Stewart).

When Henning Brau, Ulf Schubert and I started talking about the format of the session, we quickly realized there were at least two definitions of “UX Manager” (obviously, I’m more interested in Type 1 UX Managers):

Type 1: UX Manager as Creative Director or UX Lead: Person responsible for a product or product area, leading the UX team:

  • UX Lead (leadership in terms of direction and creation)
  • People manager

Type 2: UX Manager as Change manager: Person within a product area or the company responsible for the topic of “UX”, leading and shaping the topic, often without personnel responsibility. Also known as “Design Czar”, “Chief Design Officer”, “Design Executive Officer”.

This morning, we had a lovely group of about 20 participants with a variety of backgrounds and occupations, ranging from students to people in various UX roles to quite a few UX managers from all industries. From our group of attendants, about 1/3 considered themselves a Type 1 manager, about 2/3 Type 2.

After quickly going over Brandon Schauer’s characteristics of a UX manager, we started with position statements:

  • Mitch: Big challenge in how to properly lead a team while also trying to still contribute meaningfully to the product’s design
  • Ulf: In the long run, UX Managers of Type 2 will become extinct as they fulfill their jobs.

We then engaged in a Fishbowl-style discussion with various participants taking active roles in the conversation with topics covering:

  • Organizational structures in various enterprises
  • How roles change over time
  • Whether or not Type 2 managers will become extinct (may have to do with the Corporate Maturity Scale: Nielsen, HFI
  • How to split your time between leading the team and creating strategy (and whether or not that would be a great point in time to insert another layer underneath you)
  • How to become a UX Manager

Overall, a most satisfactory session – I quite enjoyed the conversations and the energy in the room. A big Thank You to all the participants and my Co-Chair Ulf (and Henning, who couldn’t make it today)!

Coverage for WUD 2010 in Zürich

Last Wednesday I gave a talk on "UX as the 'project glue' in product development projects" at the Zürich World Usability Day 2010 to an audience of approx. 120 people! My central statement was: Usability Professionals are in a unique position to becoming the "project glue" within product development processes because two layers we operate on: our deliverables serve as a focus point for business requirements and technical implementation, and our methods help structure internal communciation within the team as well as drive user-centered innovation. The talk was very well received – got lots of great questions afterwards, and there are a couple really nice comments on Twitter and in the blogosphere as well. Here are some pictures (thanks to @swissupa)

Sweet spot 

Focus point

Also would like to link to the great illustrations the talented artist Roland Stahel was doing while listening to our talks. Take a look at his photostream on Flickr!

More great stuff at this World Usability Day event:

  • Clive van Heerden (Philips) showed some fascinating "design probes"
  • Sibylle Peuker (Zeix) spoke about innovative communication and showcased a couple of examples from her previous work at Swisscom Innovation and her new endeavors at Zeix AG
  • Patrick Grässle (KnowGravity) told us about quality assurance in requirements engineering
  • Rinaldo Dieziger (Supertext) held a very engaging presentation on the power of the word and how to write good copy
  • Sascha Weisshaupt (Swisscom) elaborated on branding and re-creating a brand

Overall, this was a fantastic event with a very engaged audience and great presentations. Thanks a lot to the organizers and sponsors!

Talk at Zürich WUD 2010: “UX as ‘project glue'”


I'll give a talk on the role of "UX as 'project glue' in product development" at the World Usability Day in Zürich on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010 (in German). I'll cover how UX contributes critically to the project's success through process and structure and through deliverables.

Please follow this link to sign up for this year's Zürich WUD:

Looking forward to seeing you guys there!

Best Session Award for our Tutorial on Form Usability

At this year's "Vielmehr" conference (what was formerly known as "Mensch & Computer") in Lübeck, Germany[GP:luebeck], my colleage Iris Niedermann and I presented a paper and a tutorial. The paper (called "Usability Professionals – a role playing game") was targeted at young professionals and experienced people looking for a change of jobs; the tutorial (called "Form Usability for dummies") covered the basics of form usability and design and included a long team exercise redesigning a couple of difficult forms. Even if we had hoped to win the Best Session Award, guess how surprised and delighted we were to learn we had actually won it for our tutorial!

The prize for the award was the German version of Jim Kalbach's book on Web Navigation 🙂 Now I've got it in both languages. When I met Jim a couple of days later, he found that funny too. 

Presentation of the results of the exercise

Again, at this Vielmehr conference, I wasn't intrigued to attend any of the "Mensch & Computer" sessions and focused exclusively on the Usability Professionals track, which doesn't really come as a surprise. 

“Mensch und Computer” conference, Lübeck, September 7-10, 2008

"Mensch & Computer" is the biggest usability-focused conference in the German-speaking sphere. Over the last couple of years, it used to feature a "UPA Track" to take into account not only academics' needs, but also practioners' specific questions and wishes. This year, the overarching motto is "Viel Mehr" ("much more"), and it encompasses the Mensch & Computer, DelFi, Cognitive Design, and Usability Professionals conferences! It will take place in Lübeck, Germany, from September 7-10, 08.

My esteemed colleague, Iris Niedermann from soultank AG, and I will be giving one tutorial on form usability (UP T6) and one paper on roles in the usability job universe (UP V6), as you can see in the conference program. Come look our shop!

CHI 2008 – April 5-10, 2008, Florence, Italy

CHI 2008 logoEarlier this month, I had the chance to go to Florence to attend the 2008 CHI conference. I had been looking forward to CHI for several reasons: After being disappointed by HCII last year, I was hoping for a more practitioner-oriented conference; I knew that a lot of people I knew would be going; I had been involved in the review process; and I wanted to (finally) go to Italy. Speaking of Italy: I've still got that "Florence, Idddallly" sound in my ears, and it'll take a while to wear off.

Saturday, April 5

My colleague Jonah and I chose to take the night train from Zürich to Florence instead of flying – a 9 hours journey on an Italian train that felt like the 70s on rails 🙂 Definitely an interesting experience, setting the scene for the conference. Think I had expected something more like the German railway sleeper trains. D'oh.

Sunday, April 6

Attended the full-day workshop #17: "Now let's do it in practice: User experience evaluation methods in product development". It had not been easy to get into this workshop, even though I had acted as a reviewer for four of its papers. The workshop turned out to be good and valuable, but I was amazed (again) at the disconnect between what academia did and what "the industry" needed. This surfaced most obviously in the breakout sessions in the afternoon, when mixed groups discussed their approaches and assumptions. Defining even what "user experience" means turned out to be a major challenge. Sneaked into course 1: "Mobile interaction design patterns" (which was good), but had to leave early b/c of hunger. I was starving by then. Speaking of which: food was extremely hard to come by, and most food I had in Florence was a total disappointment (with one notable exception). I have been told that the food quality increased dramatically once the conference was over. Met with the Hamburg UPA chapter for dinner.


Monday, April 7

Attended the opening plenary but was severely unimpressed by the speaker, Irene McAra-McWilliam. Took course 4: "Mobile interaction design practice", which was delightful. Great instructors, great real-life insights, very nicely done. Hung around the Google booth during the late afternoon / evening.

Tuesday, April 8

Attended the panel "Media spaces: Past visions, current realities, future promise", which was good (panelists: Ron Baecker, Steve Harrison, Bill Buxton, Steven Poltrock, Elizabeth Churchill). A nice introduction into the history of CSCW and video conferencing. I also attended the panel "What would you do with a 1 million dollar UX marketing budget", even though the title was slightly misleading (panelists: Luke Kowalski, Carola Thompson, Tom Chi, Darren McCormick, Omar Vasnaik, Peter Heller). Got so angry at Ms Thompson saying that UX was a relatively new field within SAP that I had to leave. She said that UX had only been around for three years – remember: I left SAP three years ago after four years of UX work, and there were UX colleagues who had spent 10 and 15 years there. What a disservice. Spent the afternoon and the evening calming down at the booth, helping during the job fair etc.

Wednesday, April 9

Attended the hospitality events (Google's and Microsoft's) in the evening. Guess which one was better! 🙂

Thursday, April 10

Took course 20: "Key issues in planning and making sense of international field research" by Susan Dray. This was the second course I attended with Mrs Dray (first one was at HCII 2007), but I was rather unimpressed this time. She didn't manage to create a rapport with the audience, and her having an somewhat unpleasant and embarrassing fight with her husband in front of the class didn't help. Also attended course 24: "Designing location-based experiences", which was interesting – the instructors had set up some information points on the conference grounds, and participants could explore those with a GPS-enabled iPaq PDA. Unfortunately it felt as if it was a scripted audio guide rather than an interactive experience. In the late afternoon, I attended the closing plenary "From the materialistic to the experiential – A changing perspective on design", delivered by Bill Buxton, which for me certainly was the highlight of the conference. In a delighting and inspiring talk, Mr Buxton reflected on the design profession and where it was headed. Later took the night train back to Zürich (10 hours :-)).

Overall impression

This was my third CHI (after 2002 in Minneapolis and 2004 in Vienna). I think CHI has been moving in the right direction, taking practitioners' needs more into consideration. Still, I found the disconnect between academia and practice a bit disconcerting. It was an interesting but somewhat time-consuming additional honor to act as a reviewer for CHI papers (for the #17 workshop and one or two additional papers). I was glad to see that my critique of most of the papers was reflected by the other reviewers' impressions.

I chose to mainly attend the panels because papers can always be re-read in a different setting, while panels tend to create dynamics of their own. Most courses I took were well worthwhile, too. In addition, CHI is always a great opportunity to create and refresh professional relationships (citing Jonah: "Stop knowing everyone!" :-)).

Of course I made some pictures of Florence during my stay there.

Attending CHI 2008 in Florence!

This year's CHI (Computer-Human Interaction) conference will take place from 5 to 10 April 08 in Florence, Italy. They are expecting ~2000 attendees from 38 countries. I've always enjoyed going to CHI conferences – they offer a unique blend of current research and topics that are more geared towards practitioners. You can still get the early bird rate if you sign up before Feb 10! For me, there was one big disappointment with this year's CHI, even before the conference started: I was asked to be on the program committee for a workshop: "Now Let's Do it in Practice: User Experience Evaluation Methods in Product Development". I reviewed four papers in my spare time. Now it turns out that the CHI organizers assigned so small a room to the workshop that a maximum of two authors per paper can attend – and the reviewers cannot take part in the workshop. Quite frustrating. 🙁

World Usability Day 2007: Making It Easy!

World Usability Day 2007 logo
November 8 saw this year's worldwide No. 1 usability event – the World Usability Day, conceived by the international Usability Professionals Association (UPA) and carried out in 23 countries by local UPA chapters or other interested parties. I took part in the event in Hamburg, Germany, which attracted over 300 people from industry, administration, and academia. My invited talk on Google User Experience was the final element of this great and well organized event and was very well-received by the approximately 150 people in the audience. Exciting!