Why we started User Research North

A meet up for people interested in human behaviour, and designing products and services around user needs and jobs.

Big thanks to Jack Sheppard for the artwork.

I was attending a UX conference in Manchester in the spring of 2017. During one of the talks, the speaker asked…

“Can you put your hand up if you are a designer of some fashion?” The majority of hands went up.

“Okay you can put your hands down. Now, can you put your hand up if you’re a developer of some kind?” A good chunk of hands raised around the room.

“And finally, can you put your hand up if you do something different?”

My hand went up. The only hand in the room to go up.

“What are you then?” Asked the speaker, as if I were some sort of alien.

“I’m a User Researcher.” I replied.

“Oh yeah….” Said the speaker.

This wasn’t the first time: I go to a lot of conferences and meet ups, and I rarely meet other researchers.

This sense of being an outsider changed when I went to User Research London in the summer. This was the first research dedicated conference I had attended and others had flocked from all over the country to attend as well. Here was a sizeable community of Researchers, from different organisations in different sectors. Feeling inspired by the speakers and conversations at User Research London, James and I got chatting and decided we wanted to produce more of those conversations where we lived and worked, in the north. Hence, User Research North.

What is User Research North?

User Research North is a monthly meet up with speakers curated around a theme. We aim for this to be community driven and to this end, ideas for themes and speakers will be solicited at the meet ups. To start with, tickets will be free and there will be food and drink but we are doing this as a bit of an experiment so that could change.

Who is it for?

The design and UX community is very well served by excellent events like Ladies that UX, NUX and Craft, yet the research community feels somewhat underserved. We want to capture what they have done and create something similar for those doing research including design research, user research, behavioural analytics and of course designers, product leads, and developers who are interested in what users do and why they do it. We know that the route into research can be an unconventional one and that’s why we would also love to see students there so we can offer help and advice.

What do we want to achieve with it?

Although we call it a “meet up”, we’d like to think it’s a bit more than that. Our hope is that User Research North will help cultivate a stronger research community, through sharing experiences and ideas, and become a place to meet other like-minded individuals as well as inspire more people to do research.

What do we believe?

Together we bring values from both BBC (where I work) and Co-op (where James works) such as equality, fairness and respect. We want to highlight the diverse, beautiful and unique facets of our community by providing a place where people are free from judgement, ideas can be challenged and differences in opinion are welcomed. If you ever feel we are not upholding these values, never be afraid to challenge us. We will do all we can to make sure our line up of speakers is diverse and from multiple disciplines from across the research spectrum. We have signed The Diversity Charter and you can read also read our Code of Conduct.

When and where is it?

Our first event is on 5th October 2017 from 6:30pm at Federation House in Manchester. The theme is ‘Unusual Places, Uncommon Users’. Mark Branigan and Gillian MacDonald will be speaking, with more to be announced soon.

Tickets have now all gone but you can still join the waiting list on Eventbrite.

You can follow us on Twitter @URNorth, @Jamesb and @WalkerUXRanger. We hope to see you there.