How to raise awareness of UX and build a community

Jenny Shen
Oct 22, 2018 · 7 min read

This was first published on the Advice Column of my mailing list. Every now and then, I answer an interesting question from a reader.

Q: I wanted to ask for your advice about building a design community since you’ve been very successful in establishing Ladies that UX in Amsterdam. In our city, there is a lot of interest in UX but there are only a few UX practitioners. Literally, I can count in my hand the number of people practising UX. A co-worker and I wanted to build a community here to raise UX awareness and maybe eventually help in providing them with opportunities. The problem is, there aren’t that many experienced speakers here for UX as most of them are in Manila (two-hour plane ride away) and we have not yet raised any funds to bring them in. Do you have any suggestions for what activities we could conduct, or maybe other ways to bring awareness to UX here?
— Shannen, designer based in Davao City, Philippines


I’m glad you want to start a community and raise awareness of something you’re passionate about. Way to go Shannen! When I started Ladies that UX Amsterdam and the Remote Taiwan community, I had never imagined either of them would become such big communities. Both of the communities each have more than 2000 members to date.

I didn’t have an education or job experience in the community building field. I just apply design thinking to these matters — thinking from the users’ point of view and that seems to have worked. :)

Here are my advice, experience and some ideas about starting communities.

#1 Just do it

When I started both communities, I started by myself without knowing how much demand was there or if anyone was interested. I only knew that no one else was doing what I wanted to do. I started the communities because I’m personally interested in the topics (UX, diversity & inclusion and remote work), and I wanted to find like-minded people.

The first Remote Taiwan event, I invited Tony whom I know from Toptal. I organized the event myself and we were both speakers. The event was well received and the event was sold out — 60 people showed up and there were many on the waiting list.

At the first Ladies that UX Amsterdam event, my co-organiser Nadia gave a talk about how gender influences design. Neither communities started with a talk from a famous person or someone with 10 years of experience.

I started both communities being prepared that I would be the one to share the knowledge and kick-start things. Luckily, I found people who were happy to contribute and help, although if they didn’t join, I wouldn’t have let that stop me.

So I’d say don’t worry about bringing experienced speakers into your city for now. You can be the first person to start sharing about UX. Since you already know other UX practitioners in Davao City, why not invite them too?

Don’t wait until you have enough help or resources to start. You need to first start, then like-minded people will join you and maybe help you. Not to mention, you can become the pioneer of UX in your city by being the first person to kick-start something.

#2 Identify goals and desired outcomes

Identify your goals for this community and be specific about what “raising awareness” means to you. What are the desired outcomes?

For example, our mission at Ladies that UX is to foster a welcoming, transparent community for women that work in UX and promote and teach each other. We measure the number of female speakers and attendees and we actively cultivate a warm, helpful and inclusive vibe in both our online community and offline meetups.

We look at what members say about our meetups in social media and reviews. If they say that they enjoyed socializing with other women, having a platform to speak, and they loved the warm vibe, then we know we’re doing it right.

For you, you might simply want to gather a bunch of local UX practitioners together to talk about UX and projects, because you may feel alone being one of the handful UXers in the city. Or maybe your future goal is to organize a conference and bring more experienced UXers to speak so you can learn from them.

Or your goal may be to advocate UX in tech for better pay and opportunities for UX practitioners. All of these are good goals. But you do have to know what you want to achieve so that you can figure out how to get there.

#3 Content publishing

If the problem you’re trying to solve is that people in your city don’t know what UX is, then one of the ways you can increase awareness is through content publishing. Events and content publishing are both ways to raise awareness of something with the very low barrier to entry.

Not only is online media free to consume, but information on the internet can also spread quickly.

The type of content you create depends on what you can do and your target audience. Do they prefer offline events? Reading blogs? Watching vlogs? Listening to podcasts?

When I started the first Remote Taiwan event, I surveyed the attendees and found that most Taiwanese people prefer learning from speakers face-to-face. Later, we started a Medium publication but we still focus on offline events and engaging the online community.

You mentioned that you know experienced designers and speakers in Manila. Have you considered inviting them to write for your publication, do a YouTube live stream, or invite them to speak on a podcast?

Here are some examples of how others publish content to raise awareness and share knowledge and stories:

  1. UX for India is a Medium publication that aims to spread UX best practices in India, and promote writings by Indian designers
  2. Roots is a podcast of stories of Filipino designers all around the world

#4 Collaborate

Global organizations and initiatives like IXDA may make it easier to start a UX community.

The benefit of being a part of a global organization is that they provide you with the resources, best practices, tools and processes to build a local community. You also get to meet other chapter leaders who can give you advice. At Ladies that UX we provide the same, but our focus is more on diversity&inclusion and the people, rather than the UX topic.

In addition, you could collaborate with other folks in your country or city (like Roots or UX communities in Manila) and see how you can help each other. With joined forces, it’ll become easier to promote UX in the Philippines!

#5 Research over assumptions

When I started the first Remote Taiwan event, I assumed that I would be one very few people in Taiwan that have remote work experience.

On the day of our first event, I met many people who work remotely and even remote teams. I simply didn’t know about them because there was no platform to connect.

After we started the community, I realized that there are more remote workers in Taiwan than I thought. As they appeared, we invited them to share their knowledge and experience in meetups and in our Medium publication. As we continue to have new speakers and interesting meetups, the community grew bigger and even more active.

So I would encourage you to challenge the assumption that there are very few UX practitioners in your city. Perhaps you could do more research like on Dribbble, Google, and LinkedIn and see if there are more out there.

If you really don’t have enough people to start a community, then maybe it makes more sense to start an online community and move into offline later. Building an online community is a different beast entirely. If that’s your intent then I would write a separate article on it.

#6 Just ask for it

You mentioned that you haven’t yet raised any funds to bring experienced speakers into your event. But actually, raising funds is just one of the ways to bring in speakers.

When we started planning Ladies that UX Amsterdam events, we followed potential speakers regardless of their physical locations. We saw that Colman Walsh, Dublin-based trainer and speaker at UX Training, was travelling to Amsterdam.

We reached out and invited him, and we were glad that he accepted. Since he was travelling, we worked with his schedule. From there, we basically had an international speaker at the second Ladies that UX Amsterdam event.

That method works if people travel to your city for other events, if they don’t, here’s another case.

When we were planning the third Ladies that UX Amsterdam meetup, I reached out to Github and told them about Ladies that UX Amsterdam. After a few emails, I got in touch with the Amsterdam-based Githubbers and they agreed to collaborate with us on the meetup. Github provided the event space, food and drinks, and they arranged a London-based designer to fly to Amsterdam to speak at our meetup!

There might be cases where companies in Manila (or even outside of Philippines) have business opportunities in Davao City, or that companies could sponsor someone to speak at your event for good PR, marketing or recruiting reasons. Or they could simply want to support your community or cause.

My point is, sometimes all you gotta do is ask. You’ll never find out unless you start the community and extend the invitation.

Good luck and hope to see the UX community grow in your city and in the Philippines!


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Jenny Shen

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UX Consultant specializing in international growth strategy, localization and cross-cultural design. Hire me to grow your business! More info @ jennyshen.com

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