For the last two years we’ve been hosting a monthly Meetup series called Beer and UX to build a community of designers and design enthusiasts in the Bay Area. This group has since grown to include more than 1,300 UXers passionate about learning, debating, and challenging each other to use design as a tool that can create a better world.
It would be an understatement to say that a lot has changed in recent months but, our mission for Beer and UX — maintaining connection and sharing knowledge — has remained the same. Maintaining connections feels more important now than ever. We still asking ourselves how we can use our expertise as designers for good. We’re also trying to explore how we might leverage our collective expertise to respond to COVID-19 as a community.
Maintaining connection while we shelter in place
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we’ve made some changes to our Meetup format. Until May 6th, we hosted these events in-person and in a room packed with people. Rather than cancel events because we’re sheltering in place, we’ve decided to try a virtual Meetup.
Our past events have focused on a wide range of topics, from helping UX designers communicate with developers, to growth design and designing for accessibility. Now, we’ve shifted our focus to COVID-19 and introduced a virtual hackathon format. In May, we challenged the hackathon participants to define a scenario in which the Apple/Google contact tracing app could have negative consequences. Participants were split up into teams then asked to design a UX solution to the problem. Attendees also had the option of following along as spectators.
Using cloud-based collaboration tools to design and connect remotely
UX/UI designer, and friend of Neuron, Chris Centers, co-hosted our May 6th event and facilitated a discussion with spectators while hackathon participants designed solutions in Figma. With more than 80 people taking part, Zoom was key to the event’s success. Hackathon teams used the “rooms” feature, which allowed them to break off into smaller groups to discuss and collaborate.
Participants also used Figma, a digital design and prototyping tool the Neuron team uses on a daily basis. Figma made it possible for participants to work on the same file at the same time and leave real-time comments. These tools allowed us to responsibly hold a Meetup amidst the pandemic and even more powerfully brought together a global cohort of attendees, which never would have been possible in-person. We had participants from all over the world, including Kenya, Spain, India, and across the United States.
After an hour, each team presented their solution to the judges and spectators, then answered questions. A key consideration addressed in many of the design solutions was privacy concerns that inevitably arise from tracing efforts. The winning team focused on an onboarding flow that promoted participation by showing users the benefits of by sharing their anonymized data with their community.
Join us in June
We’re so pleased with the response to the May Meetup, that we’ll be reconvening virtually in June. This event will also focus on designing for issues surrounding COVID-19, specifically the new concerns arising now that states are reopening, which is a concern for many. In fact, these concerns may outweigh the desire to return to a sense of normalcy: a recent Pew Research study found 68% of Americans worry restrictions are easing too quickly. For our June event, we’re asking participants to find a design solution to help control or limit the spread of the virus, while also informing the public about the changing risks around them as people return to work, stores, social gatherings, and other aspects of their lives.
While hackathon participants work within their teams to design a solution, spectators will hear from Dr. Morgan Wickline Getchell. Dr. Getchell has a PhD in Communication and is currently an Assistant Professor at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Her work focuses on crisis communications and her experience includes projects for Homeland Security, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Our next Beer and UX event will be on Wednesday June 17 at 5:30pm (PDT). If you’re interested in participating in the hackathon, or observing as a spectator, we’d love for you to join us. Space is limited, please reserve your spot. We look forward to seeing you there!