NN/g Sydney Conference Review

UX professionals attending a UX conference (especially one bearing the names of Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman) are going to expect nothing less than thoughtful, useable design at every touch point. Ironically, the NN/g UX conference lagged at several intersections, with avoidable faults that even included a broken feedback link which took days to fix.

The NN/g UX Conference Sydney 2017 was held at the Marriott Hotel Circular Quay. The conference location was accessible with rooms well suited to the class size and content, but lacked a common space for networking and catering. Lunch was served on an internal balcony with few tables or chairs, and was particularly awkward.

Take-aways include tools for measurement and self management

The conference formula is lecture style learning interspersed with group activities, followed by an optional aptitude test (and NN/g certification). It focussed largely on reinforcing well documented best practises, and strategies for buy-in which seems to be a universal problem. Multiple ways of working were validated and encouraged alongside robust processes promoting consistency and diligence. I also learned about managing myself for the sake of better outcomes and measurable change.

A tiered system is better for retention

For UX Certification, five conference courses and passing five exams is required. Mastery can be reached after attending 15 courses and passing all 15 exams.

Falling slightly short of my expectations, the verified wisdom and insights I had hoped for in the content accounted for less than I wanted. However this could have been remedied by scaling the complexity of techniques and separating entry level from advanced concepts.

Without assurance that more time will be given to learning from new research insights and breakthrough techniques, I am less inclined to attend future conferences. Rather than re-examining the processes I already employ and applying the same principles as we do for the client — review, analyse and iterate based on what we have just learned — I want content that will challenge my thinking and renew my skills.

Good instructors

The instructors were all very polished, well prepared, knowledgeable and generous with their time. They used anecdotes derived from personal experience demonstrating that they do their own research. They led the courses with the authority I expected and hoped for, and kept it interesting. I had 3 instructors across 5 courses incorporating 4 specialties.

Oddly enough, Sydney didn’t get a keynote or closing speaker. Even by Skype, a welcome from Jakob or Don would have delighted, while any respected experience pioneer could have inspired and unified participants with a keynote or close. Like many attendees, I have considered and valued the NN/g opinion many times throughout my career. Hence, I wasn’t alone in wishing for the kind of acknowledgement that an opening greeting provides.

The benefit of first-hand NN/g expertise

The Nielsen Norman Group UX Conference is an intensive learning environment — offering 6 consecutive days of 9 to 5 instruction in a different topic each day. Despite its imperfections I am pleased to have attended. Five days spent mingling with industry peers, provided opportunities to connect and share stories, interpret and reflect individual experiences, get new points of view, commiserate and boost. I tried new ways of communicating and took away resources to keep me inspired, practising and learning. I’m proud to have earned my letters (UXC) for User Experience Certification, and grateful to Syfte for splitting the cost.

Courses I took are:

Communicating Design

Journey Mapping to Understand Customer Needs

Omnichannel Journeys and Customer Experience

The One-Person UX Team Tool Box

UX Deliverables

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