New Lincoln meetup group looks to take UX discussion a step further
Kyle Murphy hopes something that started as a subject of casual conversation with colleagues and grew into an informal lunch group can eventually become a regular resource for UX designers in Lincoln and Omaha.
Murphy (left), the vice president of user experience at Hudl, recently helped launch a UX Meetup in Lincoln. The group will hold its second gathering from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the offices of Nebraska Global (151 N. 8th St., Suite 300) in Lincoln's Haymarket district.
Murphy perceived a need for the group after years of talking with other designers and developers about the disciplines involved in user experience. "I found myself saying: 'Oh, you should meet so-and-so. They've done a project that has some similar characteristics. Maybe you could learn something from each other,' " Murphy said in an email interview Monday.
Eventually, those conversations grew into something more with Hudl and its Haymarket neighbors from Nebraska Global. "A couple of months ago Cody Leach of Nebraska Global (NG) connected me with his company's usability guru, Bob Whitmer," Murphy said. "We started having lunch with a few other designers from Hudl and NG where we discussed our challenges and triumphs. We decided we could host a small meetup to involve more professionals from our community in Lincoln."
Murphy said he hopes Thursday's meeting draws 25 people and that the group continues to convene once every 6-8 weeks. He will speak at Thursday's get-together, and the typical meeting will feature a speaker followed by open discussion by the entire group. "We're still just getting organized, so nothing is set in stone," he said. "In fact, we welcome respectfully blunt criticism and feedback (via Twitter, email, face-to-face) on how we can improve."
Though the group is starting small, Murphy has big hopes for UX designers in the region. For more on Murphy's motivations and the meetup group's aspirations, see the question-and-answer below. To register for Thursday's meetup, visit the Lincoln UX Meetup Eventbrite page.
Silicon Prairie News: What's your take on the UX/UI landscape in the area? Any strengths that stand out? Any glaring needs?
Kyle Murphy: I think we have a lot of room to grow as a group. The good news is there are many really talented, experienced people doing fantastic user-centered work. For example, Emir Plicanic (Nelnet) presented on his redesign of Nelnet.com using the Responsive Web Design (RWD) techniques that have emerged recently. Mobile is everywhere nowadays so RWD ought to be in every designer's toolbelt. Emir's advice will help other designers tackle similar redesigns at their companies.
I think our community could get better at being respectfully blunt with one another. We Midwesterners are too nice to one another sometimes. When someone's design or implementation sucks, we should call each other out. Not to be rude, of course, but to help improve the overall quality of work we're doing in our community. We shouldn't be trying to "be as good as the valley." We ought to be trying to surpass them.
SPN: From an outside perspective, UX designers appear to be in high demand and somewhat tough to find. Is that a fair assessment? If so, how (if at all) is this group trying to address that?
KM: That's absolutely true. Some companies are naively looking for a UX Unicorn, which is part of the problem. Another problem is sorta related to what I mentioned before. A lot of people with UX skills believe the only place they can go is to the coasts. While there are indeed plenty of opportunities there, UX-ers in our area haven't done much to convince that talent to stay.
We need to be proving that we have the resources and expertise to design and build amazing products and services. The best way to do that is to 1) built a praise-worthy product and 2) share the details about how your team designed and built it. An organized meetup is like telling the world: "We care so much about this, we're willing to give away some of our ideas for free."
If you're not contributing to the discussion, new talent won't discover or care about what your company is doing.
SPN: You're scheduled to speak about UI prototyping at the next meeting. Can you provide a sneak peek at some of the highlights of your planned presentation?
KM: Prototypes are all about getting something in the hands of end-users quickly. A good prototype is "real enough" so that the user believes what they're interacting with is legitimate. That's when you get the best feedback because they actually try to use your new product to do their job. Granted, the functionality and all the content doesn't need to be there. You'd be surprised just how much you can "fake it until you make it" with a prototype.
I'm going to talk about some different styles of prototypes we've made in the past for products at Hudl. Some that worked. Some that didn't. For designers who also like to code, I have some tips for them as well.
Credits: Photo of Murphy from hudl.com.