October 8, 2010 The UX Masterclass

Reva Hamon
User Experience Unit International Business Manager

In this column I will talk about my recent trip to Montreal, Canada, where I participated in the UX Masterclass and bi-annual UXalliance meeting.

What is the UXalliance?

As I mentioned in my previous column, at MLC I am responsible for international communication and foreign business for our User Experience Unit. In this role I am involved extensively with our UXalliance activities. The UXalliance is an association consisting of User Experience (UX) companies throughout the world, whose purpose is to provide exceptional UX services to clients with international user research and design needs. Since we became a member, we feel confident in being able to organize and manage research in other countries for our Japanese clients. In turn, we also do research projects in Japan with our UXalliance partners for clients based in other countries, such as the United States or United Kingdom. These collaborations help us to keep current with international standards and learn new research practices.

If you would like to learn more about what the UXalliance is, please refer to my previous column, “The UXalliance” or visit the UXalliance website.

What is the UX Masterclass?

The UX Masterclass is a 1-day international conference on User Experience that is sponsored by the UXalliance and hosted every 6 months by one of the UXalliance partners. As a global network with hundreds of consultants specializing in User Experience from around the world, we feel we are uniquely situated to provide an international perspective. The conference is a day-long event for participants interested in exchanging knowledge and learning UX case studies, methods, and tools. In September it was held in Montreal, Canada.

We try our best to make the event both educational and fun. Since most of the presenters know each other extremely well and are truly working together to achieve a goal that is much larger than the UX Masterclass itself, the conference has an especially collegial atmosphere.

Around the World in 80 minutes?

A good example of how the UX Masterclass provides education in a collegial environment was this year's panel, “Around the World in 80 Minutes: local perspectives on global research,” which turned out to be one of my most memorable experiences from Montreal. On the panel, 10 representatives from UXalliance companies spoke for 8 minutes each about unique aspects of user research and user experience in their respective countries. I was the representative from Japan. The other countries represented were Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

In such a short time, it was obviously not possible in each person's presentation to include everything relevant. One topic covered was practical information to keep in mind when doing global research in another country. For example, don't schedule usability testing sessions during big Hockey events in Canada, and don't be surprised if participants show up late in Brazil, so please leave time in the schedule to accommodate for this. In addition, speakers shared unique local user experiences. I shared a video from Nico Nico Douga, a video sharing website created by a Japanese developer. The site is modeled after YouTube, with the added functionality that user comments appear on the videos themselves, instead of in a separate comments section below the videos (picture lots of “aw!” and “cute!” streaming across videos of animals).

It was inspiring and fun for me to be part of creating a session involving representatives from so many different countries, and this kind of diverse and global content represents well the underlying UXalliance vision behind the UX Masterclass.

Why did you choose to hold it in Montreal, Canada?

Every 6 months, representatives from as many UXalliance companies as possible travel to meet at one of the local partners' locations. Some of the more central purposes of the meeting are to discuss and improve the quality of UXalliance projects, share local trends and best practices, update each other on company changes, and evaluate new potential members. The locations of the meetings generally rotate between the Americas, Europe, and Asia and Oceania. Specific meeting location also partly depends on who is feeling energetic enough to host the entire group, an increasingly weighty endeavor as the UXalliance grows.

Since so many of us were already getting together twice a year for UXalliance meetings, we decided to take advantage of the gathering of so many international professionals to put on the UX Masterclass. The first Masterclass was hosted by New Zealand member Optimal Usability in Auckland this last March. They deserve a huge amount of credit for their vision and legwork in putting together the first UX Masterclass. The success of the first event convinced us to continue it at another venue 6 months later. As part of our usual rotation, it was next left to the Americas to host, and our Canadian member, Yu Centrik, bravely and with gusto took the reins to host both the next UXalliance meeting and UX Masterclass event.

When and where will the next UX Masterclass be held?

By now you may be wondering where this small phenomenon is headed next. In the natural progression, the UX Masterclass will be heading to Europe, to be hosted by Snitker & Co. in Copenhagen, Denmark, in April 2011. Why don't you join us and see what it's all about?

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