What I got from UX Hong Kong 2011

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I find it surreal that I only got back from Hong Kong the morning two days ago, and that it has only been 4 days since UX Hong Kong. Maybe it’s because I feel there’s a lot to digest and I’m still experiencing the conference high, which I think is a good thing. I’ve certainly been in conferences where I’ve felt really deflated, as though the event was a big party and everyone had to go back to their scheduled lives –  it hasn’t been so with UXHK… at least not yet.

Why UX Hong Kong?

UX Hong Kong is the first UX conference (AFAIK) ever held at this scale in Hong Kong. There have been several UX conferences in China (warning: link may be reported as an attack site) and Australia of this sort, but none in Hong Kong until now. I think UXHK, befitting its political and cultural context, sits between the East and the West; and provides a venue for globally-minded, Asia-aware practitioners to meet and exchange views about the state of UX from this Eastern melting pot.

It has managed to attract a diverse list of attendees, such as:

  • HK-based practitioners and companies looking to expand and improve themselves
  • Foreign companies and freelance consultants interested in Asia as a market
  • Foreign and local companies looking to recruit promising candidates
  • UX practitioners looking to HK as a potential base (e.g. born in HK but working abroad, dimsum lovers, etc.)
  • IxD/design students from HK educational institutions

The conference was organized by Apogee HK (Daniel Szuc, Josephine Wong), a well-respected UX consultancy both locally and abroad.

UXHK 2011 invited speakers

Talks & Workshops

The format of the conference was a basic presentation-followed-by-workshop format, with four speakers each giving a high-level presentation of a chosen topic to a full audience, followed by a half-day workshop with registered attendees.

I felt the selection of topics were fairly varied, which was good. Steve Portigal focused on the topic of delivering real value from UX research, Rachel Hinman on what I call a-really-good-approach-to-designing-for-mobile,  Steve “doc” Baty and Janna DeVylder on practical means of materializing UX strateg(ies) even/especially without a centralized UX approach, and Gerry Gaffney on the essence of UX and getting to grips with the fundamentals.

I liked the no-nonsense, anti-bullshit approach – I think UX has gotten discredit for being some fluffy stuff because of misrepresentation (uxmovement.com?) and misunderstanding, so I’m happy to say that even experienced practitioners got some real meat from the sessions.

Since I only attended the Experience Strategy workshop, I can only summarize from that experience:

  • a strategy is intended for decision making (my take: if you can’t make a decision from a known strategy, it probably isn’t a good strategy)
  • deep and broad understanding is required – ask the right questions and then brainstorm the answers exhaustively to build rich models of the context, environment, business needs, etc.
  • illustrate the synthesis of those models through visualization tools such as experience maps, storyboards, pain points, and so on – by all means, map those against each other to find correlations and cohesion
  • Always, always, always consider the broader context of what users go through – illustrate it, discuss it, map it out – don’t treat it lightly, because it’s easy and common to sidetrack (I made that mistake too, even in the workshop)

UXHK 2011 - day 2 (experience HK)

Grokking the Event

In all fairness, UX Hong Kong wasn’t a major UX conference. It was intended to be a fairly intimate, practical event for UX professionals, and I think they succeeded very well. I was happy to get to chat with all the speakers during the conference day and the dimsum + informal excursion the following day, plus meeting fellow practitioners from Singapore, Japan, China and other places was exceptionally invaluable. While I love being in London’s amazing UX scene, it was really nice to meet some fresh faces and build rapport with them. At the same time, the event gave me a chance to experience Hong Kong a little bit more than if I was at a typical stay-in conference. Some of us even got a short guided tour of HK culture by Calvin Chan, who was one of the attendees!

I must say, however, that serving fried rice, kai lan with oyster sauce, and roast pork first BEFORE siu mai, har gau, cheung fun, and char siu bao is not very representative of proper HK dim sum… otherwise, I had absolutely no regrets attending UX Hong Kong and would highly recommend attendance and/or re-attendance of next year’s UX Hong Kong 2012.

photo credits: yeungfeifei, szuc

7 responses

  1. Boon – I think your comment itself reflects the vibe of the event – passion, practical, and humor. I love the dimsum arcania – all I knew was I was putting stuff in my mouth that was off the hook (and we get GREAT dim sum in San Francisco). Great to have met you!

  2. Thanks Steve – the dimsum comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Most dimsum restaurants bring the dumplings first because they’re more readily available (fried rice has to be cooked), so it was a surprise that the rice got to the table first. Ian was up in arms, of course. :) Bummed that I didn’t get to attend your workshop as well – maybe next time.

  3. A great summary of the conference. As a HK-based practitioner, it was great to see a more than decent size crowd at the event.

    It was a real mood booster to attend the conference as UX quite often does not get much recognition in this part of the world. :o)

  4. Thank you Boon and it’s my pleasure to share some local culture and stories to the UXHK attendees. I believe that understanding and experiencing local culture, combinding with research methods, strategies and frameworks in a global perspective is the best way to create a truly successful product.

    I really enjoy the time and hope to see you folks again soon!

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