Start UX – peer meetups for UX practitioners

by boon

There’s a really vibrant UX community here in London, with a diverse range of activities and groups such as book clubs, talks, field trips, mentorship programs and the like. But there’s one type of meetup I’ve particularly gained a lot from, called Start UX.

About a year ago, Joe Lanman had an idea to gather a few people who weren’t officially UX designers but were trying to build it into their work and organizations. At the time, I was working at a startup and I was doing everything from user research all the way to the production code. One of the group’s first members, Jeff van Campen, got me into Start UX along with a few others – Francis Norton, Nick Smith, Rob Enslin, and Basheera Khan, who were all interested in getting UX into organizations and influencing change.

We’ve been meeting informally since then to talk about our experiences (war stories) about getting UX into our work and organizations. I’ve been extremely grateful to have these friends to share with, bounce ideas off, and rant to whenever I needed an outlet, some help or support, even another perspective.

The benefit of having a group of people like this isn’t just about learning from each other, but about challenging each other to do what’s worth doing. It’s like peer-coaching.

A year has passed since Start UX first got off the ground, and even though some of us have moved on to dedicated UX roles, the journey still continues and the relationships have grown more mature and valuable. So, I think the spirit of Start UX is about challenging, encouraging, learning from, and growing with one another – like apprentices in a guild.

I highly encourage other practitioners to start their own version of Start UX. If you’re interested in starting one, here are some loose guidelines that may be useful to you and your group:

  • keep the group to about 10-12 people, with each meeting made up of about 5-7 people (not everyone will make it at all times) – this keeps the group more intimate and allow for better sharing and social cohesion
  • keep to the same group members, so that the members will really get to know each other and each member’s issues over time
  • use google groups or something similar to facilitate discussion online, plan meetups, etc.
  • for the meetup: find a spot that’s conducive for discussion, has enough room to support a meeting space, and refreshments
  • choosing a meeting topic can help scope discussions (e.g. we had a meeting about deliverables once)

Also, make sure to share it with the wider community. That’s one thing our group has failed to do, but that’s going to change -  starting with this blog post. :)