Fluxible co-chair Mark Connolly never plans it, but every year a theme seems to emerge from the lineup of speakers at Canada’s UX festival.
This year is no different. Several speakers and a panel discussion have a distinct design-for-good theme.
“We didn’t sit down and decide we were going to have a design-for-good event, but one naturally emerged,” said Connolly, who is co-chairing Fluxible this year with Canadian researcher Meena Kothandaraman, who’s based in Boston.
“Design for good, ethical design, has become more visibly important the last couple of years and that inevitably emerged as a theme.”
Fluxible takes a virtual stage once again this year, running mini broadcasts June 7, 8, 9, and 11 that will feature one talk a day. Its big broadcast June 10 will feature six hours worth of programming in the vein of an old-school television broadcast reminiscent of last year’s Fluxible TV.
The talks feature a mix of international and local speakers, who will cover everything from forecasting design in South Asia and generating trust and allyship across an organization to designing for safety and the design of diversity and inclusion. Part of that is Kothandaraman’s influence. She saw some of the speakers at other UX conferences around the world and suggested them for Fluxible.
“There are no borders,” said Kothandaraman, of planning a Canadian UX event from Boston with Connolly. “We just get to put our energy into introducing really neat people to one another, have some great conversations and look forward to the chance to learn from people from around the world. Our program is full of such diverse and rich perspectives on topics that are pertinent to the world we are living in. Overall, it really doesn’t get better than that.”
While Fluxible organizers last year cancelled plans for an in-person event, they later quickly put together Fluxible TV in response to COVID-19. Fluxible TV featured a half-day of programming with some of the speakers who were to appear at Fluxible Conference had it gone ahead as an in-person event.
Though Fluxible organizers knew the event this year would be a virtual one, there are still challenges putting together another online event more than a year into the pandemic.
“Coming up with the energy at first was easier. The second time around, this is harder because the pandemic is still going on, and it’s tiring for everybody,” said Connolly. “The same sort of malaise people are experiencing in the rest of their lives has an impact on this as well. We’re very cognizant of the fact that in a world where the last thing people want is to have a meeting online, we’re putting together an online event.”
The focus has been on making sure that Fluxible isn’t a burden for people attending. That means a variety of content, lots of little breaks built into the day, the musical interludes people who have been to Fluxible in the past have come to expect, and some unexpected, but fun, content.
“People don’t have to watch the whole thing. They can walk away. That’s harder to do when you’re sitting in a theatre somewhere,” said Connolly.
Like last year’s Fluxible TV, there will be fun “commercials” in the form of UX-related public service announcements that were popular last year. UX researcher Steve Portigal put together one around conducting user research interviews that took the form of a Hinterland Who’s Who public service announcement that Canadians recognized.
“It all comes back to playing to the strengths of the medium,” said Connolly. “People understand how TV works, there’s content, commercials, and ‘coming up next’ spots. It gives the day texture so it’s not wall-to-wall long presentations. It’s less challenging to sit through.”
Typically, Fluxible is a UX-focused weeklong series of meetups and workshops that culminates in a weekend conference. While last year, Fluxible organizers were just happy to put together an online event to replace the in-person one they had planned, this year organizers have expanded the scope to increase content and recapture some of the feeling that in-person Fluxible events have had in the past.
And just like past editions of Fluxible, this year’s event will feature timely UX-related content.
Fluxible’s mini broadcast June 11 will feature a panel discussion on the civic tech response to COVID-19 and features Cyd Harrell, a civic design consultant; Sara Hall, the UX Practice Lead at the City of Philadelphia; Hillary Hartley, the Chief Digital and Data Officer with the Ontario Digital Service; and Anita Cheng, a Content Designer with San Francisco Digital Services. It’s the only explicit reference to COVID-19 in the program, said Connolly, but organizers thought it was an important one.