Our guests, 2013-2014

One of the few things I do try to find time to blog about is essentially a great big ‘thank you’ to all of our guests for the past academic year. This year has been a little different, sometimes strange. At least one student accused me bringing in guests to ‘get me contacts’ and some colleagues questioned the use of guests! Most students thankfully appreciate our guests and the effort involved. I do know from meeting my peers via our Web Teaching Day (a little self help group for those that teach web design) that they are impressed with the excellent guests we are able to pull in from the generous community in the North West. Believe me, I’m certainly not going to the BBC at Media City this Saturday ‘for my benefit’!

In September 2013 we launched a new Year 3 unit called User Experience Design. Together with my colleague Jonathan Willson we decided that we wanted this unit to be industry led. It was to be about what the practitioners do, rather than the regular HCI type unit. We started by asking our UX friends including BBC UX and recent grad Lizzie Dyson @LizzieDyson, what they did, day to day in their UX roles. The tools and techniques they use. This helped us develop a programme that included a number of guests who could share their knowledge and testing ‘war stories’. This included Barry Briggs @quiffboy on guerrilla testing, Chris Collingridge @ccolingridge on planning and preparing, Guy Redwood @eyetracking on eye tracking (helping us to get to grips with our @TobiiEyeTracker), Lee Cooper from @UserZoom on remote testing (giving students free access to@UserZoom) and Paul Carysforth @PaulCarysforth on UX and analytics. It was all wrapped up by the fantastic Jane Murison @mewroh from the BBC providing tips and advice for the students in pitching their findings to clients. Jane did a great exercise with yoghurt and spoons that required volunteers to eat a pot whilst watched by their fellows.  This got the students talking about the user experience of everyday items and activities.

We presented our story of the unit at Camp Digital – see http://www.slideshare.net/RichardEskins/teaching-uxd-camp-digital-2014

A special thanks to Lee Duddle of @WhatUsersDo who was going to come in, but had to be cancelled because of the strike.

Things were a little quieter than normal. We did host a Camp Digital Bite Sized for our friends @WeareSigma before term started but during teaching we didn’t run any events ourselves. That said, the fine people at Manchester Digital and NorthernUX ran NUX2 (http://uxmanc.co.uk/), an excellent UX conference to which we took a number of students. They all seemed to have a great day. Some new ‘contacts’ were made, one of which indirectly led to two of our grads getting jobs. That was also followed by another excellent gig for digital project management, by the local DPM:UK group @DPMUKConf (and Manchester Digital again). See http://www.dpmuk.com/

While mentioning Manchester Digital @McrDig I must thank Katie, Rachel and Shaun for all the hard work they do for us including hosting and organising the Manchester Talent Day each year. They also do the same for the Big Chip Awards that we were again involved with, having another nominee for the Little Chip student award category.

In web design we had fewer guests than usual. @MickCropper and Derren Wilson @wilsond dropped in again and Chris Mills @chrisdavidmills did a short session on the new Firefox OS for mobile in his new role at Mozilla. Picking up on a couple of great articles written by new @WeareSigma employees, @beckytopps and @Meevil, we promptly dragged in Liam (@Meevil) to deliver a session on responsive design and an exercise using Foundation. We were also lucky enough to host a whole day for a number of students with Andrew Clarke @Malarkey going over the intricacies of CSS Layout with CSS Flexbox. A number of the students were truly inspired.

ANdy Clarke with our students
Designer, author Andrew Clarke ran a Master Class for our students on CSS Flexbox.

This summer we hosted WordCamp Manchester @WCMcr for the local WordPress user group. Working with the lovely Jenny Wong and Mike Little an excellent day was put together for WordPress Developers and users. We are now hoping to build on this for 2015 with at least one WordCamp focused on writers, bloggers and journalists and potentially another for school children.

And finally, we were to host the first front-end conference, Front End North @frontendnorth in June but this got put on hold. I’m happy to say that this has now been rescheduled for Saturday November 15th 2014 – see http://makedo.in/frontendnorth/.

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