SXSW is a lot to take in over a few short days. Attendees find themselves up at the crack of dawn and operating at 100% until deep into the night. After some public transportation and a few short hours of sleep, the cycle begins again. This was my first year at the conference and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect beyond the crowds and tasty Austin food. By the end of the conference, I realized that I had underestimated both. The crowds of geeks and designers were teeming, while the food was simply incredible.
While in Austin, I decided to attend a wide variety of talks to get a pulse of the industry as a whole. Everything from API's to Bitcoin and back was covered by industry leaders, there was no shortage of futurism or wild inspiration. Once I'd arrived back in San Diego, and after a long-overdue full night of sleep, I compiled the top trends/insights that I noticed during the conference. These are as follows:
A Chasm Exists Between the User Privacy and User Experience
At this point in time, you simply can't have both. There is a massive gap in ideology between those concerned with user privacy and those who are pushing the boundaries in search of the ideal user experience.
Talks such as "The UX of Real Time Site Personalization" compared with the Snowden or Julian Assange talks were polar opposites in this regard. Either you give a web application all of your personal information so they can use your location, personal details, etc to enhance the user experience, OR, use encrypted security etc to browse completely anonymously. You can't have both and I see this as a massive problem in the industry that needs to be solved or at least agreed upon.
The industry is slowly shifting towards social change
It seems that finally superfluous money making is a downtrend and the trend of sharing knowledge and industry-wide collaborating is having an upswing.
Be Open, Share Everything
The sharing culture is here. Sharing knowledge and resources across teams, communities, and technologies was a very apparent trend. Everyone wins. Start a personal blog, meetings within teams, or opening up your software as an API were common suggestions by speakers.
Shift from UI and UX web designers to front end developers. On agile teams, this shift is clear. Rapid prototyping with HTML & CSS. Cross-functional pairing with developers speeds up a teams process. A primary goal of mine upon leaving SXSW this year is to implement more front end development practices and living style guides on my current and future projects. Interaction design should be an interactive and iterative process.
Mobile is Expected
Nobody was talking about mobile. It's no longer an up & coming part of the conference. Each and every product represented has a strong mobile strategy and component, it's expected now.
Bitcoin is Nearly Ready for Widespread Adoption
Even at this heavily tech attended event, most people didn't fully understand bitcoin. It's benefits for businesses are clear, (lower transaction fees, fraud protection, no inflation) yet the benefits to the average consumer are still being developed.
Interesting to note that most founders in the Bitcoin community seem to believe the real value is in the blockchain itself. This is the network for approving transactions and eliminating fraud or double-spending of bitcoins.
Agile Has Arrived, Everywhere
Huge companies and corporations are finally integrating Agile and user centered deign into their everyday workflows. User testing is driving design across the industry. Test & Iterate, Test & Iterate, Test & Iterate.
Notes for New Attendees
Stay downtown! The extreme cost is well worth it, it takes a very long time to get into town as the transportation will be essentially gridlocked all over, all week.
Don't trust in the shuttle system.
Uber service is FREE, but very hard to snag. Patience and planning, young padawan.
Everyone says this, but PACE YOURSELF. There is so much to do, so much to see and so much to drink. Take it easy, bring healthy snacks and comfortable shoes.
Favorite your sessions beforehand. There is simply NO time for things like this once you're in Austin. Even on the plane ride in, you'll be chatting it up with and entire jet full of other attendees. Have the boring stuff squared away before leaving home.
Bring business cards. These will never go out of style and you will be exchanging cards all weekend with the wonderful folks you meet.