Open Source UX: Hoby Van Hoose leads a conversation at Infocamp Seattle 2013

Hoby Van Hoose (hobyvh) talked at InfoCamp 2013 about Open Source UX and the emergence of culture and community around user experience.

User Experience is a budding discipline. How can we share information the way “view source” allows coders to learn from each other? The rate of innovation was faster because coders can see how a website is put together with little barriers. User Experience encounters obstacles that make learning from each other more difficult.


Often we can’t get specific about our project details because it’s proprietary. The stuff that we end up looking at is generalized and often too vague to be helpful. User Experience is a broad enough category that we don’t have an agreed upon vocabulary. Access is limited. Unlike the international HTML, user experience is not without language barriers.

Potential Solutions

UXRSS. A multimedia, open protocol forum feed similar to Stack Overflow, complete with wiki excerpts that help define terms, whiteboarding sessions, and video. It’s important to not just have solutions (See The Dribbblisation of Design) but lots of process work too. A formatting system where we can search by root problems, so if we’re having the same problem as someone else, we can learn from their solution as well. And often the solution is more than just some screens. It’s a system. And more, proof that the system works, some well-documented metrics.

UX without Borders. A reference to Doctors Without Borders. It’s where nonprofit agencies can band together in “industry collaboration” and share real projects and insights. Think Data Scientists meets Mozilla. And they would document everything.

UX Community. There are the monocultures of Amazon and Microsoft with their own way of doing things, their own vocabulary. In the future, after their employees leave those companies but take their frameworks with them, may we have an infusion of ideas into the population at large? A set of best practices an professional principals? There will be devoted researchers. There will be a separate set of ethics relating to the corporation and the individuals. Will there be a Hippocratic oath but for UX designers?

UX Leadership. UX has and will have thought leaders. There will be a push in marketing the tasks of user experience as necessary as there was a push for “good design” a hundred years ago during the industrial revolution. The dialog of “good user experience” is beneficial in driving interest in user experience.  But, will user experience leadership be centralized like Wikipedia. Or will it be distributed, Amazon, Microsoft and others having their own lingo, standards, etc. like varied dialects?


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