August 20th, 2010
I’ve got a real mystery on my hands. I’m hoping you can help me figure it out.
Here’s the background: Since 1996, we’ve held an annual event we call the User Interface Conference. Hundreds of folks come every year to learn the latest thinking for creating great user experiences.
Over the 15 years, our attendance numbers have grown at a reasonable rate—usually 15% to 20% each year. During the rough economic years, 2001 and 2009, we saw some declines, but, on average, 15%-20% is a solid range for most years.
This is the mystery: The conference isn’t until November and registration opened barely a month ago, yet our numbers are more than double what they were at this time last year. That’s more than 100% growth rate! And we don’t know why!?! Maybe you could help us figure it out?
We have some theories
It certainly could be the program. This year we have brand new full-day seminars on visual thinking, building personas for SEO, and content strategy. We’ve also brought back previous years’ top workshops on creating good designs fast, visual design for non-designers, and web form design. Plus we’ve added in some great seminars about designing with scenarios and designing pattern libraries. I know I’m biased, but it’s definitely one of the best programs ever. But is it really twice as good as last year? I don’t know.
It might be a sign the economy is coming back strong in the tech sector. But many of the folks registered are from non-tech companies. We’re seeing folks from financial services, universities, and even state and local governments. People from every economic sector are signing up. Overall, the economy does seem to be coming back, but it’s certainly not twice as good as where we were last year. That can’t explain it.
Of course, we’re seeing huge interest in designing great experiences. Executives and senior management are using design as a competitive advantage. And look at the job postings, great designers are like gold. Could it be that folks are signing up for UI15 because of the valuable skills they’ll gain to enhance their careers?
Or could it be the format of the conference? UI15 is unique because we focus the majority of the program on full-day workshops. The topics we cover at UI15 are crazy intense, filled with techniques that are rich in subtly and nuance. Spending the entire day on a deep dive gets you to new insights you won’t find in shorter sessions. Yet we’ve always had the full-day format, and past attendees tell us this is the best part.
Another factor might be the amazing team of experts we’ve assembled this year. Everyone who knows Luke Wroblewski, Kristina Halvorson, Dave Gray, Leah Buley, Dan Rubin, Nathan Curtis, Tamara Adlin, or Kim Goodwin agrees they are the best of the best. They’ve (quite literally) written the books on their topics. They’re tremendously engaging presenters—I could listen to them for hours (and have)! Is that the reason behind this mysterious increase?
I’m scratching my head wondering what’s going on? Why is everyone signing up all of a sudden?
Here’s the problem we’re facing
While registrations are 200% of last year, our room space isn’t. We only budgeted to be slightly larger, using that 15%-20% growth rate as our goal.
If these registration rates keep up, we will definitely sell out. That means folks who wait to register may not get into the workshops they want. (Plus, if they wait beyond 8/26, the price goes up $400.) All those folks who have told me they are planning to come, but haven’t registered yet, better register soon if they want a guaranteed seat. (We’ll have a waiting list, but I don’t expect many on that list will get in.)
So, what’s your theory? Why are we getting so many registrations this year? I’d love to hear what you think. Share your ideas below.
Explore the conference site for answers to the mystery. Planning on attending? Register by August 26, 2010 for the lowest rate.Tweet