Fluxible, Waterloo Region’s growing user experience conference, wrapped its fourth instalment with a bang Sunday afternoon at the Communitech Hub.

A band of three bagpipers – in full kit, dirks and kilts – marched into the closing ceremonies mid-speech, a roar of Highland music cutting off co-founders Mark Connolly and Robert Barlow-Busch as they waxed philosophically about Fluxible on stage. The men feigned shock for a moment before laughing, gesturing to the audience that their point had been made: At a UX conference, you’ve got to keep it snappy.

The choreography was perfect. The audience, already exhausted from a weekend of ideas, fell into conniptions. The pipers had summed their thoughts up exactly, and the standing ovation poured on for minutes.

“I feel like they’ve thought of every detail,”said Amandah Wood, founder and editor of Ways We Work. “I don’t know if it’s because they’re UX guys, or because they’ve been doing this for four years…Probably a mix of both,”she laughed.

It was a sentiment shared by nearly all the conference attendees, and it’s no accident.

“One of the things that Mark and I particularly love about this is it’s our own little user experience project,”said Barlow-Busch. “We apply our professional skills to design the conference. It’s experience design, and it’s something we look at holistically.”

“One of our secrets is that we never think about Fluxible as a conference while we’re programming,”Connolly said. “We think of it as a festival; a music festival. Everything that happens at Fluxible flows from that thinking. Music is a big part of it.”

“After each talk,” said Barlow-Busch, “we have a five-minute performance, generally by a solo musician. Folks describe it to us as a mental palate-cleanser. A talk’s just ended, you have all kinds of ideas to process in your mind, [and] instead of just immediately going into the next one, there’s this five-minute breather where you can enjoy a really interesting creative musical performance.”

While the exhaustive attention to detail was evident throughout the conference — from the beautiful, curated food, coffee, and microbrews to the ubiquitous signage at every venue – quality speakers were what really helped Fluxible shine.

“Every year we get a really interesting range of industry speakers who come out and share their breadth and depth of experience and knowledge,” Connolly said. “For 2015, we’ve expanded out the programming from a weekend event to an entire week: pre-conference workshops and events through the evenings, things we’ve worked on in collaboration with other organizations. Fluxible is growing. Speakers and attendees are joining us from London, New York, Silicon Valley… it’s been a very interesting year.”

“This is an exciting time for K-W,” said Barlow-Busch. “There’s so much happening. It’s in the air. We all feel it, and we love hosting the conference in the Communitech Hub. It feels like the beating heart of what’s going on right now in the tech community.”

Barlow-Busch said the event’s sponsors – Boltmade, D2L, Communitech, Design Cofounders, and Google Developers – and others have consistently underscored the importance of developing a strong culture of UX design in Waterloo Region.

“We have to design products right,” he said. “We have to design products that people love using, it’s critical. This isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s strategically key to success.”

About The Author

Phil Froklage
Digital Journalist/Multimedia Producer

Phil Froklage is a writer, filmmaker and journalist in Waterloo Region obsessed with the future. Passionate about science and technology — and how it shapes our world — Phil likes nothing more than being surprised by the amazing things human beings can do.