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conferences to learn IA at

I  was asked for some advice about conferences  to attend if you are just learning about IA.

IA Summit

The IA Summit is still the main event of the IA year. There are usually 3 days of multi-tracked presentations preceded by 2 days of workshops. It is certainly a great place to meet IAs and to get a feel for what is currently capturing IAs imaginations. The pre-conference workshops usually include some good ones for people starting out. That said, the conference presentations themselves are more and more about general UX and web design. There’s a lot of philosophy, strategy talk and many presentations are focused on what highly experienced IAs should do next. If you are new to IA you might struggle to find more than a couple of presentations about the details of the craft.

The conference is very good value for money, especially when you consider how well fed you will be. If you are US-based then definitely go and make sure you sign up for a pre-conference. For everyone else, go if you can get your company to pay, otherwise consider some of the more local options (assuming you have them!).


EuroIA is the younger sibling of the IA Summit. Still very good value for money but slightly smaller and with fewer of IA big names. It can actually be a better place to get to grips with the basics as the European market is a bit less developed and there are still plenty of people wanting to talk about tackling typical IA projects.

Oz IA, IA Konferenz, Italian IA Summit

There’s a growing number of country specific IA conferences. They’ve got a good track record of attracting well known speakers for the main presentations. If your country runs one of these, I’d definitely suggest attending your local conference first. Just make sure you can speak the language!

Usability Week

An expensive option, especially if you go for the full five days. In spite of the title you can do two full days of IA tuition and you’ll get taken through the basics in a structured way. Just don’t expect small tutor groups. The tutorial audiences are huge. A good intro if your company has deep pockets but I’d be wary of shelling out for this myself.

UX London

In spite of the name, this was actually a good alternative to the IA Summit for Londoners, with many of the same regular speakers. For learners, Donna Maurer’s workshops would have been a great start and the rest of the event a good chance to see the usual suspects speak. Hopefully this will happen again next year.


Oddly the IA Institute’s own conference isn’t really about the craft of IA, more the philosophical and creative landscape it sits within. Fascinating stuff but if you are new to IA you should go for the pre-conference workshop which tends to be more practical.

UX Intensive

Not so much a conference, but actually my best recommendation to people looking to learn about IA. Adaptive Path run great training events and UX Intensive is a nice balance of detailed IA craft and the broader UX context. Not cheap but well worth the money. You can also choose to just attend the IA day.

None of these options are cheap. The cheaper conferences really need you to pay out for pre-conferences to get value for money. And most people will need to shell out for travel and accommodation too. In my new non-profit mindset I’ve been thinking about cheaper alternatives and that’s a topic I’ll come back to later.

Written by Karen

July 15th, 2009 at 6:52 am