Usability and UPA

Have you ever heard of UPA? You cannot understand what is it and what does it support? Then read the following text so you could get yourself familiar with this concept. Although it is not really a new concept as it has been around for several years, a lot of people are not familiar with it so we use this occasion to explain a few things about it.

The Usability Professionals’ Association supports usability specialists, people from all aspects of human-centred design, and the broad family of disciplines that create the user experience in promoting the design and development of usable products. Unlike some other concepts, this one has several goals to achieve at the same time. Our goals are to:

  • Provide an international network through which usability professionals can share information about the techniques and methodologies in the profession.
  • Create an inclusive community for those interested in usability, whether it is their primary focus or a related discipline.
  • Change new product development processes to include a concern for the people who use them by presenting the business case for usability in product development to colleagues, customers, the public and governmental agencies.
  • Increase the body of knowledge about usability and user-centred design through professional education, meetings and conventions and other professional interchanges.

We have been working with the professionals and experts from this field for the past several years to make UPA concept more familiar and accessible to an average user.

Who is a member of the UPA?

First of all, let us explain who are members of the UPA and where they come from. UPA members come from many different backgrounds, meeting in the common ground of a shared interest in creating products that meet the needs of the people who work or play with them.

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Some work full-time as usability specialists; others incorporate usability into their work as interface/interaction designers, information architects, ethnographers, web designers, communicators and many other fields. Today, the membership includes over 1,600 members from around the world. The number is still growing and it is going to be much bigger in the few years following.

Positions are still available on the Scottish UPA Chapter Council. The positions in the council are:

  • President – Chris Rourke
  • Vice president – Keith Nicholson
  • Membership Secretary – Marianne O’Loughlin
  • Treasurer – to be filled

If you are interested in one of these positions please see the descriptions of the chapter officers (PDF 88KB) and contact us. Details of the responsibilities of each position will be explained at the first meeting. For that reason, if you have any possible questions and doubts, feel free to write down questions so you could have these ready for the session.

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How does usability relate to other user experience disciplines?

This question is one of those that you can hear a lot, especially asked by the people who do not have experience with UPA. Usability professionals are part of the user experience community. This community is broad and diverse, and is still in the process of forming. We came from many different places, but share a common vision. Because we started from different places, there are many different names for the path that we are on.

  • Some people started in computer science and called it human-computer interaction (HCI)
  • Others who started in ergonomics call it human factors
  • Or in training, and called it electronic performance support systems
  • In library science, it was called information architecture
  • Those with a technical writing background know it as audience analysis
  • In branding and marketing it is described as experience design
  • User interface design calls it usability

In the UPA, we call that goal usability and many of our members identify the process as user centred design, but we recognise other disciplines and other terminology.
In the case of “usability” there are many paths as practitioners and researchers interact, learn from each other and change their own practices as a result.