UPA takes the lead and changes its name and direction - announced at UPA International Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada

Marshal Datkowitz / Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I attended this year’s conference in Las Vegas, Nevada (actually Henderson) from June 5 to June 7, 2012. This year’s theme was all about leadership – what it is and how to use it. The big news coming from the conference was a change in name and focus -- how the UPA is choosing to lead. The Usability Professionals Association (UPA) is now the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA).

UPA changes its name to UXPAThe UXPA name change was big news at the conference and was the first item discussed before the opening keynote. Ronnie Battista, UXPA Treasure, announced the name change and the process leading up to it, read the announcement here (http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/uxpa/about/an-open-letter-to-the-user-experience-community/). Lou Rosenfeld, Information Architecture Consultant and Author, responded to the announcement on his blog (http://louisrosenfeld.com/home/), which in turn generated a response on the newly created UXPA Discussion Forum (http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/uxpa/2012/06/19/response-to-lou-rosenfelds-blog/) . There is a whole lot of buzz around this name change and so here is a brief summary of the key points as I see them:

  • The UPA is an organization that is not fully supporting the evolving profession of Usability, even the term Usability is no longer accurate in describing the profession. At the announcement Ronnie asked how many people had UX in their title – a majority of the attendees raised their hands.
  • The UPA leadership is looking to change, and looking for it to come from its existing membership and perhaps new people that will be attracted by its new name.  
  • Many organizations serve subsets of the UX community, but there is no one organization that can serve as a “big tent” that can pull everyone together. 
  • Lou‘s response was that the announcement lacked a whole lot of details. That the UX community is very loose and fragmented, that others have tried to form an organization to pull everyone together but it failed because of lack of time, commitment and incentive.

So what is in a name? I think quite a bit in this case. Usability professionals have not just been doing traditional usability research; professionals have always been participating in activities to discover what makes a product work best for people. User Experience, I think, is a more holistic term that takes into account that a product has to work, but also, people have to want to use it.

My hope is that the UXPA, will enable our profession to speak with a more united and clear voice.