What's new at UPA 2009?

UPA conferences are a crucial part of the ongoing conversation about what it means to be a practitioner of usability and user experience. We also have a responsibility to take into account the realities of our participants and attendees – whether they be seasoned experts or newcomers to the field – and adapt the conference to reflect their changing needs and expectations.

UPA conferences are a training resource for many attendees. For some, it’s their principal resource. More and more, usability practitioners are being asked to become generalists as well as specialists, to know prototyping, information architecture, accessibility, as well as testing protocols and statistical analysis. Some are even coding. At Portland, Oregon in 2009, we’re launching a prototype education program to help practitioners that will run across the entire conference.

In addition to the Monday and Tuesday Workshops and Tutorials, the call for participation includes a request for sessions that enable newcomers to the field and experienced practitioners alike to become familiar with specific techniques that they need to know. For the rest of the submissions we are, as before, letting the subjects themselves shape the program.

To give the review team more editorial control, we’ve opened up the review process. Submissions will still receive five reviews each but only three of five reviews will be blind. The non-blind reviewers will be asked to check the submitters’ credentials and also evaluate their presentation skills by referring to any available information, including previous presentations and recommendations from peers. This is a major change for the conference and hopefully a welcome one for both submitters and reviewers. It is our goal to balance our desires to welcome experience from people who have not previously presented at UPA with the desire to make sure that presentations are well done and solid.

2009 will see the launch of the first UPA International Student Design Competition! The theme is ‘Transportation.’ Students will address real user needs found in their own communities and design usable and sustainable transportation solutions. The competition will introduce a new generation of UPA participants to our community and bring their fresh perspectives to this important worldwide problem to Portland – known as one of the US’s ‘greenest’ cities.

We’re also aiming towards having a more sustainable conference. We have a dedicated team that is helping us to find ways of reducing waste and recycling both during the planning phase and onsite. The conference bag recycling was a great success in 2007. We’d also like to see vendors offering more sustainable promotional items in 2009.

Finally, we’re making more use of social networking platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Crowdvine and microblogging. As the conference gets closer, we will increasingly utilize these platforms - stay tuned!