Project: Certification of Usability Professionals
Report from CHI 2002
There were three events at or around the SIGCHI 2002 Conference, including a UPA Minnesota Chapter meeting.
A Proposed Scheme for Certifying Usability Practitioners
Facilitated by Julie Nowicki and Nigel Bevan
Attended by 35 people.
- A majority were familiar with ISO 13407.
- Only a few had taken the certification survey.
- Based on the introduction given at the SIG, 16 indicated they would probably apply for certification, 3 would not, and 16 were undecided.
- It was suggested that CPE could do a subspecialty on software to cover usability.
- It was suggested that candidates should have some options to choose from for certification, so everyone wouldn't be expected to be competent in all aspects.
- In terms of submitted case studies, how would reviewers assess individual efforts in a team project?
- Should certification include a competency as a team member?
- What should be included in the competency and what should it be called -- the ongoing problem with the label "usability professional" being interpreted as usability testing only?
Other questions included:
- Are we planning to restrict it to software or include hardware?
- What would be the individual cost? How are we going to finance the effort?
- How will we get consistency among assessors about what is acceptable?
- Who would the peer reviewers be and what exactly would they do?
- Will certification be graded or all-or-nothing?
- What if someone hadn't performed all the required competencies in the case studies (projects) in which they'd participated?
How can usability be certified? A Practical Test of Your Skills
Facilitated by Rolf Molich
Tested participants' ability to identify problems in plans for a user-based evaluation of a web site, and to suggest how to improve error-handling in some car rental web pages. The conclusions included:
- This type of problem-solving questions would be excellent for self-assessment, but would be very difficult to use for a certification exam because of the wide range of potentially acceptable answers.
- There was an apparent cultural bias in some of the model answers (e.g. against humor).
- Should the solutions be quick fixes or fundamental design changes? There are several potential solutions, and lots of scope for intelligent disagreement.
- A lot of the benefit is in the discussion of the potential solutions.
- The test only covers ecommerce.
- The ability to answer depends on previous experience with the ecommerce
domain and particular type of content. It assumes consultancy experience.
Julie Nowicki explained the certification plans at a meeting with 13 members of the Minneapolis UPA local chapter, and got a generally positive response, with 10 interested in being certified and 3 not sure.
There was some discussion of what type of design skills should be required of a usability professional. Suggested areas for elective skills were: accessibility, internationalisation, and expertise in specific domains such as web, hardware or software. The majority felt that a usability professional needs to be able to design a screen, as in some organisations if they don't do it, nobody will.