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August 2005 Contents

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UPA 2005: Post-Conference Reflections

by Joi Roberts
Motorola Inc, Chicago

Conferences Still Matter
Face-to-face industry gatherings serve an important role in the User Experience field. In addition to the obvious benefits gained from the impromptu, or sometimes deliberate, networking sessions that take place throughout the week, conferences offer a variety of career-development opportunities as well. Participants are able to discover new methods and processes, to exchange techniques with one another, and to review material that they may not have encountered during the previous year. These conference attendees return to work re-energized and bearing fresh ideas that will enable them to approach their projects with a new perspective.

UPA conference attendees often contribute as much to the conference as they receive from it. One third of every conference session is designed to be interactive, encouraging a steady exchange of ideas between presenters and participants. Further, Idea Markets are purposely designed to engage attendees in an interactive, fluid exchange of ideas around a set of critical user experience topics. At each idea station, session "activators" stir up lively discourse, while attendees roam from one topic to the next, sharing their knowledge and experience at each station they visit.


Lastly, the conference provides an opportunity for participants to further the work of the industry. This year, for example, two of the workshops were related to ongoing projects aimed at producing guidance on reporting usability results. And, several of the Special Interest Group sessions continued the World Usability Day, Body of Knowledge and Code of Conduct projects.

UPA 2005: Bridging Cultures
Montreal, a city of bridges, was the site of the Usability Professionals’ Association 2005 Conference held June 27 – July 2. More than 500 practitioners came to Quebec representing 22 different countries and a variety of disciplines, including usability, interface/interaction design, information architecture, ethnography, web design, communication, and marketing.


The conference theme, “Bridging Cultures,” is particularly relevant to our industry right now. Every day we encounter different cultures through our families, our work places, and our communities. Contrasting cultures can create rich learning experiences, but they also create the potential for miscommunication and misunderstandings. Growth happens when we are able to bridge the cultures and utilize the strengths of each.

Caryn Zange Josephson, UPA 2005 Conference Chair, reminds us that “as usability professionals, we are uniquely qualified to ‘be the bridge’ between cultures.” Our skills of observation help us identify the needs of different groups. This can help us translate the needs of one group into the results created by another group. We often do this in our work by observing and understanding the needs of our user community, and then becoming the "bridge" that translates those needs into requirements that can be understood and acted upon by designers, business owners, and technical teams.

During the conference sessions, we observed the bridging of design cultures such as agile software development and user-centered design, as session attendees searched for ways to integrate these two approaches. We also witnessed the bridging of ethnic cultures. As conference co-chair, DeeDee DeMulling journaled in her post-conference blog: "I stepped in on The Jigsaw Puzzle of Intercultural Usability tutorial to see the group had broken into teams for a project, one team was speaking in French and one in English, while the presenter, Lada Gorlenko, had a hint of a Russian accent. The teams then came together and shared their ideas with another. This is just one example of how a tutorial can live up to its promise."

If you missed the conference and would like more information, visit the UPA 2005 post-conference website (
). From there, you can also purchase a copy of the conference proceedings.

UPA Conference Hotel

Conference Volunteers Are Crucial
Each fall, a conference planning committee embarks upon a 10-month long journey to plan and implement the upcoming UPA Conference. The committee is comprised of a set of devoted volunteers without whom the conference and its contribution to the industry could not be achieved. They take ownership of tasks involving the development of the program content, identifying presenters and speakers, solidifying venue logistics, and publicizing the conference.

UPA Conference Desk

The conference planning committee is always happy to accept volunteers to work in a variety of capacities, ranging from reviewers who provide feedback on presentation/workshop/tutorial/poster submissions, to the onsite conference volunteer staff who assist presenters, collect survey forms, and support the conference wherever needed.

Each of the volunteer positions provides an excellent opportunity to meet and work with leaders in the industry. If you’re interested in serving the conference or the organization in any capacity, please contact the UPA Office ( for more information.

UPA 2006: Usability Through Storytelling
The usability profession is gaining acceptance, but there are still times when it seems we must ascend treacherous peaks and cross chasmic valleys. We use stories to traverse those passes and create a world of better user experiences. As a professional community, we weave stories together that have been harvested from our user communities. They tell us of their frustrations and joyous discoveries while using products we are helping to develop. As we observe and analyze the users and their tasks we begin to create stories that will bring the user community alive in the minds of others. We tell these stories in ways that can be understood and acted upon by designers, business owners, and technical teams.

In 2006, UPA goes to Colorado; the land that brought about the birth of an American ideal and the challenges to succeed in the new world. These stories of hardship and triumph have been told for generations. Even older stories, told in the ancient tradition of Native American tribes, can teach us how to communicate with and educate our peers. It is in this setting that we will explore Storytelling and its role in usability.

Join us June 12-16, 2006, to tell your own story, in Broomfield, Colorado, located just outside Boulder and Denver. Please note the following important dates as you prepare for the journey.

July 25 Call for Proposals available
August 22 Submissions open
September 19 Submission deadline for presentations, papers, advanced topics, tutorials, workshop

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