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Resources: About Usability

What Is a Usability Professional

The UXPA defines a usability professional broadly as anyone who works on, or advocates for the usability of their products.

Some specialize in conducting usability tests or other user research while others practice usability as part of other responsibilities in designing products, services, software applications or web sites.

The training and professional background of usability professionals is equally broad. Many have qualifications in closely related fields like human-computer interaction (HCI), information design or psychology. Others have used their backgrounds in computer science, project management, journalism, fine arts, library science, or business as part of their journey towards being a usability professional.

People start from many different fields, and many different user experience disciplines. This image shows them all pointing towards a common center: usability.
(see larger view of image)

"Doing Usability"

The activities of a usability professional - or the time spent on usability activities for those with other primary responsibilities - are all part of an approach to design called user-centered design. They span the entire product life-cycle from user research during planning and early visioning to the final rollout or release of a product. There is an international standard, ISO 13407 that is the basis for many user-centered design approaches.

Broadly speaking, usability activities can be divided into:

  • Research - learning about the people who will use a product and the context in which it will be used.
  • Evaluation - observing (and learning from) users as they work with a product before, during and after the design and development process.
  • Design - whether it is called interface, interaction, information or experience design.

Body of Knowledge

The UXPA Body of Knowledge project is working to define the work of a usability professional. The project includes:

  • Activities and methodologies
  • Common titles and roles
  • Curriculum

The UXPA Code of Conduct guides professional activities.



Professional Profile

UPA Chapter resourceUXPA Salary Survey 2009 - public version PDF file
UXPA Salary Survey 2009 - full version members only (members only)

This survey of over 1500 usability professionals includes salaries, education, background and typical activities for usability professionals.

Educational Backgrounds

User experience professionals are highly educated.

  • Over half of those surveyed had an advanced degree (a Masters or PhD)
  • Over 90% hold a Bachelors' degree or higher.

Many of our survey respondents hold degrees in Human Factor Psychology, Human-Computer Interaction, or Computer Science. Other educational
backgrounds include Business Administration or Management, Technical Communications, Fine Arts and other social sciences.

Job Titles for Usability Professionals

In keeping with the diversity of usability professionals, there is a wide range of titles. The most common titles include:

  • User Experience Practitioner
  • Interface Designer
  • Usability Practitioner
  • User-Centered Design Practitioner
  • Information Architect
  • Usability Manager

Other closely related job titles include:

  • Web Designer
  • Technical Writer
  • Business or Requirements Analyst
  • Technical or Software Analyst
  • Market Researcher
  • Instructional Designer
  • Industrial Designer

Thumbnails: Profiles of UXPA Members

The UXPA Voice publishes short profiles of members from around the world. They are a good way to see the range of activities and professional interests.

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