UXPA International Conference: Moving UX Toward the Future

This issue of UX follows the most recent UPA International conference, which was held in Munich, Germany in May, 2010. One of the things about our field that I find so interesting is the amazing breadth of topics that we need to know about. Lucky for us, the field is also such an inclusive one—organizationally and personally—and one which embraces new people and new disciplines.

At the conference this year, there was a particularly noteworthy and remarkable example of this inclusiveness. Senior leaders of a collection of leading organizations all representing elements of the field of “User Experience” participated in a panel moderated by Daniel Szuc (UPA vice president and principal consultant, Apogee Usability Asia Ltd.). Participants included Silvia C. Zimmermann (UPA president and CEO, Institut fur Software-Ergonomie und Usability), Elizabeth Churchill (SIGCHI vice president and Yahoo!), Janna DeVylder (IxDA president and SCAD), Will Evans (Information Architecture Institute), Steve Baty (vice president of IxDA, UX Book Club, and Meld Consulting), and Victoria Koster–Lenhardt (STC Fellow and founding president of the STC TransAlpine Chapter).

Although one might think there would be competition between our different organizations, there was none in evidence at this panel. Instead, each participant briefly introduced their organization’s history and mission, and their organizational view of “UX.” It was fascinating. As you can imagine, these leaders had a variety of impressions of what the trends and shifts in the UX marketplace are, but there was general agreement that we need to find ways to communicate, cooperate, and share across our organizations.

While it’s doubtful that there will ever be ONE large organization encompassing all of us, it was encouraging to hear some of the ideas for sharing information, including the possibility of cross-organizational projects and the continued communication among leadership to encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas that can then be applied individually within each organizations. As an audience member, I was thrilled by the prospect of working together, as a number of panelists called it, “under one big tent,” to help our profession grow and mature.

Like the UPA International conference, this issue of UX covers a number of different topics—from eye tracking to accessibility. Usually, UX has a specific theme, but once a year we relax the rule to allow us to publish a number of interesting articles on diverse topics. I always look forward to these issues, and this time, as always, there is a great line-up. In our cover story, UX associate managing editor Aga Bojko and her colleague Kristin Adamczyk write about the top ten misconceptions about eye tracking in UX research and discuss its proper use. If you are looking for some interesting ways to use social media to help you understand your users, you will want to read Ann Gentle’s article on listening to users on the social web. Brad Fain gives us examples of how usability and accessibility are interconnected, and provides a set of important issues from the accessibility world that we need to consider incorporating into our “usability” lives. For those who are new to international usability research, you’ll find tips about planning research in different countries in the article by Michelle Borea and Kellie May. In addition, Carla Merrill’s case study shows that it is possible to port a traditional business application to a touchscreen environment, provided you do not simply port the old interaction over without changes.

As always, this issue was produced by the volunteer UX editorial team. I’d like to officially welcome our new associate managing editor, Aga Bojko, and thank her for her double role in this issue.  Aga brings great ideas and energy to an already fabulous editorial team, and I’m happy she’s taking on this new role.

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