Comment: Chris McEvoy (Jun 7, 2012)
I think it is just a rebranding exercise that can be explained by a quick look at google trends http://www.google.com/trends/?q=usability,+user+experience&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0
Just an attempt to. deal with a declining membership by trying to claim the UX tag.
Nothing more, nothing less. Sadly.
Comment: billy-bob (Jun 7, 2012)
This whole discussion on all sides is nothing but a big yawn from people with too much time on their hands.
Who cares? I've got products to design.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 7, 2012)
I actually think you're probably right, Billy-Bob. But why on earth would you hide yourself when making such a banal comment about such a banal topic?
Comment: Paula Thornton (@rotkapchen) (Jun 7, 2012)
Seems like national is finally going to operate the way the DFW-UPA has been doing for over a decade.
I drug my feet under the UPA label, but we covered the right issues just the same...it didn't much matter what the label was -- we operated as UXDA, because that's where our membership was focused.
Comment: Donna (Jun 7, 2012)
Great summary and comments.
I got as far as "there is a distinct and immediate need for a global, modern, innovative professional organization for User Experience Professionals" and just laughed at the rest. What a load of codswallop. Distinct and immediate need. OMG! We're not going to be able to do our job without the UXPA.
Comment: xian (Jun 7, 2012)
I just feel a little bit for usability oriented folks who are losing an org focused on their specialty. Pretty sure this whole thing will have zero effect on my life.
Comment: Gary Barber (Jun 8, 2012)
It's all just PR hand waving with a rebrand.. Nothing more...
I have read this too many times with failing Professional Associations of late, most of them not open to merger either.
Does widening the the scope of the UPA help me personally, no. It's just a good example of a poorly executed rebrand that didn't consider it's audience when drafting the media release.
Comment: Dave Gray (Jun 8, 2012)
I learned a new word today. Codswollop! I love this word. It seems quite flexible. It's going to be useful. Usable. A good user experience. Look out world.
Comment: Peter (Jun 8, 2012)
It's a well-done landgrab. Aggressive, and great branding. It'll probably work out great for the upa.
Really boring letter though.
Comment: Tania Schlatter (Jun 8, 2012)
User experience expertise requires a facility for qualifying the visual aspects of a design. As the UPA, the organization seemed quite successful in its mission. The change from UPA to UXPA is to me putting paper over a hole in the wall. The paperers can pretend the hole isn't there until someone leans against that part of the wall. Left uncovered, the hole is not a problem. It can be a window.
Comment: Brian Sullivan (Jun 8, 2012)
Lou, I am going to bring you back to Big Design Conference. This conference is organized by leaders in the Dallas community from UPA, IXDA, Refresh, STC, IAGA, and DSVC.
You might know them by other names in Dallas. We go by Brian, Keith, Jeremy, Lara, Josh, Paula, Fred, Cason, Lorie, Rebecca, Seda, Jay, AJ, Joshua, and Adam.
We are a community of UX professionals that work in different design disciplines and join various professionals organizations.
We were a community when there was a UPA. We are still a community with a UXPA.
We had over 600 people at Big Design 2012. I probably know 80-90% by their first name.
I have a similar experience with my UXPA and IAI brothers and sisters, too. We are all part of the same UX community.
I hope you can come out to Big Design 2013 to see and feel a real sense of community.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 8, 2012)
Brian, what you're talking about is a local event--where people can actually get to know each other and work together to pull off a major event. Which is absolutely WONDERFUL! I love all the acronyms that are involved at the local level, and that you've used a name that's completely unique to Dallas, rather than an association's acronym.
But that sort of thing is different than getting national or international associations to collaborate. Our collection of associations occasionally won't even consult each other to avoid scheduling their annual events at the same time. Which sucks. But isn't surprising.
Comment: Brian Sullivan (Jun 8, 2012)
We had people from 37 of the 50 US states. We had people from New Zealand, Australia, England, France, Canada, and Mexico. And, we had folks from that foreign land known as....Arkansas.
We had blind, deaf, and blind-deaf people there, too.
Big Design is no longer a local conference. It is much bigger than you realize, in my opinion. We have greatly expanded beyond DFW. It still has a local feel, though.
Jeremy Johnson (Refresh) chose the name. We chose Big Design because we purposely wanted to avoid affiliations with any of the groups. Yet, the organizers belong (and are active) in their respective organizations (UPA, Refresh, IXDA, STC, DSVC).
It is easier locally because these folks are your friends and co-workers. It is not about positional authority or politics. It is about conversations and cooperation.
I think national organizations are not as nimble, as stronger local chapters or leaders. In Dallas, we do check with the other organizations about their events.
We still ran into scheduling conflicts with the Advertising League, AIGA, and a Film Group. We had setup our event one year ago.
I am unsure what can be done between the different national organizations.
Ironically, Big Design Conference is consulting with Boston UPA, UX Singapore, and Industry Giants to see how we can better collaborate together.
I wish UXPA success. I wish IAI success. I wish STC, Refresh, and all succees.
I do not think we can lift all of us up by pulling down an organization.
Finally, you need to experience Big Design soon. You will really love this event. It is more than a local conference now.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 8, 2012)
Brian, I'm not sure we're disagreeing here, but I'm not sure what the well-deserved success of Big D and other local (OK, regional) events has to do with UXPA's mishandled rebranding?
I'm not trying to take them down, BTW. But they've really misstepped here, not to mention overreached. And apparently without a plan for handling reactions that they surely anticipated. They've bungled this in about 17 different ways, and I don't think I'm the only person who feels this way, nor will I be the only one who rightly points it out.
I also feel bad for the usability folks who are wondering WTF happened to their home organization--one I personally liked quite a bit, BTW.
Comment: Jared M. Spool (Jun 8, 2012)
I love the Big Design model. I love its breadth of program and the great people there, not only those who put it on, but everyone who participates. You did wonderfully this year and it's one of my favorite conferences. When people ask me what conferences they should go to, it's one of the first out of my lips.
The big thing here (pun intended) is that you DID something. UPA changed their name to UXPA, but I'm still waiting for them to DO something. To me, changing a name isn't a doing. It's just talking.
What will UXPA DO differently from UPA? That's what I want to know. If nothing different is done, then all we've done is added an extra letter to the mix.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 8, 2012)
Well, listen: "We launched this change at a conference on Leadership recognizing that we, the current board, are not the people who should determine the direction of the UXPA, or what UXPA is in the first place. It's all of you."
This could be read--perhaps not generously--as "We, the board, put the 'x' in--now the rest of you figure out what UXPA will do that's different than what UPA would have done".
Comment: Greg Corrin (Jun 9, 2012)
UPA was a great resource for me when I started out in the field. Mostly because of strong local organizers including @jacksonfox and @abecrystal at TriUPA http://triupa.org/
I doubt a name change will impact the usefulness of the resource for people who need it. This change may even improve their chances of recruiting the next generation of local organizers because we know all the cool kids these days are doing UX.
Comment: Reiner Schlenker (Jun 10, 2012)
UX is an ecosystem with many influences and changing conditions. It is still not very well understood and researched. The UPA is an important part of this ecosystem but only a part. I doubt that such a rebranding will bring significant value to better understand and communicate the essence of UX. Rather more endless discussions about who has the authority over the term. The announcement leaves an aftertaste.
Comment: Samantha (Jun 11, 2012)
I always get a bit annoyed when folks claim to be User Experience experts. User experience is made up of so much more than just the user interface. What about performance? Availability? Quality of support? Cost? Available sales and support channels? We all know that all of these things play a part in "user experience" (and I'm sure I've left off several more!). Is the newly rebranded UXPA going to support and guide all of these things?
I'm an HFE. Have been ever since completing my education and always will be. It's great to try to jump on the next great thing in order to sell yourself, but let's at least try to be true to ourselves.
Comment: Kristina Halvorson (Jun 11, 2012)
Everyone: "Kristina, you should start the Content Strategy Association!"
Comment: Stephen Perry (Jun 12, 2012)
I don't understand balking at the evolutionary step from UPA to UXPA. I applaud the choice, and the Big Design model. And also that they recognize UX is about much more than just usability. It harkens back to a very recent time when we all said "Big IA" to denote more than just Information Architecture is a part of UX. So lets see where this goes, and support them. Hopefully it's not just adding a letter. It's adding new value and identity.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 12, 2012)
I continue to completely miss how rebranding an international UX-related professional association without a clear strategy in place is the equivalent of producing an annual cross-disciplinary conference.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 13, 2012)
...and that's regional, I meant to say.
Comment: anon (Jun 13, 2012)
For UX's sake, make this article more attractive to scan. I couldn't get through it. Too bad.
Comment: Lou Rosenfeld (Jun 13, 2012)
Yep, another anon comment. I don't get why.
Comment: Morgan B. (Jun 13, 2012)
I understand why UPA made the move to UXPA, and it makes sense to me. I don't really see it as a "land-grab", mostly because no one really HAS owned the terms "UX" or "UX Professional", though many use it on an individual and informal group level - I know I do.
Many of the conferences I've been to recently have had discussions about why (arguing about) trying to define UX is blasé because there are so many aspects; it's about further integrating and applying the craft, and labels don't matter...but in this case, they do? Why is it not adequate/okay to have the same vision/strategy they've always had, but with a new name (or is the the problem: that they haven't had a vision/strategy at all)?
Does adding the "X" signify the meaning of the organization has changed? What should that change look like, without trying to corral a further definition for UX? (doing one without the other also taking place seems nearly impossible) I'm not defending it - I have no affiliation with any UX-related professional organizations - but rather genuinely interested in what makes it so controversial.
I know that a "loose confederation" of UX has been attempted before, but it seems like it fell apart into various specialized organizations and was absorbed into general media/CS/HCI events (organizations like IAI, IXDA; events like SXSW, Media Week, CHI - to some extent) because of "bruised egos". As an attempt to there's been attempts to loosely collaborate on smaller scales, like Big Design, Midwest UX (which I attended), Refresh, Eyeo, Big Data, local UX Book Clubs, etc.
Those are good ideas in action currently, and I would hope they'd lead to a large, international organization or another confederation attempt. If there are any bounds to what is UX and what is not, being in a place to celebrate that and not have to explain in detail what it is you actually do and how it adds value to the community at large would be an excellent thing.
Personally, it's confusing and frustrating to newcomers/entry-levels in the field, like myself. My "depth" skill set is in research, usability, and a few higher level things that I'm not sure how to term without sounding silly (user flows, concept testing/prototyping for feasibility), but I have enough IA experience, and have had to beef up on visual design though it's not my greatest strength or talent…and all indications from the field now are that the first skills and passions that I have are no longer useful/valid/part of the current definition of UX - which has a fairly loose definition to begin with.
I agree with you that it is definitely a UX problem. I don't know if there is a permanent "solution" to the problem or a series of working solutions based on context. Whatever it is, it needs to be sorted out, because there are professionals who have to enter the field behind the current crowd (there's already a gap of mid-level professionals and not that many aides to entry); they're the ones that will keep the field alive - or not, depending.
That's an off-topic issue, though.
Comment: Fritz Desir (Jun 13, 2012)
Hear, hear Lou! Very interesting way to go about redefining the brand meaning of an organization.
Though not intentionally meant as a land grab it sure has the strange feeling of one. That said, I completely agree with you though (and Jared's 'DO' comment). It would be extremely useful for them/us? to treat this entire situation as a design problem and although it seems the problem itself was inappropriately framed (if at all) it might be helpful if they (UXPA) just gave a few scenarios in which the proposed "UXPA" solution could work or be useful.
I'm just sayin' DON'T MAKE ME THINK I mean at least not this hard. - F
Comment: Jamie Kravitz (Jun 13, 2012)
Having attended the conference where the announcement was made, I think it had mostly to do with the fact that most folks doing the work traditionally associated with UPA increasingly have "UX" in their job title and they wanted their organization's name be more reflective of current language and not seem stodgy or outdated.
The aggressive tone of the letter from the president suggests they anticipated the kind of response posted here, I agree it appears to be a bungled announcement, and a clearer statement of WHY and WHAT NEXT would have been more... useful :)
Comment: Craig Tomlin (Jun 14, 2012)
Nice article Louis. And I agree with your points regarding being 'consulted.' I've been a very long time member of the UPA, I've also volunteered for the prior UPA web redesign project as well as I was an editor of the UX Magazine, and have been proud to serve. I'm also President of the Austin Chapter of the UPA.
I can tell you that unfortunately I was not consulted on any of this. Likewise, like you, I failed to see the 'vision' driving this change. Well, other than the fact that 'UX' has killed 'Usability' which I wrote about in my blog http://www.usefulusability.com/ux-killed-usability/.
So, I do believe the UPA leadership is trying to move the organization away from Usability and more toward User Experience, which I think is helpful since no two people can seem to agree on exactly what "User Experience" is. Hopefully they can help get that ironed out. But, I'm a bit surprised that the letter expresses the statement that the new UXPA may not be in the best position to service the new 50,000 potential members. If an organization calling itself the User Experience Professional's Association is not in a position to help drive our UX profession forward, then hmmmm, why are they there?
I know what I would tell the UXPA they can do to help:
1. More support for local chapters. (We've received none, at least so far)
2. Provide a true communications destination for UX fans. The old UPA website is apparently going away, hopefully there will be much more interactivity in the new website allowing members to interact and communicate in multiple ways with other members.
3. Promote education of 'UX.' I've seen lots of UX pros talking about how usability and UX are now standard in companies. Bull Crap. Not in my experience. Perhaps in the Fortune 500 or 1000 that's the case, but in the mid market and surprisingly in the technology and software vertical it's AMAZING how many companies I continually come across that have no clue what usability or UX is.
And Brian, thanks for the advertisements for the Big D Design Conference. I'll have to go check one out some day. But this blog post is about the UXPA letter and not about Big D. Just Sayin.
Anyway, thanks for reading my rant.
Comment: Ben Bakelaar (Jun 14, 2012)
Hi Craig, as incoming president of the UXPA NJ chapter, I encourage you to copy your comments to Rich at email@example.com and also respond via the new resource UXPA just set up - http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/uxpa/. I've been in touch with Rich since the open letter and one of their main concerns is increasing support for local chapters.
Comment: Rich Gunther (Jun 14, 2012)
Hey everybody. The aforementioned Rich Gunther here. While I applaud Lou for asking all the right questions, and while I really love what I'm reading here, I encourage you to bring the debate over to the new discussion forum at www.uxpa.org, where at least the rest of my leadership team can read and react.
And those anonymous posts weren't from me, seriously. :-)
Comment: Janice James (Jun 15, 2012)
As founder of UPA, I find your reaction, Lou, and many of the comments shared here very interesting.
I'm saddened to hear that Chapter Leaders were not consulted or even advised about the UPA name change. That lack of chapter support isn't exactly the way to build a bigger organization.
I was consulted, but I felt, like some others who too were consulted, that the decision had really already been made.
I don't necessarily disagree with the name change, but it is just that--a name change. To pose it as something suddenly bigger and better is absurd. UPA didn't get to where it was pre-2012 conference overnight and UXPA didn't suddenly become a new and better organization. It's still UPA with a new name. Changes may come later if there is a new vision.
The other thing that bothers me about some of the comments is that there is this misinterpretation about what "usability" really means. The "usability" in the name UPA was NEVER intended to mean simply those doing usability testing. Usability is a generic term for what we all wanted (and hopefully still want) to accomplish in the products we design and build--isn't it? UX might be a more stylish updated name, but I don't think changing the name of the organization is going to change the goal of its members.
And while I'm mentioning the members, I think it's important to remember all the members who gave so much of their time and lives to make the UPA what it was. They shouldn't be discounted with the name change. They're the ones who gave the newly named organization its start.
Comment: Dean Barker (Jun 21, 2012)
I've had job titles in product development and leadership that have included the terms User Experience, Human Factors, Information Architect, and Usability. They were all pretty much the same gig. Just sayin'...
Comment: Masaaki Kurosu (Jun 30, 2012)
Lou, I was informed of this page from Toshikazu Shinohara and now agree
with you criticism. Thanks Tosh.
Well, we are organizing HCD-Net (http://www.hcdnet.org/) in Japan with 6
years history of activities in terms of the HCD, UCD, Usability and UX.
We have about 350 members now. And currently, it's a representative
organization of HCD in Japan. We also have a UPA (now UXPA?) Japan
chapter and it's adjacent to us but a different organization.
And I've joined in the Dagstuhl Seminar to compile the UX White Paper
published in early 2011. That was a turning point experience for me for
to re-think about the concept of UX. I also realized then that so many
discussions (conferences and meetings) have been held in Europe in terms
What the UXPA lacks, as I think, is the "discussion". Does UXPA have its
own definition or the structural model of UX??? Does it have a clear
differentiation between the usability and the UX - the former as one of
the independent variables and the latter as the wholistic dependent
variable, or the former as one of the causes and the latter as the
result? Do we have an agreement about the temporal structure of UX
starting from the expectation and ending with the waste? etc. So many
questions still exists unanswered, or at least left undiscussed.
For me, the shift to UXPA is just the change of name without any
substantial change (they may say that the name was changed because the
body has already been changed ...).
I would propose that UXPA should have the forum on the concept of UX
(from the viewpoint of UXPA).
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