UPA 2011 in Atlanta

By Tom Wood @Foolproofer

I’ve just spent a couple of happy days in Atlanta with user experience folk from around the world. UPA conferences always create a variety of emotions.

At times it’s a sense of frustration that it seems to be a slow-changing forum on the fast-changing international design scene. Just as the world seems to be waking up to the importance of user experience, UPA can seem a little shy about stepping forward into the limelight. Personally I worry that the association could get shouldered out of the way by more ambitious groups looking to take the lead in the user-centred revolution that’s taking place.

Also, it can sometimes seem that there’s too much focus on practice: perfecting the detail of methods and techniques, with too little about the bigger picture and how UPA needs to engage with other professions. This is a reasonable criticism, but the busy sharing of ideas and approaches is also a strength.

The reason I enjoy UPA conferences is exactly because of this focus on tradecraft. Professionally it’s really nourishing to spend some time away from the everyday, thinking about the things I do every day.

Whether it’s a session about body language in moderation with Brooke Baldwin, spending a few hours with Google’s Tomer Sharon talking about stakeholder management, or getting some ideas on street research with Martin Belam from the Guardian, it’s good to get some thinking time – especially in the company of so many talented and experienced people.

Next year’s theme of Leadership for the conference in Las Vegas is a good choice. I think it’s time to ask ourselves if we have the appetite to lead the way, and how we develop the skills to do it. Personally, I want to be sure that the elevator we’re on has buttons all the way up to the top floor.

Tom Wood

I’m one of the two founders of Foolproof. Within projects I usually take a role both in planning our approach and in the generative phases of design. I’m also active in gathering client and customer needs into the design space. My particular talent is helping senior stakeholders see and understand the customer’s world in richer detail, and helping them work out how to respond.

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