Which way now for the UK UPA?

By Tim Caynes @timcaynes

I recently attended the crowdsourcing event for the UK Usability Professionals Association at Sapient’s offices where we had some excellent discussions about the past, present and future of the UK chapter of the UPA.

To put it bluntly, our agenda was mostly driven by the question “what’s the point of the UK UPA?” Although this was a pretty open and honest session, as Chandra said, we weren’t there to simply whinge and moan about the UK UPA – people seem to like doing that for some reason – it was our opportunity to have an opinion on future direction.

The evening was organised around a series of 45-minute breakout sessions, discussing topics as diverse as the UK UPA’s role in evangelizing UX, engaging with other related groups, and raising awareness of accessibility needs within the UX and wider community, but the two that I let loose my increasingly wine-fuelled opinion on were “Stop moaning and start designing – how to create a UPA that engages you”, run by Leisa Reichelt, and “Getting outside London”, with Nick Antram.

Leisa did a great job of helping us articulate our thoughts on how the UK UPA could serve its members and affiliates better (including a bit of whingeing, just to get us in the mood), and after a quick round of affinity sorting and some swift work with some sticky green dots, we managed to pull together a pretty good set of priorities for the committee to consider going forward. We know that they can’t all be done, and we know that what can be done, can’t be done overnight, but there was a sense that at least we’d captured something worth taking on. I’m sure when Leisa ran the session again in the second hour, there were similar meaningful outcomes.

As we were posting our notes and finding out a bit about each other, it was apparent that there were a number of UPA ‘first timers’ in the room, and also a healthy contingent who, actually, you know, don’t live and work in London. The UK UPA know that this is a difficult issue to address and had already set up the “Getting outside London” session to try and get insights from those of us who practice in the regions (I’m based in Norwich with Foolproof), to try to come up with some solutions for how to be more inclusive.

With Nick’s support, we developed some personas to try and describe the attributes of some representative, non-London UPA members, their reasons for joining the UPA and what the benefits of that membership are. That led on to a lively discussion about what works and doesn’t work for those of us outside London, and, most difficult, suggestions for what the UK UPA might do differently to better engage with and support interactions between geographically dispersed members. We didn’t solve everything, and it did make my brain hurt a bit, but, as with Leisa’s session, there was a really healthy-looking set of outcomes that the committee can review and consider and decide how they might act upon.

I can only comment on the sessions that I was involved in, but I’m guessing from the wall coverage that there was a great deal of good discussion going on in the other sessions (UX folks tend to measure engagement by wall coverage. I bet there’s an equation for it somewhere). Just looking around the room during the break, you got a sense that those who had made the effort to attend were really getting something out of it – by putting something into it. So, a big thank you to the committee for organising the event (good work Emily!), and for being strong enough to admit that the help they need to define the UK UPA has to come from its members. Looking forward to looking forward.


Tim Caynes

I’m a Principal Designer at Foolproof which means I’m responsible for the integrity of the design thinking that shapes the work that we do.

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