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Project: Certification of Usability Professionals

Report from STC 2002

Session and Discussion at STC
May 7, 2002
Stephanie Rosenbaum, Whitney Quesenbery with Caroline Jarrett

There was a small, but interested group of people attending this session. About 30 minutes were used for the presentation (using the standard PPT , without the detailed TC's), and the rest for open-mic discussion from the
floor. About 25 people attended the session, although not all stayed for the entire hour.

Near the end, we asked for a straw poll on two questions:

  • How many of you, given what you have heard today, would be interested in pursuing a certification? (12 of ~20)
  • How many of you still have reservations or objections that would have to be overcome? (18 of 20)

There was a wide diversity of experience in the attendees, based on their explanations of who they were. Some of the companies and titles included:

  • Intel Quality Group
  • Technical writer, Waterloo, Canada
  • Professor at Christ Church Institute of Technology (NZ)
  • Nokia
  • Siemens, Italy (a small industrial operating unit)
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • AARP, Web Development Manager
  • Chemical Abstracts Service, Information Developer

Here are some of the comments:

  • Usability vs. UCD: other communities will not like using the word "usability" - and this approach is more than just evaluations

There were several points made about vocabulary:

  • You need an umbrella term, because this certification would be of interest to the information architecture and information design communities, if it didn't appear so narrow at first glance
  • The title for the certification does not need to match the titles for the individual skills
  • What you are talking about is really Information Design
  • What you are talking about is really Quality

Other points made by attendees

  • Will the certification process be able to incorporate skills learned in other fields, for example technical communications
  • A certification that is not just ergonomics will help everyone understand the skills that are needed, especially for people that don't know what usability is (employers were mentioned as an example of such people). Certification can thus also play a public relations role for the field.
  • A point was raised about the difference between certifying individual practitioners and certifying the usability of products - "is this product a good one in the end"
  • Undergrads need a target, and a way to measure the curriculum of a degree against how well it will prepare them for professional qualifications. This could be part of self-assessment.
  • In Certified Financial Planners the schools are certified, but you still have to take a test at the end
  • The HFI exam is scary and useless. A usability novice was asked to take the exam by her manager, and came within two points of being certified, despite having had hardly any training.
  • Bill Gribbons, Bentley College, spoke about how he formed the curriculum of his master's program. He started to base it on the BCPE, but felt that it had not changed in years, and would only hold his program back. He felt that the certification must be able to evolve with the field, and must meet the professional needs of students like his. He would also like to see academic programs certified.


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