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Dec 2006 Contents

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UPA 2007

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Institute for International Research (IIR) and the UPA Connection: The Market Research Event 2006

By Thyra Rauch

Thyra Rauch is the current UPA President.

I had the honor of chairing the usability track at The Market Research Event 2006 in Los Angeles, California. For several years, IIR (Institute for International Research), the organizer of this conference, and UPA have been engaged in developing synergy between market researchers and usability professionals. IIR provides UPA members a discount to attend this conference, and UPA assists IIR in providing speakers from the usability profession. I find this to be a most welcome collaboration, particularly as one of UPA’s objectives is outreach to other related disciplines and organizations.

This year, there was more interest than ever in the usability and user research area. Sessions offered in the usability track highlighted the collaboration between the two disciplines. The Market Research Event sessions talk about ethnography and field research, globalization and multicultural research, and customer experience, satisfaction, and engagement.

In spending time at the conference I was struck by how much the two areas can benefit each other. Market researchers tend to focus at a slightly higher level: the market segment, whereas usability professionals look at the individual users, trying to understand their needs and goals. However, the tools used by each group have the potential to benefit the other. For example, one of the presentations this year discussed using “expectations” as a measure for usability: what was the expectation prior to using the product, and, after use, was that expectation met?

This year’s UPA conference had the theme of storytelling, which we felt to be a powerful tool in product design and user research. Similarly, one of the most powerful presentations at the Market Research Event this year used a story of how an event in a hospital provoked a revolutionary product redesign based much more on a vision for the user’s experience than on the features or performance of the system. I was impressed by many of the stories told in the usability track where this kind of collaboration produced better products.

I noticed several UPA members attended the Market Research Event this year, and several presenters listed membership in UPA in their biographies. Many attendees talked up World Usability Day, suggesting that the word has gotten out about that event.


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