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About the Usability BoK

The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) has initiated a long-term project to collate a comprehensive Body of Knowledge (BoK) for the usability profession, which will provide an authoritative source of reference and define the scope of the profession.


The Usability Body of Knowledge project is dedicated to creating a living reference that represents the collective knowledge of the usability profession. Such a collection of knowledge for the usability profession will necessarily be broad and inclusive in scope, because our profession is inherently multidisciplinary and draws on a wide range of other practices.

We recognize that the Usability BoK should be derived from published literature, conference proceedings, and the experiences of practitioners accumulated over many years. It is not possible or desirable for this project to duplicate all of the existing resources. Rather, the outcome will be a guide that contains core material supplemented by pointers to existing resources, and continues to evolve as the practice of usability evolves.

Defining such a guide is an important step in our development as a profession because it represents a broad consensus regarding the profession itself and the range of knowledge, skills, and methods that should be mastered by practitioners in the field.


The guide to the Usability Body of Knowledge will:

  • Define the knowledge underlying the usability profession.
  • Describe and provide pointers to methods, knowledge, and skills that are important for usability professionals.
  • Promote the advancement, understanding, and recognition of the usability profession among those who interact with the usability community.
  • Facilitate professional development for usability practitioners at any stage in their careers, as well as people who come to usability from other backgrounds/disciplines.
  • Provide the basis for future curriculum development.
  • Provide support for professional development and any future certification schemes.
  • Promote integration and connections with related disciplines.

What is a 'Body of Knowledge'?

Every professional discipline builds a framework that outlines the overall practice, techniques, and standards. Such a framework guides individual practitioners and educators, providing a way of identifying that the professional discipline is delivering on its service aims. In professional disciplines that are very mature (for example, the law) and where the human/social stakes are particularly high (for example, medicine), their framework is highly refined and tied to broad educational standards - practitioners can thus be measured and certified in their knowledge and performance. In other disciplines, the framework acts as a guide for professional development within the discipline, as well as to further understanding by people outside the discipline.

The usability profession has evolved and established clear practices over the years, and the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) promotes the aspects of stable practice within the profession, as do other similar/related organizations like the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society (HFES), the Computer-Human Interaction (SIG CHI) group within the Association of Computing Machinery, the User Experience and Usability group (UUX) within the Society of Technical Communications, and the Interaction Designers' Association (IxDA), among many others.

The documented reference for a framework that describes a professional discipline is commonly known as a 'Body of Knowledge' (BoK). In 2002, the UPA Board felt that it was both useful and feasible to consider creating a BoK to support the usability profession. The Board saw the BoK as an enabler for other things that, together, would support the development of the profession and the people involved.

© 2010 Usability Professionals Association