January 15, 2010 The UXalliance
User Experience Unit
International Business Manager
At Mitsue-Links, I am responsible for international communication and foreign business relations for our Usability Team, and in this role I am involved extensively with our UXalliance (UXa) activities. You may have noticed the UXa banner that affixes many of our usability related service pages, but may be wondering what this banner means. In this column I will explain what it means to be a member of this international organization.
What is the UXalliance?
The UXalliance is a collaborative network of independent user research companies located in key usability markets across the globe. This international network was formed in 2005 by leading user experience companies in France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was created as a response to the need for smooth relations and operations between collaborating companies from different countries during the performance of global usability research projects.
As of this post, the membership of the UXalliance has grown to 19 countries, representing Asia (China, Japan, Korea), North America (Canada, the United States), South America (Brazil, Chile), and Europe (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom), as well as New Zealand. The current representatives’ areas of expertise range across many different kinds of services, from lab usability testing, to ethnographic research, to web analytics, to accessibility. Their strengths are also spread across many technologies, from websites and mobile devices, to consumer electronics, to call centers. And finally, an entire range of markets is covered, from eCommerce, to automotives, to government. Therefore, across all subjects, coverage is wide and it is possible to share information and collaborate on many levels.
Only one company per country is permitted to join as a partner. In order to be invited to join, each company is investigated based upon quality of services and facilities and potential for contribution. Furthermore, each company must be able to send representative(s) to take part in face to face meetings twice a year, once in the fall, and once in the spring. These face to face meetings and important part of making collaboration, open communication, and close relationships not just an ideal but an achieved reality. Indeed, the “corporate” meets “family reunion” setting that characterizes these meetings is truly an accomplishment, since this kind of professional yet collegiate atmosphere provides fertile ground for shared intellectual curiosity and joint problem solving.
How did Mitsue-Links get involved with the UXalliance?
Mitsue-Links was first approached by members of the UXalliance in March of 2007 when we received an email notifying us that representatives of the UXalliance wished to visit our offices in order to consider Mitsue-Links for membership in their global network of usability consultancies. We were told that Mitsue-Links was one of many companies that the UXalliance was considering for membership. Although the UXa members had experience conducting usability tests in Japan with other consultancies, they had not yet decided on a Japanese member company to invite to join their alliance. They had begun to search for an appropriate one because they believed it was important to obtain coverage in this market.
At the time we were not familiar with the group, but of course we accepted their request, and proudly introduced our company, employees, and facilities to them, including our state-of-the-art User Test Studio, equipped with a one-way mirror, audio recording system for simultaneous translation, and, quite uniquely for Japan at that time, a Tobii eye tracking system. After a positive assessment of our capability to contribute to their group, we were invited to join them at their next face to face meeting in Amsterdam to present detailed Mitsue-Links company information to all members. Interested in learning more about the other country representatives, and excited about the chance to share knowledge about our company with others, we accepted their invitation, and were soon thereafter inducted into the alliance as an associate member, later becoming a full partner.
What does the UXalliance do?
Primarily, the UXalliance members work together on conducting international user experience studies. To date, the UXa has conducted 250 international projects, and tested 15,000 participants in 20 countries. UXa members are not only able to contact each other quickly and easily on potential projects, but through our mailing lists partners have access to an international panel of usability experts and practitioners from whom to gain insight into practices and ideas from around the world. For example, it was through our relationships in the alliance (specifically with Spanish consultancy XperienceConsulting, who owns UserZoom) that we were able to gain early access to a remote unmoderated user testing technology, and thus introduce this technology to the Japanese market.
Lately, Mitsue-Links and UXalliance partners have also contributed to writing for The Handbook on Global User Research (edited by Robert Schumacher) to help educate others on the practical and unique aspects of performing user experience research in foreign countries. Mitsue-Links also collaborated with the UXa for World Usability Day 2009 on creating a “Global-Local Monitor” study that assessed how well global airline websites are localized according to language and culture. In this project, over 70 user experience professionals from 17 different countries contributed research. These global projects are great examples of what can be accomplished through the large scale collaboration that the UXalliance makes possible.
For more information on our services, timeframes and estimates, as well as examples of our work, please feel free to be in touch.