So its 2013, and over the past 5 years my opinion, informed by articles, research and first hand experience, is a majority acceptance of the user experience design practice.
Yes, every once in awhile you’ll hear the occasional
“my company doesn’t understand why we need to defend the user..”
But as a whole, most industries see the benefit of user experience design. If they don’t, they probably invest in it anyway because their competitor has a solid practice.
What is going on?
If we win the argument, then we get to practice our craft? Yes. However, there was something appealing about convincing the business and technology. I believe many of us, as user experience designers, fell into the role out of pure stubbornness and hot headedness. We like the convincing, and evangelical side of the job. In some ways, that quality is what sets us apart from others on our development teams. So what do we do now? If our field becomes fully accepted, what type of UX designers will be bred? Will we continue to be a bunch of innovative, quick witted, assholes? Personally, that’s who I want to continue to work with everyday. At ThoughtWorks we’ve started to reinvent the craft a bit.
Instead of fighting the business and technology to defend the user, we’ve begun to help the business and technology asses the right problem.
Sometimes when we are asked to implement usability fixes, we realize the reason the system is not-usable, is because of a different constraint. This constraint, in fact it has nothing to do with the design and once realized, we are able to surface this knowledge and address it appropriately. This concept magnified times 10, to the business, is the a problem we are solving at ThoughtWorks. That is to say, when a business identifies an issue and has not yet figured out how to address it, we help the business learn about this problem and identify the solution, together.
Where does UX tie into this?
Almost always, a business’ problem has to do with users. Example: I was working with a client earlier this year that build really cool hardware. They employed us to help solve a problem, but as they began they realized they didn’t have much information on their users. They fully embraced user experience design, but only at the development level, so the UX techniques were not applied to the business. As a result, their solution was not tailored to their users. This caused all sorts of problems from a HUGE backlog of stories to confusion around prioritization. Together we partnered to approach the business solution from a user centered perspective. I was suddenly working with the CMO and the CTO directly to create a common ground for which our problem would be solved. It was THRILLING! Honestly, it was like “convincing the business that UX design matters.” However in this case it was sharing my knowledge about users, how to learn about them and the way that they must be integrated into the business solution.
So what is next for UX?
I see much more of this happening in our future. Moving closer to the business while maintaining a relationship with technology, will be a new skill that we must acquire. In addition, we will need to know how the business works. Budgets are crucial and stakeholders are even more important. In this approach we still get to work on a cutting edge problem with cool controversial projects, while maintaining our love for the user. I believe it’s a great transformation for “our kind,” and it still allows us to be informed assholes that respect our users.