Fire your UX Designer!

.. for he is actually a UI Designer

He wears a polka dotted shirt and slim jeans with suspenders. He sports wayfarer glasses with prescription lenses in it and is obsessed with his iPhone. He follows latest news on Apple and argues how flat-design is better because it looks neat or how Sketch is revolutionary when compared to Photoshop. He is in charge of the user experience of your software and in his ‘humble’ opinion, it’s users are dumb and they don’t get his ‘design’.

And, I say..

“FIRE HIM!”

Because he might be a classic example of a UI designer posing as a UX/ Product designer. Here are a few symptoms to find one and fire him . The ‘poser’..

  1. Does not understand the basics of human cognition, particularly the visual perception aspect of our interaction with our surroundings, and it how it influences the design choices he makes
    This results in non-intuitive interaction patterns, complex conceptual models and messed up information architecture & navigation designs
  2. Does not follow any version of an end-to-end (research to usability analysis) UX Process
    This results in making design decisions based on his fluctuating current mood, viewer feedback, instant inspiration etc., instead of deriving them as results of decisions made in a previous step in the process. The design constantly changes like a chameleon and collapses like Jenga tower! And the worst case, once the stakeholders realize that design decisions are just arbitrary choices made by the designer, EVERYONE WILL START MAKING DESIGN DECISIONS!
  3. Does not get all the stakeholders (upper management, product managers, subordinates, developers, testers, marketing, sales, end-users) on board, right from the beginning, and does not ask for feedback at necessary steps
    Design outputs will remain ‘functional’ in the Utopia of the designer’s mind only. The design will not materialize into a feasible, saleable and usable product with the intended efficiency and effectiveness.
  4. Not a listener, particularly when negative feedback and contradictory opinions are given
    Stakeholders will stop being constructively participative in the process and might either turn hostile or idle. Will possess serious risk due to absence of validation of assumptions the designer makes in the fields in which he carries no expertise in (market, technology, development etc).
  5. Doesn’t like to converse with prospective/ active users in finding the root causes
    This results in ‘feature creep’ into the design because whatever the user/ product management is asked shall be in incorporated directly into the design, instead of the root cause of the requirement being identified and solved
  6. Too fixed on design trends and applying them without context
    This results in delivering the wrong/ sub-optimal design style to the user, hence frustration the user by either being confusing or distracting or requires to much thinking
  7. Doesn’t know the difference or relationship or history, between modern, simplistic , minimalist and flat design, but will defend either (mostly ‘flat’) without understanding its history, concept or context
    Don’t even get me started here! Most ‘posers’ don’t possess two lines of knowledge in this matter
  8. Spends too much time on a single wire-framing concept tinkering spaces and font sizes
    Results in generating far lesser ideas than required, long design-to-development cycles, and most importantly hesitation towards ‘trashing’ bad ideas
  9. Starts talking about design styles, typeface choices, color themes etc., way before working out the workflow and interaction design
    This is classic litmus test to identify difference between UX and UI! If you hear your UX designer jump to this after a problem discussion meeting, just go type his demotion letter.
  10. Takes the design outputs personally. Will not be willing to shelve it towards next iteration
    You will get a design that stands the test of time, alone, unused, penniless, adamant, even when mankind will be teleporting across star systems!
  11. Doesn't research anything related to problem area, prospective users, market, competitors, technology etc., maybe except for latest UI trends and submissions
    This will result in a designer-driven-design which probably is useful only for posting on Dribble or Behance, and every other stakeholder can just live their lives as if the product didn’t exist in the first place
  12. Never generates for any form of data at any stage of the UX design process
    Results in making design choices at each stage without professional substantiation, but will frequently hear the poser say “This is 30% better than the previous version!”
  13. Doesn’t know the difference between Information Architecture and Information Design or Conceptual Model and Mental Model etc.
    You have an uneducated ‘poser’ here! Seriously, fire this guy!
  14. Doesn’t like to sketch to explore or convey ideas
    Yes, such fellows exist! Their first stage is to start working on Sketch or Illustrator (okay, maybe Balsamiq or UXPin).
  15. Doesn’t give options at any stage for any feature or aspect
    It is either his way or the highway (where you’ll be any way even if you chose his way). Result in lack of peer or parallel evaluation with anything else to compare.
  16. Knows and talks about Jonathan Ive, Dieter Rams but not Donald Norman, Jared Spool, Jesse James Garret, or Jakob Nielsen etc.
    Your design output will never be professional, ever! Will definitely be taken to the streets and stoned to doom! All, because your designer is just a guy who reads blogs and newsletters to gain his ‘knowledge’ and not boring textbooks of design academia and profession.
  17. Doesn’t know how to apply ‘Fitt’s Law’ to interface design
    This will result in your users searching for the right element all over your screen, and even if found, will spend eons trying to place the cursor over it. And forget about implementing Hick’s law!
  18. Cannot define or quantify usability much less know how to measure it
    What you cannot measure, you cannot improve!
  19. Never tries to document anything at any stage
    Will result in a design process that cannot be audited, replicated or improved
  20. ‘Card Sorting’ is probably the only usability tool he has heard of
    This is just because, it is the only method discussed in design newsletters
  21. Jumps quickly on wire-framing without exploring the problem statement researching for context and setting scope
    Classic 2nd-rate web designer behavior!
  22. Bleats constantly on consistency! consistency! consistency!
    Clarity triumphs consistency, period! (and yeah, they are strongly inter-related)
  23. Doesn’t understand web technology, device and interface technology
    Result in a product of either inferior technology or sub-optimal feature performance
  24. Doesn’t understand software development process and its requirements/ constraints
    Mostly result in very poor interaction between design and development team in translating the design to a product
  25. Doesn’t know to apply statistics in his design process
    There will be no numerical justification for the choices or the claims made related to the design. Good luck in justifying it to your company!
  26. Does not understand the ‘cost’ of his design choices
    Time, money, power, effort are few cost dimensions in design. And none of this can be monitored and much less improved, if your designer doesn’t get ‘costing’ of his design.

UX Design is a ‘professional’ profession!

Just like engineering or industrial design or architecture, a UX designer is a critical profession that impacts people, sometimes even the world to an extreme degree (Cough! Bush v Gore, Florida! Cough!). The quality of work or the professional is based on his text-book knowledge on various stages and topics , constant learning on branching or special sub-topics, deep questioning and research against the problem at hand, structured process to his practice of the profession, and networking with similar and related professionals of similar quality.

People who hit hipster bars, drink homemade beers, post ‘inspiration’ on Instagram related to industrial design and architecture, talk ‘design’ with unrelated people, and spend time on Sketch adjusting gradients and drop-shadows, I’m sorry, is not a professional UX designer.

Okay, do we really have to ‘fire’ him?

Well, not exactly. If the ‘poser’ is a very good UI designer (a post on that coming soon!), he can be groomed in to a UX designer over time, provided he is ready to learn apparently boring technology, science & applied mathematics topics, and you have the time to nurture. Else, FIRE HIM!


Note
I know a few (or even many) of you may get offended in reading this list, for it may sound presumptuous. But I wrote it in the best interests of the current field of software industry, where I cannot stop feeling that it is being plagued by people who care more about their feedback on Dribble and not of their users. Good Luck!


About Me
I currently serve a Senior UX Designer at an ad-tech firm in India, and owned a SaaS product startup before that. Both by education and early years of work experience, I was an Industrial and Systems Engineer and a professional consultant for designing and improving business system operations. So, when I jumped to the field of UX Design, I felt so much at home because of the similarities in their professional approaches and common knowledge base (requirements research, user psychology, usability etc.).