So What’s That UX Person Doing Anyway?

A while back at a previous job where I was promoted as lead in our department, I thought it might be a decent idea to ask for feedback on how I was doing from my team. I was confused when one of the guys said, “not bad-if you actually did some work around here”!

What the!?!? I had been busting my butt- not only the duties as best I knew that had been described, but also some of the duties that I had done before I was lead- to make it easier on the team! But no! I hadn’t been recognized for my diligence-I was being poked for “not doing ANYTHING”!

Well those that know me, know I can take a little jibing from time to time. But I can dish it out in equal measure-be assured. Perhaps it was just that the timing was off when I was looking for some sincere feedback. But it really worked on me for a bit.

I began to realize that there were perhaps members on the team that thought I wasn’t doing my job. After great consternation I came to the conclusion that the reason some of them might have felt that way was because it had never been discussed with them what I would be doing- by either my boss, or for that matter -from me.

So recently when I read Erik Flowers “UX is not UI”, I found myself identifying with his frustration of how coworkers and colleagues didn’t really know his “job description”. Most thought that he was an “interface or visual design” guy-which are crucial jobs for any successful team, but there was so much more. He went so far as to make a rather bold flyer:

Erik Flowers Flier: “UX is not UI”

I laughed when I saw this and thought how many times in different jobs I would have liked to know what everyone was doing, as well as them knowing my duties! (Although in anwers to commenters Flowers does mention that the flier wasn’t intended as just a job description-but more of an encompassing description of UX duties).

In the new world of user experience economics, everyone involved should be thinking of UX, but the companies that are big enough to have someone fulfilling this sole responsibility are lucky.

It was strangely funny to read in the comments to Flowers article how people that should be grateful to have someone doing this important stuff, were kind of poo pooing his point. Most seemed to have the view that “hey we get it-we need to be thinking about the user, but why do we need a person to sit around and think about the user”.

Which is not a bad question to ask if indeed that UX person is just sitting around and not following the careful processes and methods outlined by such diligent people as Kim Goodwin in her book “Designing for the Digital Age”.

While working with Alan Cooper, they developed an “explicit method” with “goal directed design”, which involves planning and conducting design research, using it to develop personas, scenarios, and requirements that are then used to develop and iterate a design solution. This then leads to project planning, research, modeling, requirements definition, framework definition, detailed design and implementation support. All the while, this method is meant to make a better user experience, but even she said it was presumptuous because every person is unique.

Hopefully we are not just building what we as creators think is important and neat, but are keeping at the forefront of our designs the ongoing evolution of the Web, the growing billions of users, and the many types of ways they access it.

Jacob Gube from SmashingMagazine says it best in What Is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools, and Resources:

With all of these sweeping changes, the websites that have consistently stood out were the ones that were pleasant to use. The driving factor of how we build websites today has become the experience we want to give the people who will use the websites.

In Ali Rushdan Tariq’s “A Brief History of User Experience”, he talks about how UX has evolved through history, but also how in the present day it is encompassing so many aspects, as he shares in this diagram:

Shared by Ali Rushdan Tariq in “A Brief History of User Experience”

He states, “The internet is no longer confined to our laptops or smartphones — wearables and even implantables can now put us in a state of constant communication. This presents opportunities for user experience professionals to design interactions that transcend form factors with the ultimate purpose of improving people’s lives”.

So I guess what it comes down to, is not worrying who gets the credit. Hopefully the whole team gets credit for a great end product, but it might be important to define roles early, and on an ongoing basis redefine roles so that the most important factor is made the priority- the user’s experience.

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