I am Stew. I do User Experience.

This is my first post to Medium and this is a rant about User Experience, or UX as we often call it. It is a scream in the face of those who the term UX design and don’t know what it is. It is negative deliberately.

The UX is NOT the interface.

UI is NOT UX. UI is a small part of UX. A good developer can claims to be as much UX as a visual designer. UX design is not just the stuff done in Photoshop (or Sketch). UX design is also not about wireframes. Just because a product manager has put a few balsamiq screens together it does not mean that they are doing UX. I hate balsamiq by the way, it produces pedestrian needlessly sketchy wireframes.

It is 100% possible to redesign the experience of a site or product without a single screen design.

It is not visual design, graphic design, web design. It is more akin to architecture than design — but design, as in the process, is key to UX.

User Experience isn’t a single specialism.

User Experience is about designing the experience — what users do, why they do it and making it appropriate for the audience. If you’re doing UX for an advertising campaign then you need to engage the audience and mostly it’s about disposable creative ideas. If you’re doing UX for a online retail store you’ll need to know how to provide easy access to products and the right information at the right time. Plus a great checkout. If you’re working on a content site then you need to know how to structure the content, put the media front of stage and get the interface out of the way!

I’m saying that just because someone is a UX for an agency it does not mean they can handle a large content based government site as they will lack skills.

Also is you want to really look what UX is, well it’s a toolkit of skills. Some have more tools available than others. A good UX person will have coded, know how to create visual designs, not just ‘know if something looks right’, understand what information architecture is and have taken part and encourage talking to the users. Which reminds me.

User Experience is not about creativity!

Creative directors suck at UX. At least outside of advertising projects but then most marketing UX is a very very light version of UX. Do not hire anyone who has creative director on their CV to do UX for any mildly important project. A creative director on a ecommerce project is about as much use as a choreographer on a football team. It’s really the wrong skill set.

Don’t get visual designers to design your experience either! You wouldn’t get an interior designer to architect a skyscraper. It might work on small projects but visual designers deal with surface design (something I’ll cover more in another post) than they do with the messy middle of a project.

UX is about creating the right experience based upon talking to the end users. An idea is only valid if it is validated by the end users! No matter how slick a presentation is or how super awesome the interface is it is not good UX unless it works for the end user. A good experience should be effortless and invisible. It is not about winning awards — unless you’re working in marketing. I used to work in marketing and now would rather swim through boiling bovril with Chris Martin tied to my back. And I’m a vegetarian who hates coldplay.

You can’t be a Rockstar or Ninja at UX.

The best UXers have little or no ego. Rockstars belong on stages and broadcast their stuff. I know I’ve been in bands. Those that think they’re really really good at UX tend to suck. I’ve been doing this 21 years (no really) and I can honestly say that I am not a Ninja. And I probably know much more than someone who claims to be.

Unicorns suck.

In theory unicorns could exist. These are mythical individuals who, as well as being UX, er Ninjas, can also master front end and back end code, can create wonderful designs and know their way around strategy. I’ve never met one, although I’ve met some who claim to be one. They end up being the kind who use the term UX/UI. In short they tend to suck at two or three things. Whilst a UX needs to know a bit of lots of things it’s not the same as saying you are Unicorn.

UX is not new.

Did I mention I’ve been doing this 21 years? Long time huh? But go back before that and you’ll find a history of human computer interaction going back to the 50s. Douglas Engelbart was doing UX in 1968 with his ‘mother of all demos’. Before the web existed CD-roms and hypertext experiences were being designed. And then there were operating systems and games! Apple may have given it a good name but the whole people and technical things has been around for a long time. We keep on forgetting things we know a long time ago.

So what is it?

It is a mixture of user research, mapping out scenarios and flows for an experience, testing the heck out of all of these ideas and then moving on to making these into something, like a prototype and then testing that and then increasing the fidelity until it looks great, works like a charm and users either love it or just ignore it and do what they were looking to do.

UX is not about the tools or a strict process, although if you don’t talk to users then it’s not really USER experience. So it’s not how well a person can use Axure or how many wireframes they produce. It’s about how well the end experience works.

User Experience is about taming technology and asking ‘why?’. It is about making experiences easier and quicker. At the extreme ends it is about saving lives! It can also be used to sell more shit or make companies a ton of cash — but that’s if you use it for evil.

User Experience is about ensuring developers, designers and business people don’t destroy the world!

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