Sorry UX, the party’s over.

Robert Skrobe
Aug 20, 2018 · 8 min read
I could have swore I put up those personas somewhere over here. Where did my desk go?

For the past nine years, I’ve been writing trading bots and scripts in Ninjascript (C#) while studying technical analysis of the stock market.

Most of this work involves understanding market dynamics, trends, indicators and algorithms. The rest of it is silent cursing, looking for that one semicolon in my code that stops my entire script from compiling properly. It’s truly a love-hate relationship.

Lately, I’ve been getting some warning signs that the market for UX’ers is in trouble. The macro view for the short to medium term seems viable enough. It’s the longer view into 2019 where I worry.

Take these unconventional indicators I’ve seen lately:

Now I could chalk the whole thing up to confirmation bias. I was let go from my own position as a UX Manager back in May (which was a fantastic blessing given that I was thinking about starting a business). I could be walking around with a chip on my shoulder, grumbling that the world is against me.

Also, one could easily argue that all signs point to UX being a very vibrant discipline with a bright future. Active user groups, strong community support and a whole lot of unfilled UX positions across the United States. What’s not to love about this if you’re in the UX field? It’s awesome!

If you’re one of those individuals that believes UX is doing fine, fantastic. You do you and be happy. You can stop reading now. Everything will be fine.

Everything is fine. (KC Green c/o The Nib)

I think there’s going to be a huge correction in the market this time next year for UX. The discipline as a whole will be under attack on a variety of fronts. It’s likely going to replay the same thing that happened with IA and IxD when they peaked and regressed in the last decade.

Here’s what I think will happen, or is already happening:

Paul Adams — The End of Navel Gazing (Business diagram) (2018)

Each department talks with various other departments while working on their projects or conducting the day-to-day business of things. Sales engages leadership, HR, Finance, Marketing and Biz Ops. Engineering talks to Marketing, PM and Analytics. Design talks to arguably half of the diagram at any given point, and so on.

Meanwhile, UX is surfing the outside of the circle somewhere between research and design. It may come in contact periodically with some or all of these departments in the above diagram, but it doesn’t collaborate with them regularly. UX spends all it’s time and energy focused on just two areas of the larger organization.

Where UX spends most of it’s time (represented in blue waves) — c/o Paul Adams

Because of this dynamic, Paul argues that UX doesn’t fundamentally understand and respect the other roles in a typical organization, nor is it challenged to do so. There’s no regular interchange with other departments like sales and customer service that speak with customers and users regularly.

Let’s elaborate on that last point for a second.

Sales will likely know their product and customers better than the folks building the product. They engage clients to learn what they care about and alert the business to what they might be interested in buying. They have their fingers on the pulse of the market.

Customer Service will talk to your customers *every single day*, and will know the company’s product failings better than anyone. They discover patterns in what customers ask for and where the issues are. They’ll reinforce what the Sales department thinks customers are looking for next.

The best (and most innovative) companies encourage Sales, Customer Service, and Product Teams to talk to one another and exchange information. Coupled with analytics and Marketing, you have the proper foundation for true collaboration and innovation. If you’re versed in how to run a design sprint, you’ll really be off to the races.

Ironically, this dynamic exposes the biggest lie UX practitioners tell themselves: “We are the voice of the user”.

Most practitioners will believe that the user is at the center of everything a business does. Therefore, as a user experience person, they should also be at the center.

Unfortunately, it’s a naive, biased, ignorant and prejudiced view of the UX role in an organization.

UX may represent one voice of the customer, but it’s only one voice. Customers and users interact with a company in multiple ways. Sales, marketing (social media in particular) and customer service all engage users and customers far more than UX does.

To stay relevant, UX practitioners will need to reframe their engagement to understand the business, talk with other departments and learn what the market wants and demands.

Your average UX Designer at least one per year

Start working on Plan B

Just like the seasons that come and go, most UX practitioners will have their annual existential crisis about who they are and what they are meant to do.

The worse cases materialize in something called the ‘Imposter Syndrome’, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

For most though, it’s the status quo irregardless of internal retrospection. As long as that paycheck, health insurance coverage, deferred retirement savings and that one work-from-home day are there and you can provide for yourself and your family, all is good.

For now.

For those of you wanting a plan B, I would strongly encourage you to read the latter part of Jonathan Courtney’s ‘The Golden Age of UX is Over’ article posted over a year ago.

Head straight to “It’s not enough to understand the user, you need to understand the business”, and you’ll find plenty of great suggestions on how to get ready for the new world of product design that’ll emerge in 2019.

He covers the following:

Until then, I wish you all the best, no matter what path you end up choosing in the future.

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to effectively use the design sprint process. I also enjoy highlighting other professionals and practitioners in the field, and feature their stories here on Medium.

Robert Skrobe

Written by

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to effectively use the design sprint process. I also enjoy highlighting other professionals and practitioners in the field, and feature their stories here on Medium.