User experience designer vs. Client experience designer

Whom do we (want to) work for?

Michael Ehrnboeck
intive Design


Dark LED-Sign saying in light blue font “Do something great”
Do something great. Or what the client pays for.

Have you, UX Designers out there, ever been to a subprime tinder date and being asked what you do for a living? Probably you have. It usually goes like this:

Date: So tell me, what do you do for living?
Me: I am a UX Designer.
What happens then is always pretty interesting to watch because it happens in 9 out of 10 times.
Date (Looking confused): Design what?
Me: I am a UX Designer. UX means User Experience.
Date: Aha.
Me: Yeah, I create digital products like websites and apps with the goal to enhance the user satisfaction.
Date: Aha, cool. Sounds pretty, hmm, interesting!
Also in 9 out of 10 times that’s the point when you should change the topic of your conversation. Letting your date know that you are a Designer should be attractive enough for the start.

Definition of User Experience

As medium is a platform where all kinds of designers and also a lot of techies hang around we can dig a bit deeper into the definition of User Experience Design and who we (really) work for:

We create digital products to enhance the user satisfaction.

At least that’s my definition of UX Design — but as already Albert Einstein said: In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. And so practice kicks in. Let us find out who I talk to more often in my daily life as a User Experience Designer, client or user:

  • Who is the one assigning you a project? Client
  • Who is the one paying you for creating digital products (and also pay your salary)? Client
  • With whom do you have the meetings? Client
  • Who is the one approving designs? Client
  • Who decides if we do user testing and talk to real users? Client

Client: 5 User: 0. Okay, it is not a 7:1 but still pretty clear:

We obviously create digital products to enhance the clients satisfaction, not the users!

The thing with clients

Clients, most of the times, care more about creating a huge scope, staying in budget and keeping deadlines. What they usually do not care about is the end user and testing the product with them. Almost always for the same reasons:

  • There is no need for that. We already know our users. (11 out of 10 times the truth is: They do not)
  • There is no time for that. We have to stick to deadlines. Let´s get shit done! (And realise afterwards that there is no need for that product you spent 500k for)
  • There is no money for that. The project already is way more expensive than we planned. (And it will be even more, if you do not test it)

Same same but different

To show you how risky that attitude is I want to share an example of the architects-world with you which is pretty similar to the UX Designers life.(Btw: That story also works good to explain UX to your tinder dates)

A male architect with a blue shirt sitting on a wooden desk with a constructional drawing in front of him.
I guess it is easier being an architect at dates than a UX Designer

Client = Parents
UX Designer = Architect
User = The Parents Child

You love your parents and they love you so they decide to build an expensive, fancy house for you. Only the best for their beloved one. They get in touch with an architect to tell him to build a house for you. Your parents do not want to waste much time to keep the costs as low as possible — fair enough. Also they know you since forever so they know what your taste is and do not even ask you about your preferences. What happens then is that the architect builds a house and your parents surprise you with it.

There are now two possibilities — pretty equal to digital products after launching them without testing before: You like it or not.

If you like the house it is a win-win-win: You have a fancy house. Your parents did everything right cause the building process went quick and they saved some bucks, because nothing needed to be changed according to your personal taste. Also the architect is happy because you are happy and that’s what he is all about (if he is one of the good guys). On balance the risky plan of you parents did work out, well played fellas.

But what if you do not like it? Then it is a lose-lose-lose: You do not want to spend the rest of your life in a house that does not fit your personal taste and you are pissed because your parents did not even ask you about your preferences. Your parents spent a shitload of money for something their beloved one does not like and they are sad because they obviously do not know their child’s taste. The architect is unhappy too because you do not like the result and that is what he is all about (if he is one of the good guys).

Whom do we (want to) work for? It is up to us…


  • User Testing is bloody important. At every stage of the project: Before, in between and afterwards
  • Projects can work without user testing, but the risk of screwing it up is insanely high
  • Think about a cool job title before tinder dates. That may help you avoiding confusion