As an organiser of the Design Sprint Manchester Meetup group and a Local Leader of the Interaction Design Foundation, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to try and bring together the two communities to think global and act local. We hosted an online Meetup that took place Monday 28th January 2019 to discuss our opinions about UX for Mancunians in 2019. Here’s a recount of the points we discussed that peaked my interest, and my take on them.
Trend 1: Eradicating this UX/UI/Dev/Unicorn role
Businesses are catching on that integrating a Design function into their workflows adds tremendous value, but it’s still misunderstood how or who can help. For example, many job postings are listing adverts for a “UX/UI Designer”. This covers a lot of ground and using the digital design spectrum illustration above, it seems a lot of businesses want a “Unicorn”. True unicorns rarely exist, and when they do, it’s typically in a thought leadership position or extremely expensive to retain that type of talent.
For a business just dipping their toe in the water, I recommend getting familiar with the spectrum above and deciding which part of the design process can add value and starting small. Here’s who I suggest you look at hiring in, whether temporary or permanent, depending on your organisational maturity and appetite for risk:
- UX Researcher: if you keep releasing features and products that don’t resonate with your customers, get one of these. They’ll help to uncover the truth, and supply evidence based insights to guide your team.
- UX Designer: if you get a lot of feedback that people don’t understand how to use your product, get confused a lot or you have a large customer service cost, get this. UX designers will help make things understandable, organised and match people’s mental models to reduce friction.
- UI Engineer: if your product or service doesn’t look modern and feels outdated, this is the way to go. A UI engineer’s purpose is to be aware of modern UI trends and keep things feeling and looking consistent and relevant.
There is some overlap of course, and these people will usually have a blend of skills at varying capabilities across the spectrum. If you narrow down and focus on your key business outcome, then the choice of role to hire in will be very straightforward. I’m sure we can start to declutter the job boards and reduce the tension between business owners, recruiters and designers.
Trend 2: Closing the UXer-to-Stakeholder communication gap
By stakeholders we mean project leads, developers, customers, clients, investors etc. Anyone who has a vested interest in the project or the designs you’re working on. Whilst a lot of progress has been made over the years, it seems the surge in interest to hire up design talent and getting a “seat at the table” in the executive suite is coming to fruition and should start to pay dividends.
The respect and collaboration between all parties involved helps to uncover more of the subtle nuances that are necessary for a designer to do the best work that they can. That’s difficult to do if they’re spending half their time constantly battling for the right to stay involved. With everyone on the same page and more willing to work together, we should be able to really take the work of the UX practice across the board to the next level.
Trend 3: UXers with business understanding will take the lead
Don’t be a sheep. Lead the pack.
I believe this applies to almost any skilled work, but in particular for the UX and design industry. It seems that a “Product Designer” can mean one of two things:
- The more American version of a UX Designer
- Someone who blends Design with Business (and sometimes marketing)
Anyone who advocates for the user wholeheartedly gets my seal of approval ❤️. But! If we don’t consider the commercial implications of our decisions, then we’re in danger of generating friction with the commercially-minded team members and forgetting a key part that helps you transition to a Product Strategist.
UX used to be a lot more difficult and lucrative if done correctly, before we had Sketch, Figma, UI kits and remote user testing. Nowadays it’s moving towards being a commodity, and understanding the longer term impact of your design decisions will help you stand out. For the same reason I did software engineering to know that my designs would be feasible, diving into the business context will help you craft designs that align with the business’s long term goals.
Even though there were only three topics covered here, it’s very possible to explore these themes in much greater depth. As designers we were also partially hoping that these trends come true over the next year, but it’s down to us to work with our colleagues to make them come true.
What do you think? Were we spot on or totally off the mark? Are things different where you’re located? I’d love to hear your thoughts– leave a comment here, or tweet/DM me @chuckwired.