The future of UX design

Why UX design has to evolve to stay relevant in the future

Nikkel Blaase
Aug 15, 2016 · 6 min read

Since the early 90s, when the term User Experience was brought to wider knowledge, the UX design profession has been dealing with a lot of key challenges. Besides new emerging roles accompanied by an increasing amount of new — and sometimes rather confusing — job titles, UX has mainly been struggling with its role in the product development process as much as with its influence and impact in large product organisations.

In many cases, designers struggle to speak the language of business, struggle to communicate the value of great User Experience to the management level and fail to have real impact due to organisational structures. Until now, UX is often treated as a service, has little involvement into strategic decisions, and is often assumed to just make things »look pretty«. Thus, designers are merely involved into any product and business related decisions. If UX fails to evolve over time, our craft will lose more and more relevance regarding product and business involvement.

The UX design profession is broken.

Organisations, on the other hand, need to understand that UX design is not just a service that makes things look pretty, but a profession that can add a lot of value to product development processes and strategic business decisions — something that has an impact on the success of the whole business. UX contributes to the key metrics users and businesses measure success with. This is why designers must be measured by the success of a product from a user’s and a business’s point of view, rather than by the look & feel of an interface. To stay relevant, UX design must re-define its role and responsibilities in large product organizations.

Re-thinking UX from a product perspective

We’ve outgrown our job-titles.

However, we are much more than our job titles might say about us. Titles stopped to serve and started to work against us. They do not say anything about our repertoire of roles we can fulfill. They limit us, support silo-thinking, and let others reduce us to a specific task and perspective. This is where we are missing out on the bigger picture and stop contributing to it. Basically, it limits our ability to think holistically and to shift perspectives when we look at problems.

We shouldn’t limit our skills and responsibilities to our job titles.

Titles don’t matter. What counts are the roles we can fulfill to contribute to user, product and business outcomes. The big number of confusing job titles might vanish in favour of two main UX disciplines that cover various roles: designers that care about the graphical representation of the product and aim to make the surface beautiful, simple, and easy to use — Interface Design — and designers that care about the product as a holistic ecosystem, that solves core problems, grows the user base, and generates user and business outcome — Product Design.

Product-oriented UX design roles

The evolution of UX design in today’s product organisations

Product design is the natural extension to interface design in a business environment.

A product designer’s main job is to make the whole product successful, not to craft a stunning interface. She works closely together with product management and user research to craft product vision and strategy that can make a difference in terms of outcome. Also, product designers contribute to high-level strategic decisions based on user insights and valid facts. They do not hand off their work, but work interdisciplinary across various roles together with marketing, growth, product management, and many more to to make the product successful. And their performance is measured by that.

Whenever a product helps to make progress in solving a problem for a user, it creates value that can be captured and measured. Organisations need to establish user-centric metrics translated into business goals and to measure UX design by that. We need to make our impact to business goals transparent to the whole company.

UX impact on business goals

The future of UX relies on UX.

»The world is the way it is because we shaped it. Be a change maker not a victim« — Alex Osterwalder

However, a change never comes easy. The future of UX design relies on us to create the conditions for good design in large organisations. We need to shape and claim the future of UX proactively. We must prove our value and relevance to a business and not wait for organisations to create and control the future of our craft.

Conclusion

UX design must refine itself to a discipline that works between various product-oriented roles to make the whole product successful, not just a small part of it.

When we evolve into having greater impact on product and business while still creating value for users, we will become more relevant than before. Then, the debate about a seat at the table becomes unnecessary, as it will then (and should now) come automatically.

This article is a companion to my interview on User Defenders podcast — Listen to it here.

Nikkel @JAF_Designer is a Product Designer from Hamburg. Founder of Design Made For You | Studiowww.nikkel-blaase.com

User Defenders: Publication

Articles that fight for the users.

User Defenders: Publication

Articles that fight for the users. A companion to the podcast at userdefenders.com

Nikkel Blaase

Written by

Product Designer

User Defenders: Publication

Articles that fight for the users. A companion to the podcast at userdefenders.com