19 October 2015

Everyone is a UX-designer and Why I Hate the Term

When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a UX-designer. Truth is, it’s not a title I’m a fan of. It’s true that I help companies design user experiences and you’d think the title would be suitable, but it also suggests that I am solely responsible for what the complete user experience will be. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As I’ve mentioned before, the user experiences are made up of so much more and everyone has a role to play.

Mike Monteiro is one of my favorite thinkers. You may know him from his brilliant speech “F*ck You. Pay Me.” or his books “Design is a Job” and “You’re My Favorite Client”. Some of my favorite passages come from “You’re My Favorite Client” where Mike let’s the reader know that whether they believe it or not, they are a designer too:

I don’t know anything about design. Bullsh*t. Look around you. You make choices based on design every day.

Even if you can’t design those things yourself, that doesn’t take away from your ability to decide that was the chair you wanted to sit on, or the shoes you wanted to wear, or the car you wanted to buy.

You know bad design when you encounter it. From every chair you’ve sat in that hurt your ass, to every coffee cup that burned your hand, to every time your finger triggered the wrong link on your phone, to every airline booking site that pissed you off. You know bad design. You hate it.

It Should Just Work

Mike’s reasoning can be easily applied to UX-design – the airline booking site reference fits really well. As people, we just want things that work. This is, without a doubt, one of the reasons that Apple has seen such great success with their products.

Sure, the Android operating system has some awesome features. You can customize just about anything, but the vast majority of users don’t give it a second thought. Do we really think that people care whether or not you can customize what font the operating system uses? Most people don’t even know what a font is. What people do care about is getting on with their daily business. The faster I can pull the phone out of the box to start making calls, e-mailing, and browsing the web – the better.

More Options Don’t Equal Good Experience

I was recently hired to rethink the user experience of an e-commerce website that lets users customize shirts. The possibilities are absolutely endless. A user can choose different buttons, collars, pockets, cuts, and the list goes on and on. They can even upload their own measurements to ensure a perfect fit.

These endless possibilities can get overwhelming for first time users. They might just want to get a shirt where they can simply select a custom color. I suggested to the client to group options together to make the choices easier to grasp. Especially in this case, this grouping technique can help users more easily engage with the product.

Just think of Google. The possibilities are endless for what you can search for and how you can filter those results to see exactly what you are looking for. But the success of Google lies within the simplicity; that most users feel comfortable with a single text field where they can enter their search term.

This e-commerce client didn’t buy into my reasoning and thought that they would lose clients by grouping the options for ease of use. They believed that their user base desires to have all the options, all the time. We ended up parting ways because I couldn’t suggest a solution that would meet all of their demands.

I strongly believe that if you want to please everyone, you end up pleasing nobody – not even yourself.

The User Experience is SO Much More

Even though my title might be UX-designer, the user experience consists of everyone involved: marketers, managers, customer service, technicians, even other users. The role of a UX-designer is to take all these different inputs and suggest the best way to package, position, and communicate it. Success comes from paying attention to the entire experience of the user, from beginning to end.

From #mobX speaker Cat Noon (image by Thorsten Jonas):

A great user experience