UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 962 February 20, 2013

We Need to Talk

:
UX Magazine is interested in starting bigger conversations

At the beginning of the year, we announced an effort we’ve undertaken to help address the central, unsolved problems central to employment in the user-centered field.

We're hard at work on a series of articles and active initiatives we think will lead to useful resolutions to the nagging problems surrounding hiring and getting hired.

There are, however, other issues affecting the employment market and exacerbating efforts to explain the value and range of UX to the outside world. We see taxonomy and the relative immaturity of our industry at top of this list, but want to know if some of you have other ideas.

UX Magazine exists to facilitate in-depth discussions of important topics just like these. We're going to raise our voice a bit to help start bigger conversations that can lead our community toward answers and maybe even some consensus. We need some thoughts from you:

  1. What are the best issues that the reach and influence of UX Magazine can be used to address?
  2. What are the best ways to move these important conversations forward?

Let us know:

Also, if you run or are involved with a local UX meet-up or book club and would like to work with us to foster a conversation at a local level that we can bubble up to the international level, please contact Josh.

 

Image of comic hero courtesy Shuttertock

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

UX Magazine was created to be a central, one-stop resource for everything related to user experience. Our primary goal is to provide a steady stream of current, informative, and credible information about UX and related fields to enhance the professional and creative lives of UX practitioners and those exploring the field. Our content is driven and created by an impressive roster of experienced professionals who work in all areas of UX and cover the field from diverse angles and perspectives.

Add new comment

Comments

27
43

Thanks, Sarah. Sounds like that article is percolating away!

30
33

I love this discussion! Based on the comments, it seems like a key issue is educating people about what user experience is and is not ... the 'what you see' versus 'what you don't see'.

I have been thinking and writing a lot about storytelling and how that relates to product development. The best example I can think of is this ... compare the process of creating a product or service to the process of creating a film. When you create a film (which I have not, but I've read a lot about) the most important piece is the screenplay ... and informing that screenplay (and some argue more important that the screenplay itself) is the characters in that screenplay. Everything else supports that screenplay. But ultimately, it's the screenplay, the story, that's going to captivate everyone and ultimate make a great film.

My hypothesis is that we've all probably turned off a movie because it was bad, where bad really equals a bad story. When you think about it, if the acting is bad, it's probably because there was no story for the actors to connect to in the first place. Normal people don't walk out of a movie because they don't like the costumes, or because they thought the art direction was awful, or because they didn't like the music, or thought the location where it was shot was bad. For the most part, people walk out because for some reason or another, the movie didn't capture their attention, they got bored, and left.

When it comes to user experience, I think a key goal is to help people understand that to create a great product, you need to have a great product story, a story of how someone is going to use the product and how that product fits into an existing story (problem, need, behavior, goal) in their lives. Without that story, no amount of sexy looking buttons, linen backgrounds, infinitely scrolling pages, and cheeky copy is going to keep them engaged and excited about your product.

I also think it's important to figure out how to emphasize that no role is more important than another, we're all on the same team. We're all creating the same symphony, we just play different instruments. No role is better or sexier than another. The most important thing is to consider if the part you are playing is in tune with the rest of the score.

* Sorry, didn't mean to jump from a film analogy to music ... but I thought the music analogy was a vivid one :)

** Now that I just wrote this comment, I might use some of this for a new article I'm writing ... stay tuned :)

32
40

hmmm.... i just stumbled upon this discussion/invitation after reading 'The Expanding Role of User Experience Design'. To be honest, I'm a walking testimony of the "immaturity" of the industry, since I had never really payed attention to the 'UX field' before this week. If not for the fact that I'm scheduled to interview for a new job with a UX design team next week, I'm sure I would still be in the dark. I am a web designer however, as well as a budding programmer, and although i am certainly adventurous, i am also a bit of a hobbit. It's been 5 years since I got my Associate degree in Multimedia Design and it's incredible how much has already changed. Some basics however are clearly just as important, if not more so, than they were then. My web design teacher at Platt College was excellent, and he impressed upon me the importance of the USER. So for me, a beautiful design is no real sustenance if it does not address the needs and wants of the end user. The real beauty is in how well your design satisfies that basic requirement. That lesson resonates and stays with me for every site I build.

So, I was sort of surprised when I discovered UX Magazine. My first thought was, "Isn't the user experience the main purpose of most design?" And then I almost laughed out of my chair. How often have I seen that most sublime of goals get pushed aside in the name of everything from self-indulgent over-design to simple commerce/capitalistic goals? Touché, UX Magazine... and godspeed!

I'm just a solo designer about to make a jump to an actual design team, so I guess I'm about to find out just how important UX is... As with all things 'billable', the more subjective a thing is, the harder it is to accept and budget, so UX certainly has a high bar to achieve. I can see the growing importance of UX in the future, but will others? Unfortunately, because I've seen the nature of production, and because UX designers already wear so many hats, I get the feeling that the significance of hiring UX specialists will get lost, except in the situation of larger projects and enterprises. Hell, most companies still never take network security seriously until they experience a major business disruption caused by something that could have been easily prevented. Not trying to be negative; just stating the nature of the beast.

So given the nature of the beast, taxonomy does loom large on the UX horizon. Like I said, I'm very new to this, so forgive me if this sounds harsh, but for me the real question is: how important is distinguishing the field of UX/UE in the industry as compared to making it a pillar of Design Education? Of course, this is not an absolute A or B proposition; UX as an industry field and UE as an educational foundation are certainly intertwined, but the effect of simply having more designers and programmers who put more emphasis on the user experience would be enormous. If our schools gave as much weight to presenting UE principles as they did SDLC, UML, OOA, OOD & OOP, then that WOULD be something.
I hope UXD can be seriously developed... but what are the guiding principles? It seems more like a basic philosophy at this point. Please point me in a good direction for resource material - I've asked "the oracle", aka Google, but I'm finding more questions than answers. UX/UE is so subjective that it's almost like defining 'art'; people are gonna think you're just charging money for exercising common sense! Which is certainly worth it of course, as 'common sense' appears to be relatively uncommon.
I wish you the best of luck...!

34
38

Mat Rosa: We sometimes ask ourselves the question, "Is UX maturing or just growing?" There's no easy answer because the field seems to be misunderstood by those looking at it from the outside and, sometimes, people who work on the inside.

Obviously, we'd like to see the field mature as it grows, and we think discussing key areas of disagreement and confusion is a way forward. Any ideas how we can broaden this conversation?

29
29

Peter Roth: This is a good topic for discussion. We published an article recently that touched on supporting new college grads (http://uxmag.com/articles/improve-your-odds-when-hiring-for-ux), but we're interested in hearing more from people trying to break into UX.

Have you had any specific successes or difficulties?

35
34

James Thompson: We frequently advise UX practitioners to flesh out their portfolios, making them less about the visual artifacts and more about documenting the processes they followed on individual projects.

Have you seen any sites like Dribble or Forrst that showcase usability?

30
33

I'm really concerned about some UX/UI practices that became a standard due to a copy/paste mechanism and that screams all over: get stupid. don't think. here it is the only way you can do this or that. But there are many types of users out there, and i think we should somehow try to address user behavior in different ways. I'm not so experienced as a UX professional (although my common sense never deceived me) but i think too much simplicity can be as bad for some as it is good for others. What do you think about this? Maybe some articles in here that can help? Thanks, I'm also trying to understand more about it.

30
40

I come from an SEO background.

I agree there is a lot of excitement around UX. Personally I think its easy to see the value of it. To prove the value and execute the ideas are were struggles are found.

The real need for UX as a profession is in large scale web businesses with tons of content. With big sites there is a lot at stake with UX enhancements and solving user needs. Enhancements will spread across design, programing and marketing business units.

You have to understand the IA iceberg below the interface and design layers. You also have to work well in a cross functional teams. I believe that a mature UX leader is one with a deep understanding of information architecture and political savvy. People with these skill sets will rock their career.

33
34

As a college student hoping to break into this field, the barriers to entry seem pretty high. One needs a strong portfolio to get a serious look for a job, but it is hard to get the type of internship experience that would allow for a portfolio to be built. I think this is because UX is a young industry and the hierarchies that allow for training etc. have not yet been established. All you UX professionals, hire interns to work for you over summers or part time during the years, the pay will be relatively low and they will work extremely hard as they are young and trying to get experience/hired!

31
33

I'm interested on thoughts about the very fast maturation of UX as a field and how other people have been affected by it. I started in development but evolved into product management where I lead BOTH development and creative in addition to product strategy and project management, and that's now spreading into certain parts of marketing.

Here (adMarketplace) it's because there was a culture shift to move UX into the forefront with full management backing. Have other UX teams and/or product managers experienced this shift and possibly even an overemphasis of the role?

29
37

To follow up with what I think @SOMAdan was getting at...

IMO one of the biggest issues/ concerns is the differentiation between visual design and what we do. Now I don't say this to start some sort of flame war, but sites like dribbble and forrst are visual showcases that are often confused for UX/UI, just look at their job boards... they are filled with UX/UI positions, as if an amazing looking psd is UX.

I have many friends on these sites that do amazingly beautiful work. You can't use it to save your life, but it's nice looking and they are consistently approached for UX/UI work.

Perhaps, a more concentrated effort to differentiate UX from visual design.

25
36

It's true, SOMAdan, UX is the new kid on the block next to visual design. Perhaps the silver lining is that there's a lot of excitement surrounding user-centered endeavors right now. Now, how to explain what we really do and harness that enthusiasm?

28
32

Hm.. well I think there is a temporary cultural snafu where visual design is prominent within 'the conversation' while UX is still not well understood. This may not be big enough or too media-centric, but voila.

35
39

I'm looking forward to hearing people's thoughts! We've spent a lot of time and resources building UX Magazine as a leading voice in the UX community, and we'd like to put that voice to greater use for the good of the UX field.