Article No :685 | June 9, 2011 | by Jonathan Anderson | UX Magazine

UX Magazine attended the 2011 IA Summit in Denver this year to interview conference speakers and attendees. In this video, interviewees respond to the question:

In the fight for better experiences, are you winning or losing?


The interviewees, in order of appearance, are:
  1. Louis Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld Media
  2. Eric Reiss, CEO, The FatDUX Group
  3. Rob Fay, UX Architect, Blackboard, Inc.
  4. Dana Chisnell, Usability Works
  5. Jeff Gothelf, Director of UX,
  6. Kevin M. Hoffman, Experience Director, Happy Cog
  7. Samantha Starmer, Experience Manager
  8. Stephen P. Anderson, Independent Consultant & Creator of Mental Notes
  9. Kim Bieler, Apt Media
  10. Justin Davis, Founder, Madera Labs
  11. Richard Dalton, Manager of IA, Vanguard
  12. Beth Koloski, Lead Experience Architect, EffectiveUI
  13. Adrian Iacomi, Information Designer
  14. Olga Howard, UX Lead, /
  15. Leanna Gingras, User Research Coordinator, Ithaka
Louis Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld Media
In the fight for better user experiences, I'm losing every battle on the way to winning the war—which is kind of how George Washington did it, if you look at history. It's not a matter of winning battles, it's a matter of persistence, it's a matter of pushing forward because you know it's the right thing to do, and eventually there's enough of us that things will start changing. They have. User experiences are dramatically better than they were even five years ago. I also think there's a changing of the guard that has to happen. The people who are doing design now, who are coming up, who are in their twenties, they have such a high level of interdisciplinary digital literacy and design literacy that people like me—I'm in my mid forties—I just can't believe it. They're the ones that Jared Spool is calling for, the ones who can do things like design and code, the ones that can create art and yet do user studies. They're unbelievable. They just synthesize this stuff without thinking about it. They're not laden down by the disciplinary blinders that a lot of us were inculcated with in grad school when we were told, "You've got to take these courses in this program, and then you've got to join this professional association and go to those conferences, and work in certain companies doing a certain type of job, and don't ever go to another conference, and don't ever look into another field. Why would you do that?" A lot of us are still trying to overcome that. But meanwhile there's this whole new group of people. They're not spoiled by that parochialism that many of us were encountering in places like grad school. So, just for that reason, when people like me die out things are going to get a lot better. I'm excited.
Eric Reiss, CEO, The FatDUX Group
Well, I think we're winning, definitely. If I look back, say, ten years, we're still making lots of mistakes but we're making different mistakes. So there are some best practices, there are more case stories, there's a better body of knowledge within the community. Certainly blogging has helped tremendously. And what I like about the user experience community is its spirit of openness. We're still a young, very pioneering community and we do share. And I like the fact that so many of us use the word "community" rather than "tribe." "Tribe," I find a very dangerous word because it's exclusive. Tribes combat each other. Tribes keep other people out. Whereas communities are welcoming. I think that the UX community is truly a community, and I'm hoping that as we mature, that we're still able to share information as freely as we do now.
Rob Fay, UX Architect, Blackboard, Inc.
I'm optimistic—I would say winning. It's not without challenge, but I feel that I'm a change agent where I am. And that's not to say that folks don't care about the user experience, but I feel that certainly working within an organization is a great opportunity to make other people focus on what's really important.
Dana Chisnell, Usability Works
Oh, I feel like I'm definitely winning. My big area of work the last few years—actually, the last six or eight years—the thing I'm passionate about is civic design, especially related to voting and elections. And in the beginning, when there was a lot of really basic applied research going on and best practices were just coming out and guidelines were only just then being articulated, it seemed like a slow, hard slog with very disparate constituencies and uninformed and uneducated customers. But that is starting to change and now, about six years later, those things are making it out to the field where people are actually using them and finding them useful and valuable. And that's really exciting.
Jeff Gothelf, Director of UX,
I'm absolutely winning in the fight for better experiences, both through simply becoming a better designer year over year, but also through better processes and working more collaboratively with developers and product managers and business owners to solve problems together so that we all have a stake in the final solution.
Kevin M. Hoffman, Experience Director, Happy Cog
I think we're winning in the fight for better experiences, but I think that the larger or more complex the organization we're trying to design something for, the more time and money it takes to win that.
Samantha Starmer, Experience Manager
I think winning, right now. We've been able to make a lot of progress at REI to improve the experience. And it's certainly not me; there are a lot of people that came ahead of me, some of whom aren't even there anymore but who laid the groundwork. But absolutely I feel like every single day there's improvements not only to the experience but to how people are thinking about customer and user experience so that more and more people are making it important.
Stephen P. Anderson, Independent Consultant & Creator of Mental Notes
Winning, of course! I think we all are. I think people are hungry to make things better. There are limits to incremental improvements, and people are seeing successful companies that are succeeding because of better customer experiences. So I think we're all winning.
Kim Bieler, Apt Media
If you're fighting for better experiences, you're always going to win. As long as we're always trying to explain, and show people, and show clients, and talk about it, people are picking up on this stuff bit by bit. But I don't think that it's something that happens overnight; it's definitely a gradual process. A lot of times what I see is, in a project, if we show a lot of concepts and one of them is a cutting-edge concept and the other is more middle of the road, like a safer concept, a lot of times they'll go for the safer concept. But then you've shown them something that's going to push the envelope a little bit, and a lot of times what happens is if we have an engagement with a client, the next time they come around, they say, "Remember that thing you did? We didn't pick it last time, but we want something like that." So you're really pushing the envelope all the time and you're educating clients, and I think that it does pay off over time. And even if they don't work with me next time, they're going to somebody else and saying, "We saw this thing, and it was really cool. We want something like that."
Justin Davis, Founder, Madera Labs
Depends on the project and the client. I think largely winning. Sometimes there are small losses in the great war of experience design. But I think just having the conversation with people, bringing up the language, talking to clients about this, showing them the process, all of that I think are wins because it just makes what we do more visible and it makes it more worthwhile to those people. So I think winning overall, despite what it feels like on some days.
Richard Dalton, Manager of IA, Vanguard
I'd say it's a draw. No, I think we're winning. I think we're continually improving the experiences that we work on.
Beth Koloski, Lead Experience Architect, EffectiveUI
Winning at a glacial pace—how about that? Winning, but not as quickly as I'd like… I think.
Adrian Iacomi, Information Designer
I think it's not relevant if you're winning or if you're losing. It's important if you keep on going because even if you lose you learn something, and in the end hopefully you will win.
Olga Howard, UX Olga Howard, UX Lead, /
I would say that as an industry we're winning, definitely. The fact that everyone at my company, at Three Pillar Global, understands the importance of user experience is a very big difference from just a few years ago when I had to sell it internally.
Leanna Gingras, User Research Coordinator, Ithaka
I think personally I lose a lot of battles but on the whole I think I'm winning the war. I think the big problem is that user experience is so new and business processes are not very set up for it. And so I might lose some battles because I go in not really knowing how exactly to go up against business processes, but I always go into the next battle better informed. And I think that each battle that I win helps stem the tide of overall business thinking and higher-up stakeholders toward user experience.