Peter Merholz – What is a UX designer? – UX London 2013

Why ‘UX Designer’ is a problematic job title

  • Don Norman coined ‘user experience’ at Apple to cover industrial design, graphics, interface, physical interaction, and manual.
  • Then UX narrowed because of focusing it on the web
  • Then we started thinking big again – Dan Saffer’s diagram – UX includes IA, architecture, industrial design, human factors, sound design, HCI, visual design, content

We haven’t defined what UX design is as a profession.

  • This is OK – speaks to our field’s dynamism. The moment you can actually define what you do as a profession, it’s already been outsourced
  • In order for UX to achieve its potential, we need to reframe it
  • As products evolve into services, UX has gotten muddy. How do products and services interact? What are we designing?
  • As designers, we have a bias towards execution – we have to ship to justify our existence
  • Though UX emerged from design disciplines, it is not a design discipline. We get too caught up in design = execution, and lose sight of opportunity that thinking about UX can provide

What is UX design?

  • The design of anything
  • Independent of medium
  • Or across media
  • With human experience as a explicit outcome
  • And human engagement as an explicit goal

Then what does a UX designer do?

  • It’s been right in front of us but we haven’t seen it because of our bias towards execution
  • It’s not all those different disciplines.
  • UX design is the gap that surrounds those disciplines. UX is fundamentally a coordinating exercise. Coordinating all disciplines into a whole
  • Includes business development, marketing, engineering, customer service, retail as well as product and service design

UX designers are not the only people who design customer experience

  • Why do we continue to behave as if design is the only organizational practice concerned with a user’s / customer’s experience? Bias / condescension?
  • Key reason for success of iTunes – lawyers struck a really good deal with music industry
  • Just because IX emerged from software and grew with the web doesn’t mean it has to be digital
  • UX is not a functional group in an organization. UX is everyone’s responsibility. Departmentalising functions inherently limits ability to deliver great experiences
  • Having a UX department absolves other departments from worrying about UX. Furthers the problems we see
  • Companies that deliver best UX often don’t have biggest UX groups

So what is a UX designer?

  • Change our frame of references from product execution (sketch, iterate, prototype, test, build, ship) to product definition. Drive a different conversation away from ‘what features are you going to ship next’
  • You could have started at a specific discipline, but now you’re overseeing many factors. The UX designer role is a leadership role (not necessarily management role). Leads the team towards delivery.
  • In product definition, design makes strategy concrete. Here UX designer plays strategic role. We design to make strategy concrete. We do research, ideation generation, understand the market, customer empathy, product strategy. Prototype. Develop experience strategy, and roadmap that can drive the Execution half of process
  • UX designer tasks – customer journey map. Understand user insights. Look at things globally.
  • UX designer facilitates – gets cross functional team together and gets better ideas out of them.
  • UX designer leads ideation / generation exercises – helping to narrow idea down
  • UX designer comes up with experience strategy and vision. Video, model, pictures, design principles
  • UX designer does experience planning – Business drivers down left, across is Improve exsting, collaborate, convey, Smart (adaptive path tool) Product evolution map like Brandon Schauer’s ‘cupcake, birthday cake, wedding cake’. Every stage needs to be desirable
  • UX designer does ongoing oversight and orchestration
  • UX designers lead orgs to ensure that great UXs get out into the world
  • Doesn’t mean UX designers can’t / shouldn’t do execution work
  • If UX design is going to be a meaningful profession, we need to stop selling ourselves short. We are not workflows and wireframes people. We need to THINK AND ACT BIG. Don’t let others define what we do. We need to define our own role and how it should operate.
  • We should LEAD, Not FOLLOW
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