I used to call myself a UX designer, but I don’t think I can anymore.
You see, I have in mind an image of a UX designer that does well to achieve a user-centered, holistic experience; and I’m nowhere near that. I keep making mistakes as a designer. I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Maybe I’m one of *those* designers – all talk and no show. At least, I’ve been more able to identify my weaknesses. Let me try and list them here, which is one step towards a remedy perhaps.
Just because I can imagine great user experiences doesn’t make my designs right
Ah, where do I start? User experience, the ultimate goal. What all designers strive for. It’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot – but that ultimately is the problem. This user experience all lives in my head – and I haven’t really spent time with actual users on what *their* experiences will be like. I’m not the user, nor will I ever be one. While it’s great for coming up with ideas, my ideas still need to be tested against other people’s perspectives, and I haven’t done that.
If I blame the project or the place I work, maybe the fault is in my ability to convince or advocate for user-centeredness. Even without the support, I should still be doing guerilla testing but I admit giving way to an internal culture.
So I’ve done very little user testing. Or upfront research. Or even surveys or interviews. Or just asking people at their desks. Plus, it’s worse that I know how to do this stuff and still don’t do it.
Not knowing enough stuff that’s been done before
User experience. Service Design. Content strategy. Advertising. The list goes on.
Many different practitioners who’ve been around for a long time tell me that this stuff has been around for decades – I get that, but there seems to be a lot of perspectives out there I find hard to reconcile, whereas to others it’s very clear how it all fits together. This is going to take me a long time, I think in my head.
I wrote a few months ago that I viewed CX in a different light than UX, and I learnt this week that I was wrong. CX and UX, from the practitioners’ view, should essentially be the same thing. And that using the term CX meant that I was falling into another buzzword trap. All the literature surrounding the latest CX stuff had been written decades ago – I had needed to be reading the right things (aka. read books by Patricia Seybold and other books on e-commerce from the 80s and 90s).
Not wanting to repeat my mistakes, I’ve purchased said books from Amazon and am reading them with good effect. They are thankfully cheap I guess because everyone seems to be buying the latest books on CX, and not e-commerce books from the 80s. I mostly agree that they say the same thing.
Now I need to fix the title of my talk. Or justify what I meant. Oops.
Don’t be the new kid on the block – watching what I say
There also seems to be this “new kid on the block” effect on the interwebs that seem to piss a lot of people off. Some of it I understand. Some I don’t. I avoid trying to make sense of it publicly, for fear that I’ll tread on someone’s feet. So, something like renaming things from UPA to UXPA would be like professional suicide (extreme example). Avoid.
Avoid buzzwords too. Which ones? Well, I just have to do my homework. There’s a lot of reading to do. Better get on with it.
Not knowing… is bad
User experience used to excite me. Now I’m afraid of using the word. I’m afraid that I’d be using it incorrectly, or define things the wrong way, or share from my limited experiences without the foreknowledge of my practice.
I’m also worried that I’m not doing things the right way. Information architecture. Interaction design. If I were to put myself on a scale, I’d probably score a 5 or below. But yet, I got promoted last year. As an information architect. I don’t know if that means the system is screwed up, or that I don’t know my own strengths. This is a warning sign to me.
The ‘bad’ agency
I work for an advertising and marketing agency – client services is what my company does. And I feel a bit out of place. Because it’s seemed to be a place that likely does things wrong. There is some evidence of that.
Then there’s this “move” towards products. It feels like I’ve missed the boat.
Changing myself from within – still a long way to go
I haven’t had the luxury of working with e-commerce clients in the 80s. Nor was I “around” doing stuff before things (IA/UX/IxD/etc) had a name. All I did was care. And I somehow ended where I am now.
I cared when no one bothered to write technical documents so clients could understand how to use the systems we built, and when there wasn’t a source code repository in our 20+ person dev team because we needed a robust way of developing software.
I cared when I said we needed to start our project with user research instead of plain requirements, when it made sense to me after reading About Face 3. And for insisting that researching 40 people to develop personas was enough instead of 400,000.
I cared by leaving companies and firing myself. And I cared enough to leave my family and country and enroll in a HCI programme.
Now, I continue learning through books and events after work and graduation. And by gaining more confidence and being more assertive about advocating for a UCD approach. Writing silly blog posts like this as self-validation help a little.
But somehow, it’s not enough. Nor will it ever be. And where I’m aiming to go, unicorns and one-size-fits-all don’t seem to make sense. Maybe someday, I’ll find something I can identify with. But for now, I don’t think I can quite call myself a UX designer, because it’s getting harder to identify what I do as wholly UX. For what it’s worth, I am doing bits within UX – but I can’t claim fame to all of it. And neither can most of us, anyway.