UX is a practice

I have been reading a lot of articles of late that suggest that the term User Experience Designer (UXD) needs to be dropped. Many people are saying the same thing. Which is that User Experience (UX) is a practice, not a job title. As UX has matured, the skills required have grown which makes the job of a single person being a UXD pretty much impossible.

I believe that UX is a practice several people on a team contribute to and it becomes part of the process for delivering products, services, and experiences that are delightful, useful, or simply, better than they were before. No one single-handedly does everything. Even if they’re the most well-rounded generalist, that does not necessarily make them a very good UX.

UX is too broad

If you are a UXD and you’re now concerned that I’m saying you should be made redundant, please don’t get me wrong. You are a specialist. We need strong UX talent in our teams. But your might change as you focus your skills to make the type of contribution you’re really good at. I’m suggesting that you specialise in a few UX practices.

There are many types of designers. I for one started as a graphic designer, then web designer, multimedia designer, and so on. As I developed new skills and as I got good at things, I changed my title. When I started all I wanted to be was a designer. I’m creative. Possibly an unexplored artist. But I chose Design. With my talent, I could have been an architect, interior designer, fashion designer or even an engineer. The path presented to me at the time was designer.

Design is pretty broad

That is a pretty broad term designer. So let’s unpack what a designer was to me. I skilled up in a bunch of software. First I did print work. Then I did website layouts. Someone else was building my designs badly. So I learned to code. HTML wasn’t a rich enough experience. I got into Flash (RIP).

As a flash designer, I had to design interfaces, animate, illustrate, code and all timed to the beat of some 8bit music (all the rage at the time). I had lots of design skills that were not even considered design. Being an independent creative. I had to sell myself, conceptualise ideas, present work, learn how to create interaction with the browser, have a mobile version of my site for devices that could not view flash files, and so on. It was an exciting time of constantly developing new skills and pushing boundaries. All while still trying to establish some defining style unique to me so that I would be recognised for my work.

What about UI Design?

UI designers are not all cut from the same cloth either. You get some UI who are wizards in photo manipulation. Others who can animate in After Effects. Some are illustrators. Animators. Even iconographers. It’s through their practice that they develop their skills, processes and identify their expertise.

Rarely do I come across UXD’s who are humble enough to admit their weaknesses or able to identify their strengths. They all just want to become leads, as they get to run around making use of their generalist skillset to enforce methodology, process, and best practice, while not having to actually execute anything. I mean wireframing is for juniors.

Specialise

If you are a UXD, then it’s maybe time to have a long hard look at yourself and understand that it’s to your advantage to pick a specialty. Perhaps you enjoy the discovery phase of a project, then perhaps you’re a user researcher. Maybe you enjoy seeing a project through from end-to-end, perhaps you’re a product owner. Should you enjoy the sprint process, perhaps you’re a facilitator. You see, there are many opportunities for someone just like you to become an expert in the thing you’re really good at and hopefully enjoy.

While the current squad setup I commonly see in organisations is probably not the right thing. I’d still encourage you to make a more meaningful impact by finding your path in what is a very deep field of skills and practices necessary to deliver the best products for our users. Leave the practice of user experience to the team.

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