Today I want to invite you on a journey in which we UX designers take a step outside of ourselves and look closely at our world. In doing so, we can see that our kind is a splice of two different personalities. We are a cross of those that want to lead the world in designing a better place for everyone, and those that want to be directed as to which problems to solve and when to solve them. Being natural perceivers we operate on our own wavelength and thus find it annoying when people screw with our genius. On the flip side, we are generally not always great at staying grounded because our creativity takes us to new heights and allows us to go places with our ideas that others could only dream! The impressive amount of imagination, creativity, and innovative thinking that we posses contributes to the fact that we expect people to recognize the power of our work and the immense value we bring. At the same time, we are unable to reign in our own genius to the biggest design constraint of all, that of our reality.
Of course, in order to put our untapped creativity and genius to use, we have to look outside of reality. I mean, that is the whole point of what makes UX Design so powerful, is the ability to look beyond the now to the how it should be. However, there is a time and a place for everything, and I would argue that there is a time and place for us to come to the realization of the world in which we work. The problems that we see due to our natural personality types coming into combat with our economical way of producing success are many, however, there is a specific problem that I think we should discuss today, and one that was brought up in Cameron Koczon’s post on A List Apart, An Important Time for Design. The simple fact is that design thinking, although it is the latest word on every company’s lips, is still only seen as important for executing the idea, and is not seen as integral to coming up with the ideas in the first place. Cameron does an amazing job of illustrating this through his narrative on how startups view design. He also points out to us that another group was in our same position not so long ago. Who was that group? Developers (seriously, read the article before you continue this post. Here it is again.)
As you just read, there are several solutions to the problem of UX Design being seen as useful only during execution of an idea, however the big one is that we need to see the forest through the trees. We absolutely need to admit to ourselves that we work within the world of business, and thus we need to recognize that world as the biggest constraint in which we do our work (for more thoughts see UX… It’s Time to Start Keeping It Real). This means that we need to stop playing by our own rules without considering the rules of business. We need to stop designing solely for design’s sake or only for the user’s benefit, and start realizing the environment in which our solutions are developed. We need to stop waiting for the day when someone else realizes the genius of what IA and UX really is, and figure out how to sell that genius to others. In short… UX it’s time we wake up, rise up, and take our place next to our development and business partners instead of hiding behind our processes and methodologies… instead of hiding behind our users. This means that we take responsibility for our fate, and we aim to change that fate by coming out of our community’s shell and integrate UX into the world of business. How do we do that?
First and foremost, we need to take responsibility for the cultivation of the UX industry. We need to push ourselves to stop talking only about how to do UX, and start talking about how the constraints around the UX world (i.e. business, startups, etc), work. We then need to figure out how we can fit UX into those constraints. Lastly, we need to admit that we do this work, not only because we love it, but because we love doing something we love in order to provide for ourselves and our families. We need then, to start keeping it real and bring that fantasy part of our personalities out of the clouds for a moment or two, and start realizing that we aren’t in our own little bubble anymore, in fact that we never were in that bubble in the first place.
By taking responsibility for improving UX over and by admitting that we work within businesses and that is our biggest constraint, we begin to create a profession of people that can work within the business structures around us. This doesn’t mean that we sell out and become a part of the machine, but that we study and learn the machine so that we can change it from the inside out. Right now we are only on the perifery… only there to execute… not there to think. But in order to be the thinkers we need to know more than just UX, so that we can navigate UX through anything that comes at us. Cameron was right in his article… it is an important time for design. My only question for us is will we answer to our call of duty or hide behind what we know to stay safe. The choice, is up to you.