This was my first post on LinkedIn, and long overdue. I just got back from a run, and this just kind of fell out of my brain… so forgive the messiness. I have been working in the field of User Experience for 19 years.
I have worked for clients in 15 countries, many major brands in a wide field of industries. I have worked in the aisles of Home Depot to learn more about how people buy faucets and created hundreds of screens in Sketch to explore every possible configuration of a new touch screen for a GoPro camera.
In that time I have not only worked on hundreds of UX projects, I have also worked with at least a hundred UX researchers, strategists, and designers with some of the most recognized agencies in the field. Since I’ve never had a formal education in the field, I have learned from some of the most amazing people in the business and for that, I will always and forever be grateful.
I’m not reading off my resume to brag, just to set context from where my perspective comes from. I have also dedicated my life to bringing joy to people. If you know me personally, that probably sounds really weird considering what an edgy introvert I am. For me, it started when I was 16 years old in Durango, Colorado where I got my first job which was waiting tables in a small steakhouse called the “T-Bone” owned by, you guessed it… T-Bone James.
T-Bone James was the first person who taught me about providing service to people. It was my first lesson in User Experience at 16 years old, and didn’t know what it was called until about 20 years later. I spent the first 14 years of my working life working in restaurants, nightclubs and hotels. I loved creating magic for people. Sometimes it was me coming up to a table, seeing two people on an awkward date, and taking over so they could relax and get to know each other. Other times it was making a martini for an 80 year old woman who told me she had traveled all over the world and always had a martini everywhere she went. I knew that making that martini for her, was the most important thing I was going to do all night. This eventually lead me to nightclubs and house music and learning about the 128 beat and what got people out on the dance floor. I’m excited to be exploring dance music again with technology that’s now 30 years newer!
But enough about me… I think you get it. I care about people having a good experience whether it’s a simple marketing website, a clever mobile app, or an enterprise dashboard for managing servers. In that time, I’ve watched the UX be appropriated by everyone who every touched a piece of digital anything. For that reason, I wanted to put this out there not be judgmental, but to maybe clear the cloudy ambiguity about what UX means and get back to the basics. So for that reason, I’ve written this out to hopefully provide a little more clarity.
- If you care more about people’s data, than people… it’s not UX.
- If you don’t measure user feedback and sentiment, alongside with time and money, stop calling it UX.
- If you care more about the brand, then how people feel about the brand… it’s not UX.
- If you are more in love with a feature, than you are with the person that has to figure out how to learn it… it’s not UX.
- If you aren’t considering the person’s context that’s using your product or service, it’s not UX… it’s just self indulgence in your own cleverness.
- If you’d rather go home at 5p, than refine the timing of a micro interaction that makes it that much more enjoyable to use…then it might still be UX, but it’s Meh at best. Not saying working nights and weekends is what it takes, but dedication is key.
- If you’re using dark UX patterns (yes also talking to you LinkedIn) to drive up conversion, you suck and I consider you the cancer of my profession (seriously… shame on you).
- If you aren’t willing to fight against design tyranny, to make the experience better for the people you are designing for, quit your job and go work somewhere people appreciate what you believe in (I have done this several times myself).
- If you aren’t constantly learning something new, that makes your work better… this isn’t the career for you.
- If you don’t care about people you design for, you can’t help anyone.
So look. I get that not everybody can try to ascend and sometimes, stuff just needs to get done. But what I don’t appreciate, and what others like me don’t appreciate, is when you puff your chest with a big UX stamp on your T-Shirt and really you’re just going through the motions. Don’t write articles about a trend that is years old that you just discovered, and then write about it like you’re sharing a UX secret.
If you really want to be a GREAT UX person, it starts with caring. Simply put, UX is just highly organized and empathetic design. If you can’t describe what you’re doing in that way… and mean it, it’s OK… call yourself a digital UI artist. But the difference between art and UX, is UX can get it wrong and end up in resulting in frustration, lost productivity, or the absence of any joy.
Also, it’s OK if you like being a front end developer, a project manager, a writer, a graphic designers… if that’s what you LOVE doing… be proud of it, don’t take on some title just because the job market favors that more. Of course if you need to work and don’t have the luxury of being self indulgent like me, then do what’s right for you and your family and just write me off as a purist asshole… it’s OK… I won’t take it personally… I promise.
I’m actually hoping this starts a dialogue. Would love to hear your thoughts even if you’re not a UX professional, but it’s part of your job… I want to hear your thoughts.
Also, I am so completely embarrassed that in my 20 year career, this is the first thing I’ve written and I’ve done any real public speaking in a very long time. If there’s something you would like to learn about or a topic you’re interested in, please let me know… it’s my very UX approach of deciding what topics I should start with 🙂
Original post on LinkedIn with comments can be seen here