It seems like there’s a neverending debate over whether people should be allowed to call themselves “user experience designer”. On one side of the fence you’ve got people assigning themselves the title because they feel that it represents best what they do, or have done for years. On the other there’s a crowd calling the former group names because they don’t feel they “deserve” to call themselves something they appear not to be.
But wait just a second. Has no one noticed what this argument is really about? About what the consequences are of everyone left and right wanting to call themselves a user experience designer?
That’s right. It’s becoming cool.
Let that sink in. If it’s becoming cool, then sure, you’ve got the hipster crowd who like to go about saying they were designing UX before anyone had heard of it. That’s great for those people. You know what? It’s even better for the rest of the world because now people know there is such a thing as user experience design. People like your boss. People like your clients. People with money who, before, would keep their pocketbook closed because you couldn’t convince them of the need for user-centered design or user research.
Ten years ago a guy named Steve Krug wrote a book called “Don’t Make Me Think“. You know why he wrote that book? Well, in part he wrote it because it’s his passion and he wanted to share. But as you’ll read in the preface, there’s another reason he wrote it. He wrote it for your boss. You’re supposed to read it yourself, he says, and then pass it on to them. Because then your boss will read it on his next business trip – the book is crafted specifically to be read cover to cover on a 3 hour flight – and maybe learn something. Something about taking design and usability seriously. And something about how it doesn’t really have to cost that much if you’re pragmatic and use (advanced) common sense.
This was the challenge ten years ago, when no one gave a hoot about design. Look back at the Web back then and your job as a designer consisted mostly of trying to convince anyone to care about wanting to make things easy to use, let alone actually testing whether it was.
And then after Mr. Krug came Web 2.0 and AJAX. On the one hand these were overloaded, meaningless phrases. On the other hand they created a huge awareness for websites with more advanced functionality, opening millions of eyes to the possibilities of web applications. This was important because now you could finally start convincing your client that allowing comments to be posted before moderating them was a good thing. The onset of social media and the rise of major sites like Facebook and MySpace helped enormously by proving that letting people share stuff could actually make you a bunch of money.
The biggest stunt we could ever pull
Now, with the advent of user experience design as a hip, cool thing, you don’t have to fight so hard for that stuff anymore. People – normal people, like your boss – are slowly waking up to the idea that Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other leaders are successful because someone is paying attention to the user experience.
If anything, “user experience design” is the biggest marketing stunt the design industry has ever managed to pull off. It’s like usability and Web 2.0. It’s like AJAX and social media. You should be glad it’s here, and you should be very excited that it’s being picked up to mean “modern web design” because that means your job is only going to get easier while you get paid more.
So get over it. Let everyone call themselves a UX designer.
So what? You know what’s really going on.
- Ryan Carson thought “UX professional” was bullshit last year
- Scott Berkun thought people should get over it because it’s about skills, not titles
- Cennydd Bowles wrote a really long post talking about all kinds of things related to being a UX designer
- Whitney Hess thinks “you’re not a UX designer if…” you don’t talk to users, and a bunch of other reasons
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