The new Handcraft is here!

Don’t stop calling yourself a UX designer – it’s working!

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.


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  • You could go to school and get a graduate degree in Human Computer Interaction…… or I guess just call yourself that title and hope for peer acknowledgement. Yeah, thats what you should be advocating.

    by Ron George • Aug 23rd 2011 • 20:08

  • @Ron: or, you could, you know, actually do it professionally for a few years instead of going to school and hoping for peer acknowledgement without any live projects to point to ;)

    by Toby • Aug 24th 2011 • 12:08

  • I agree it’s working. Now, we need to get down to the reason why. Every industry has title inflation. And if UXers understood one iota of what the haughty title suggests, they’d know the drill.

    Hyperinflate the title, then take credit while shirking responsibility for results. That’s how marketing can devolve into a place for people who don’t want to sell stuff; a.k.a. Branding.

    UX is like Branding. Take credit for everything positive; responsibility for nothing. A sweet deal.

    Despite there being actual methodologies — tested and proven over decades of human factors research — there exist no UX methodologies. Merely warmed over usability leftovers.

    I can blow every one of your client pitches out of the water simply by asking about details. Details the UX movement can’t provide but I can.

    Microsoft offers a download every UX person should be able to name (whether or not they use it). Name it. Explain why Microsoft developed it.

    You Can’t. And I do not mean any specific you — rather the collective UX scam being run here.

    And it is a scam. You can get an “experience” no matter what you do. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Doesn’t matter, your deliverable is raw, undefined, unmeasured and unmeasurable experience. No user necessary.

    There will never be a UX user test, because the point of the term is to detach credit from the responsibility to drive a result. Thus we have Facebook and MySpace touted as examples without a shred of evidence.

    Myspace? Myspace is a shadow of its former self. What is the UX involvement with determining exactly why? Point to any UX specific methodology (not technology, methodology). Cite any unique-to-UX user test.

    You can’t. And you won’t. For that is not what the term UX is being used to accomplish.

    Finally, but not least, why has the UX movement confined itself to the web when the meaning of User Experience (if it really existed) implies breaking down purely arbitrary channel types and combining offline and online into a seamless, coherent, whole which is needed to communicate an “experience” effectively?

    by DC • Sep 6th 2011 • 14:09

  • you’re on a windup DC, right?

    by colmcq • Oct 3rd 2011 • 19:10

  • @colmcq He’s on something, that’s for sure.

    by Sirtaptap • Oct 3rd 2011 • 21:10

  • DC, you aren’t being very coherent. Perhaps you can make yourself clearer and educate us all on what we are missing.

    by John Beckett • Oct 3rd 2011 • 22:10

  • Trying not to feed the “DC” troll, but you have heard of textbooks like Cooper’s, right? Designing for the Digital Age, Kim Goodwin (2009)?

    And there are new ones emerging as we speak, plus people like myself trying to integrate UX with Agile development approaches. (Though what really has me going is if I can also apply the actuarial accounting of Hubbard’s How to Measure Anything and the modeling tools of The BA Handbook by Podeswa. We shall see…)

    by Louis St-Amour • Oct 4th 2011 • 06:10

  • Cooper is interaction design. When they call what they do UX, without a single, solitary change in method — that’s title inflation.

    Simple question for clarity and education on why I hold this position: Why do UXers confine themselves to one medium? Because to have any real ability to design the user experience, you need to design everything from how the phones are answered to how the invoices look.

    And no, not merely that the company logo is on the invoice.

    UX is usability with title inflation. That is a clear, succinct point. A point which can be disputed (successfully) by showing a difference in goal and direction from usability.

    Saying you design the viceral aspect of a product means not one thing, until you show the user test demonstrating users react in some different way. UXers don’t.

    Show me a UXer hired to ….reduce product returns ….Show me the Jquery implementation You use to increase customer lifetime value. (Heck, show me you’re even keeping track of a tangible like CLV.) …Show any test or quanta showing (outside usability) this Web 2.0 gimmick produced that user response.

    You could simply have posted links to user tests — And Let The Plain Facts of Evidence Refute Me. You didn’t. You won’t.

    by DC • Oct 26th 2011 • 10:10

  • Simple table. Column One: Usaility. Column Two: UX Design.

    Show differences in method. Differences in testing. Differences in goals and/or purpose.

    Very simple. Very clear. Very impossible.

    by DC • Oct 26th 2011 • 10:10

  • Rules of thumb:

    No user — No UX. Never met a user? Never did an A/B split run test? No UX.

    No Unique-To-UX User Test — No UX. There is a perfectly serviceable term: Usability. Or interaction design. Use those.

    No Unique-To-UX Methodology — No UX. Why does Microsoft practice something called desirability design? What are the names of Microsoft’s desirability designers? Name the Microsoft UX Kit Download Not One Of You Have.

    You bring your knowledge of UX up against mine, you lose.

    by DC • Oct 26th 2011 • 11:10

  • DC

    No one has an absolute definition of what UX is, you certainly don’t; but you do have an opinion. Now, what skills and attributes a UX must have is open for debate, but may I say, that a less subjective definition may be reached by consensus.

    I’m still not sure what your point is because your throwing so many arguments out at once! cf The Gish Gallop

    by colmcq • Oct 27th 2011 • 11:10

  • I would say that UX is a field that encompases many roles. You may be a dedicated Usability analyst, or an Information Architect, or a Interaction Designer. They’re stand-alone roles within the UX field. However if you don’t do one dedicated role but take on many of them then I’d say that qualifies you as a UX Designer.

    Otherwise you’d have to have loads of different business cards.

    by Jonw • Oct 27th 2011 • 11:10

  • @jonw I guess you could say UX is an umbrella term for a host of inter-related disciplines vis a vis Doctor types etc

    by colmcq • Oct 27th 2011 • 15:10

  • I am not looking for absolute definitions. One that differs from usability will suffice. One that offers a different methodology and goal or purpose will suffice.

    You are being vague and evasive. And I mean no particular ‘you,’ there is not a specifc on the UX side in any post.

    Okay, you take on many roles? Name them. Specify their contributing role to provide a user experience you can design or control. You can’t.

    Reason being UXers are leaning hard on the fact users get “an experience,” not the one you specifically design for them. UX is a meaningless evasion for people who would never do what a usability person, IA, ID, or interaction is doing without the lofty title.

    Doctors have specifics. General practitioners have specifics. UX has none.

    by DC • Oct 29th 2011 • 12:10

  • Name and define five or ten different “experiences” you designed. Explain any experiment or test which you use as evidence the defined experience you meant for was experienced by the user.

    No dancing around. No evasive nitpicks. Just explain what You Did.

    by DC • Oct 29th 2011 • 12:10

  • Apart from the branding bit that I get, the actual statement of UX design is idiotic, you just can’t design experience, as experience is in a persons emotions not on a website or bit of tech.

    by karl smith • Apr 26th 2014 • 15:04

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