Maybe you’re a UX researcher, passing choice insights into the product development machine. If what comes out the other side doesn’t seem right, you feel free to bitch and moan. “Didn’t they listen to the findings I gave them?”
Maybe you’re a UX designer who works at the early stages of the design process, doing the discovery phase, running workshops, producing concepts, sketches and setting the vision. Again, it’s so easy to pass the buck and feel vindicated when the quality at the end of the process is low.
Sometimes it feels like you’re a doctor advising a sick patient to give up smoking. If the patient keeps at it and eventually dies, it’s not your fault, right? Working agency-side makes this point of view even easier. You often don’t even see the end result – your agency gets paid and you move on.
Being teflon-coated feels safe, but in reality it’s quite the opposite. You’ll stop improving your skills and sooner or later people will realise you are delivering no value. UX people already have a bad reputation for delivering formulaic rhetoric and not delivering the goods. It’s bad for you, and it’s bad for our industry as a whole.
Fight to make yourself more accountable. Critique, don’t complain. Work out how to fix the process. Remember, design isn’t just UI. Organisations are designed. Workflow processes are designed. You already have the analytical skills needed to make change happen, you just need to step up to the plate.
This is endemic in business generally. Most people seem to display confidence in those that can offer a strong opinion / prescription on first hearing of a problem. People who can offer a straightforward, common-sense sounding solution at the drop of a hat are valued.
People like simple solutions – confidently stated.
This is a curious situation given that those self-same people would oftentimes argue against waterfall, stating that no one can know the solution and its ramifications at the outset.
It is easy for a designer to fall into the trap of pretending to meet these expectations only to later be revealed as charlatan. Either way, the trap is one where bullshitters are valued above those who question the expectation that peoples can somehow be served and delighted in a systematised and predictable fashion.
The credibility of designers depends on practitioners restraint in response: Not to be too swift with their assertions, but ready to proffer hypotheses that would benefit from being tested in their context.
Great little post. It’s a good case in point why UX should be embedded within the organisation, within the development process and hold ownership of what is being built just as much as developers.
But this type of commitment to UX does require strong support from the top of the organisation, otherwise UX will just be utterly under-resourced to fulfil the above.
I have a bit of a bias considering I work on a Lean/Agile team (very much against the waterfall approach already), but I can certainly say I’ve seen my fair share of people in other organizations who take the stance of ‘complain instead of critique’.
I think a large part of the problem with some people in those roles (UX, UI, Information Architect, etc.) is there is a significant lack of ownership. By that I mean steps in the workflow process (whether you’re waterfall or iteration-based) are often not actually ‘owned’ by anybody. People do what is required of them, then pass it on without another thought.
Accountability can only be applied in these roles if their strategy isn’t just out-of-the-box rhetoric-style responses to issues that shareholders or project owners may have (and especially if the response is one of awe and praise for no real good reason other than impressive-sounding vocabulary).
People need to feel that a specific problem is theirs to deconstruct and find a solution for using a strategy devised for each individual problem. And when they find a sound solution to a problem, that solution needs to be prototyped and tested before being thrown out.
Cohesion is a big part of making sure everybody stays accountable, stays honest, and stays inspired to continue to learn and grow so they remain a valuable asset to the team.
Although I’ve only been in an ‘official’ UX role for under a year, I’ve already met and worked with people that prescribe theorised solutions and espouse rhetoric. The UX team / practitioner should not be prescribing change from their ivory tower, instead they should be engaging people and processes, enabling UX to knit into the business as a whole.