Undefining ourselves: More might be less for user experience design
As I was reading through Jeff Gothelf’s blog entry on the mythical user experience visual designer unicorn, I thought way too much about the current apparent need for user experience professionals to wear more than one pointy skill hat in order to somehow make themselves that much ‘better’.
In a nutshell (which, by the way, is a cleverly crowbarred reference to my own developer background) it seems to me that the more skills we pursue, the less skills we can practice and develop. Under a rather broad categorisation of ‘user experience’, which I’m not even going to set the boundaries on, because I still don’t know what they are, there are a huge range of techniques, skills, practices and methods that are constantly evolving and shifting in response to needs, innovations and opportunities. We learn, use, modify and generally make our best use of those techniques and skills, to help us solve problems and design solutions that we hope make the world a better, more delightful place. And I think that’s enough to be going on with. At least, in terms of a value proposition for a User Experience Designer.
There is a tendency for us to refer to ‘full-service agencies’ as some kind of 7-fingered, flat-footed cousin and the very idea that they might make a claim to be able to provide user experience expertise is roundly scoffed at. Which seems a contrary position, if we can be quite so pleased with our own ability to write code, build platforms, deliver compelling visual designs and so on, effectively pitching our own ability to full-service clients. If we’re making this shift by design (which, by the way, is a woefully crowbarred reference to my own design background), then the strategy is somewhat grab-bag. User experience design can be a hard sell, but it has a certain purity of intent that can be evangelised. As we seek to extend our reach, that intent becomes less clear.
Maybe we are all just ‘designers’ after all, but if that’s true, I’ve got loads of profiles to update.