Is it time to shed the extra weight and start over?

The sad state of UX is mostly just chaos now.

The most recent Conversions 2019 talk from LukeW really resonated with me. A lot of the examples that he showed were similar to my observations. UX has become a joke.

But let’s take a step back and look at the problem at hand.

There are researchers, analysts, wireframers, persona builders, card sorters and, if there’s time even some actual designers in the field. All of them necessary for the products success.

Or so it seems.

As an industry it has grown in the last ten years at an amazing pace. The hourly rates skyrocketed. UX people became industry gods. Their advice cherished and worshipped. Their titles … longer and longer until they made no sense anymore.

Then it slowly moved into the joke category.

We started drinking our soy-lattes and going through countless pages of personas like our personal “Face Book”. Companies with big UX teams designed forms you can’t get out of if you click on the wrong thing. Others came up with even more interesting ideas on how to frustrate the user.

Let’s create some “fake people” and think what they would think while using our product!

Too many chefs spoil the stew.

The customer — designer gap is currently huge and filled with legal teams, marketers, researchers, product owners, project managers and likely even my Mum. Everyone has their five cents to add to the product.

All for the benefit of the UX™

It all looks like a game of “telephone” in which with each iteration the message gets distorted more and more. Guess what we end up with.

We’ve become so entangled in our processes that we forget to stop and think about how useful our design really is.

Everyone does popup newsletters? Data shows it’s worth doing!

The focus is on data (which is oh-so-easy to misinterpret or skew) instead of taking a step back and thinking. But that sort of thinking requires the designer to take decisions himself, not hiding behind the data and statistics.

  • Does it makes sense to make people read 15 pages of T&C’s?
  • If 80% of people close the newsletter (and 15% just quit the page) should we still use the popup?
  • Should we have distracting ads in the checkout process?
  • You know, things like that…

If we tried to use logic for a change we could have an answer to most of these questions right away. THEN we could validate it with the users.

Look we got 5% more people to sign up with this!!! That’s a great “experience”.

The process is currently often reversed — we copy what mistakes we’ve seen others do and do pointless research to desperately prove our points.

In those rare cases we listen to the customers frustrations and try to fix them, but the sheer amount of singular-skill people all pull their way. Our legal team says this. Our marketing says that. Our research proves that. And all that mess, mixed with over-reliance on previous work and data leads to disasters.

The “conversion” will definitely go up.

So why are most products so bad?

Making a smaller, focused team that is close to the product and really “thinks” is the key. Good thing if the designers are actual (or potential) users of the products too.

Our methods and processes sound fancy and all, but UX lingo negatively impacts understanding. And that impacts the product.

  • We need to get off of our high horse and start talking like human beings.
  • Treat both the users and customers like people, not data points.
  • Only use the methods that are necessary (seriously wasting a month on card sorting and personas is ONLY good for YOUR finances)
  • And seriously THINK before we design — does it make sense TO ME? Would it be super annoying?

It’s called UI and it’s quite bad.

This is often because a large part of “UX Designers” can’t design. There. I said it. Making a rough paper wireframe and placing the checkout in the top right corner is as much design, as a napkin sketch of a cat on a tree.

The popular inverted T-model should rather be a pyramid.

So there’s this HUGE group of meeting room thinkers that can’t imagine the final product in it’s final form. They don’t think in fonts, colors, readability, structure or grids.

We should cut most of those people from our processes and give them time to learn Sketch. That T-shaped skillset is not enough anymore. Go pyramids.

It’s seriously NOT that hard to understand how to do research, do critical thinking, have empathy and understanding of the user AND draw some rectangles the right way.

We should avoid linear, disjointed methods and go towards skill overlapping.

Two “real” designers who understand research and can think like the user and can do the UI will almost always do a better job than a team of 20 narrow path experts combined.

If we combine our “one-path” experts we start to notice that they’re not compatible with each other on a lot of levels (or paths). That leads to a lacklustre result.

But actually…

In the real world both the “high skill” part and the “base” are also different among all team members. That leads to the final execution missing crucial pieces because of poor communication and understanding. So the real example would be like below (or worse).

It’s called information gap for a reason. We need to fully understand what the other team members are talking about. Not sitting comfortable in our niche is a way to achieve this.

If we apply the pyramid scheme to our team there are much smaller gaps and more ways team members can actually cooperate. Because what’s the alternative?

To delegate stuff someone else knows better than me, sit back and hope it works?

There are no perfect products, but with more diverse skillsets it’s easier to make smaller “holes”.

Of course teams are necessary for the UX process, because having perspectives allows for better ideas to come forward. But those teams can’t be the current disjointed, narrow skilled groups that mostly talk at meetings.

Design happens through a mix of thinking, testing and well… designing.

And then thinking some more.

Let’s drop the UX altogether. Simplify. Let’s just call it design. Or digital design. ??‍?

Then the next step is to grow the skillsets.

Everyone should understand how to design the UI of the product. They should also understand how to do user testing, make proper flows and convey the business decisions in the most “not-annoying” form.

And finally

Last but not least the team should be as close to the product as possible. They should actively use the product and know it’s shortcomings firsthand. The UX designers should also be the users

Which of course is a lot easier for smaller organisations than large, multi-level corporations. Good. It should be the smaller guys that do remarkable things for humans because they are driven by quality. Corporations are driven by something else entirely.

Our goal should not be to sit in meeting rooms and chit-chat about the recent statistics. The goal should be to make great products from the start.

If all that research and meetings has led to a mediocre product, then something is definitely wrong with the process.

You in? ?