Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Great UX Debate of 2010

Recently Ryan Carson lobbed the digital equivalent to a molotov cocktail in to the User Experience bloggers corner and did folks come out swinging!
To get a bit of perspective, let’s start with a few salvos from The Great UX Mini-Debate of 2009:
Pabini Gabriel-Petit on Specialists Versus Generalists: A False Dichotomy?
Dan Saffer on A Fool and a Liar
Jeremy Keith on I don’t care about UX
Jeremy starts with a quote from Mark Boulton’s twitter stream:

“Since when did good web design suddenly get called ‘UX’? Everywhere I look now, good UI design is called ‘UX’, good type = ‘UX’, Colour? UX.”

I find Mark’s tweet to be a good place to jump off from, as I have spent the last two years scratching my head in wonder how the formerly mostly academic and large company/agency discipline of HCI/user-psychology/UX had morphed into a the job title du jour for web designers. My bafflement continued when at a party last year a prominent user experience designer introduced me to others as a mobile user experience designer. I was a bit flabbergasted, as while I am very interested in Mobile UX and I wrote my master’s thesis on how creative professionals use their mobile phones, I am very reluctant to use the title Mobile UX designer.
My preferred job title is Professional Art Weirdo, but that doesn’t go far in terms of business and professional contacts, although I do get a laugh from folks who know me when I use that title. In the course of my now decade plus career of actual practice in web design & development, as well as mobile design & now mobile app devloper, user researcher, systems designer, occasional information architect, small business strategist, plus social media bits and whatever other hat seemed fun to wear at the time when a client needed a task to be completed.
While I am most confident using the title ‘web designer’ as it encompasses the broad range of tasks that one does in the course of a freelance consultant career, I have found there to be pressure over the last two years to declare a specialty or even a sub-specialty in one’s job title – be it on LinkedIn, Twitter, one’s resume/CV, or on a business card. In the last two years to use the title ‘web designer’ is seen as either naive or one is just a small time, small business hack, even if one has mad generalist skills and a deep specialist skill set or two.
I have also spent much time lately revamping my resume/CV and portfolio in preparation for a job search, as I have decided that I would much prefer to work on a team at a company or agency than by myself as a freelance consultant. Companies and agencies or their recruiters/HR specialists want definition out their applicants or at least the appearance thereof. How does one define a decade long freelance career to folks who see a lot of resumes from specialists or bullshitters. I am not interested in misrepresenting myself.
Thus, my interest in the Great UX Debate of 2010. Go read the various links and let me know what you think:
Ryan Carson’s defense of his tweet: ‘UX Professional’ isn’t a Real Job
Andy Budd takes the first swing in Why I think Ryan Carson doesn’t believe in UX Professionals, and why I do
Mark Boulton gives a little history on the Debate in On defining UX
Cennydd Bowles finds a molotov cocktail to throw back in The pollution of UX
Scott Berkun asks ‘UX professional’ isn’t a real job? and simplifies the debate
Oliver Reichenstein in iA breaks the debate back down and reassembles it in
Can Experience be Designed?
I will conclude with Scott Berkun’s second to last paragraph:

I’m fond of simply calling myself a writer. There should be a verb in your job. Usability engineers are really analysts or consultants. Designers of all flavors are, surprise, designers. Information architects are planners. If they are expected to be leaders beyond their specialization, then add the word lead. And on it could go. one word, preferably a verb, and we’re done. The pretense is fancier titles better convey the role, but I think that’s the real bullshit. Simpler titles, based on a verb, would be way more useful for clients or co-workers in figuring out what you can do for them.

And if push comes to shove, I will use the verb designer to describe myself, as well as the verb developer.