I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I love living in NYC. One reason is that there is a plethora of lectures, panels, and other information sharing events for me to attend. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to view a panel that focused on designing for the new age of the magazine. It was very interesting indeed, however there was one thing missing on the panel itself… a UX Designer. Then it hit me. It’s not often that I see a UX Designer speak outside of our tight knit community. This was a panel that was focusing in on the experience of the magazine and how that was changing across a medium, and no experience designer was to be found. (That being said there was a creative director from a well known design agency there, but for several reasons they didn’t fit into the experience designer criteria for me). Where are we, and why are we hiding from the remainder of the web world?
There are some obvious problems with us being cocooned up within our own walls. The first is that most people are not yet aware that we even exist. They turn to other sources to determine the “user friendly” “experience” of the product. If they hire a creative agency to do this, and the agency assigns an experience designer to the project, they are seen as only pertinent at the point of interface. NOT at points further up the chain such as how to influence behavior outside of just the interface or how to help bridge the informational gap for the user outside of the interface. So, we end up only be seen as interface designers, since that is the part of our profession that people are aware of, and thus know how to charge out on an hourly basis.
How then am I suggesting that we work to solve this problem? In particular to being present outside the UX realm I guess I’m thinking of a couple of things. First, I think we need to start becoming part of the global conversation. Meaning we need to start attending and being apart of the web community as a whole, and not just our UX community. That means attending other conferences, meetups, etc. We need to start finding interest in the entire web life cycle and exploring those interests. If you are the speaking type, put in proposals for the atypical conferences and events, those that aren’t just specific to what you do. If you are a content creator (blogger, speaker, etc) begin to reach out to other communities and tailor your content to helping them see the value in what you do beyond the interface. In short the only way that we can begin to be recognized as more than the wireframe is to insert ourselves into conversations outside of the interface.
Once we do these things, I think we’ll start to see several things happen. First, people won’t raise their eyebrows in confusion every time we tell them what we do. But more importantly, people will respect our role as more than just the interface and see us as integrated into creating the whole experience. By hiding within our UX realm and expecting that to provide us with all the answers, we are just “cocooning” ourselves up more and more. We need to get out there, make ourselves known for who and what we are, and fully integrate ourselves into the web community. Until then… you just do the wireframes.
For more thoughts on this topic see Whitney Hess’ awesome closing keynote from the 2010 IA Summit – Transcending Our Tribe.
Lis, your are very right.nnUX designers are staying in black and white (same as our wireframes), while the other personas enjoy the colors and the attention.nnI think the community should put more effort, and maybe one day UX will not be only a “tag” in the biggest design blogs (such as smashing magazine)…well…just a thought.