Starbucks did it… the Gap tried to, and created a ton of buzz around their almost new logo, and of course we can’t forget about HTML5 coming in and stealing the show. Maybe it’s time for UX to follow suit. No, I’m not talking about creating a UX logo (although that might be fun) I’m talking about rebranding and repackaging our product both internally and externally so that we can have a greater reach in our market.
Whew… that was a whole lotta marketing lingo (probably used incorrectly) but I think my point holds true. I got the idea earlier this Spring at the Healthcare Experience Design Conference while listening to one of the many phenomenal lectures. The speaker was making a great point about how interaction design/experience design is new to the healthcare industry as a whole, and how we need to earn trust in this industry in order to seem qualified to work there. I’m sure that healthcare is not the only industry where this is true… in fact I know it. But the most important point that the speaker made was that we, as designers, are only seen as relevant at the point of interface. We make the interfaces of the things we design easy to use and that builds a direct correlation between us and the interface. Therefore, all of the work that we do outside of just wireframing and sketching is lost to the other people in our industries.
Because of this, we are usually not seen as important enough to contribute to “real business value” conversations and ideas (a problem that plagues us all and fuels the majority of our debates). Because we are not important enough or relevant enough to these conversations and meetings, we are not given the opportunity to show the extent of the value that we can bring to our businesses… whether those businesses are run by doctors in the operating room or executives in the boardroom.
So, in order to start to solve this problem I think that there are a couple of steps that we need to take. And, I think that the concept behind all of these steps is rebranding what UX and IxD mean both internally to our profession and externally to our partners. Meaning, we first need to start promoting the non-tactical side of our profession. When someone asks us what we do, we need to say more than “I design and make things easier to use” (guilty of this one myself). We need to say “I study how people use things and use that knowledge to solve problems around those things”. We need to fold the non-wireframe/interface centric activities into the mix. We need to not only argue about which software is best for wireframing, but which software is best for note taking during user research and testing, as well as which methodologies work best for observing user behavior. In short, we need to talk about our profession as being more than the interface to each other… not just to everyone else.
Next, we need to start to hold our own as professionals and experts. When selling and actually doing our work we need to pick the right kind of businesses to work for and teams to work with (see UX… it’s time we STRIKE). We need to hold ourselves accountable for being wireframe monkeys, and we then need to change the cycle so that UX is seen as more than just the interface. It is our own fault that people hire us solely to change where things are on the screen if we are taking those jobs without question, and not educating our teams and bosses that there is more to what we do. As a consultant, I’m careful about which jobs to take especially if I know that the client just wants me to push things around on the screen for the visual designer to mock up. We all need to take a step back and think about how we can change this pattern with our actions and decisions, and how we can sell UX more professionally instead of just taking what is thrown at us job-wise.
Once we begin the process of rebranding both internally (to each other) and externally (to our teams and businesses) the relevance of our skillsets to other parts of the product, besides just the interface, begins to increase. As we become more relevant our external partners will see we are more than just the interface, and will hire us to do the things that we love to do and not just move boxes around the screen (not that we don’t love that as well). We can really do User Experience Design, feel proud and fulfilled in our work, as well as be present in the conversations where UX matters most… those that affect our users. So let’s do it, let’s rebrand UX from just wireframes and interfaces to what we know it really is, putting the user first and ensuring their experience with a product is service is the best it can be.