by Darren Hood
Building upon my recent post where I presented 7 Things UXers Need to Stop Doing…. Immediately, I’m addressing more practices in today’s UX operations that need to be abandoned. This list is a bit more direct, a bit closer to the hearts of UXers everywhere, and will delve a bit further into the weeds of where we operate.
Ready? Let’s dive right in, shall we? Here goes!
Ever provided someone with constructive input and the person responds by accusing you of “being judgy?” On the flip side, maybe you were the one who made the “judgy” statement. Or maybe you’ve recognized the need to provide someone with some much needed information about their designs or behavior, only to preface your statement by saying “I’m not being judgy, but….” This mindset begs multiple thoughts:
- Accusing someone of “being judgy” or considering what someone says as “being judgy” is (well) judgy, isn’t it? This illustrates the hypocritical nature of the concept of “judginess.” This lets us know that the mindset doesn’t make sense.
- When you provide peer review on a design, what are you doing? Well, you’re judging the plusses and minuses, prescribing alternative approaches to the current effort in question.
- When you interviewed a candidate for a UX position, the entire session revolves around judgment. At the same time, the interviewer is judging the company and the people conducting the interview. It’s all good. If you neglect to judge, you’ll certainly pay the consequences.
We always “judge” (i.e., assess, evaluate, scrutinize). It’s a core operating factor of the UX discipline. To discourage or despise judgment is a hypocritical act. Just do it well and be accurate and fair in your assessment. Problem solved. “Being judgy,” as folks put it, is no longer an issue or something to be afraid of.
It’s time to renounce this childish mindset. It’s also time to embrace those you consider to be “judgy.” What they (we) have to share is more valuable than gold.
Rebranding methods and methodologies
Are you an advocate for design thinking or double diamond processes? What about object-oriented UX (OOUX)? Design sprints? All of these things were known by another name in the past. People just rebranded them, presented them as something new (usually to unsuspecting audiences), and touted themselves as experts. Unethical, right?
- About Design Thinking: A thorough design thinking execution applies multiple UX methods and methodologies across the process. But weren’t we already doing all of those things? Weren’t we ALREADY understanding, defining, ideating, prototyping, testing and iterating? Yup, we sure were. So then, what was the benefit of calling it design thinking? Zilch. It’s vain (for the practitioner), but presents the source as a bit of a hero. This is nothing more than vanity.
- About Object-Oriented UX (OOUX): According to the folks at objectorientedux.com, “OOUX is a philosophy and set of principles that helps UX designers break down complexity, understand convoluted business requirements, synthesize research, and facilitate collaboration with stakeholders, SMEs, and developers.” Aren’t we already doing this?!?!?! I have been — my entire career. If someone is, however, surrounded by folks who’ve been operating in environments with low UX maturity and where folks aren’t really practicing UX the right way, it might seem like a digital epiphany. In truth, OOUX is nothing more than just another factor to muddy our waters even further. The approach has zero value. How about just doing UX and how about learning it the right way? And how about calling information architecture…. information architecture. After all, trying to innovate without having stable ground yields no benefits and we’re not on stable ground right now.
- About Design Sprints: Then there are design sprints. You know, the idea Google came up with to help START-UPS achieve project success quickly. The general mindset is to conduct “a collaborative planning or design session” meant to foster “completion of solutions to a given design problem in an allotted time or the period in which such an effort is made.” Sounds good (to some). Sounds promising. It also sounds like a charrette—an exercise engaged in by architects in yesteryear. In addition, EVERYBODY’S ENVIRONMENT ISN’T CONDUCIVE TO EXERCISES MEANT FOR START-UPS!!! Taking this even one step further, while a design sprint can provide a resource to gather and speak with subject matter experts and stakeholders in one place for a focused period of time, by no means should be expected to substitute for engaging with actual design professionals. If that is someone’s goals, this is completely misguided. A design sprint, at best, qualifies as nothing more than glorified spitballing, indirect sanctioning of genius design, and reinforcing bias. It can also result in making the management of HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) more challenging. Overvalue design sprints at your own risk.
One of the things I prescribe in my UX Cycle of Excellence model involves the following:
- Properly defining the discipline
- Learning the tenets of the discipline.
When someone learns about UX properly, one of the side benefits is that a person can develop a garrison (if you will) against such ploys. And when we do things right, we focus on the work-at-hand. This also garrisons someone against hype and overplayed rhetoric. It will also help keep you from being detrimentally impacted by the aforementioned examples.
Considering early UX methods and methodologies to be out-of-date
Early methods, methodologies, articles, and deliverables included the following:
- Site maps
- Content inventories
- Task flows
- Presentations/Point-of-View decks
Things have evolved over the years. Old prototyping methods gave way to software applications that generate the same faster and without the need to code. Conducting a SWOT analysis has become more commonplace for some. Empathy maps, journey maps, and experience maps are now staples in UX design, CX design, and service design.
The evolution of newer approaches, however, has not negated or devalued the older ones. What we use and how often will actually depend on where we work and the need(s). And the fact (for example) that a company prefers prototypes over wireframes doesn’t mean that wireframes are outdated. They’re just not needed in that particular environment.
Narrow-minded professionals won’t see it this way, but just make sure you’re not one of them.
Ignoring the contributions and thought leadership of UX’s pioneers
I once heard about a conversation where as aspiring UXer heard someone mention Don Norman. The person responded to the mere mention of that name by saying “Who is he and why should I care?!?!?!”
Who is Don Norman? For that matter who is Jakob Nielsen? Who is Alan Cooper? Who is Nathan Shedroff? Who is Peter Morville? Lou Rosenfeld? Susan Weihschenk? Bruce Tognazzini? Kelly Goto? Richard Saul Wurman? Jesse James Garrett? Christina Wodtke? How about Larry Marine? These are the pioneers of UX.
If you leave it to today’s upstarts, they will (and have) provided different lists of supposed UX thought leaders commingled with folks that will lead UXers down the wrong path. Instead of ignoring these people, seek out their works — old and new—and tap in. This will help you to understand the history of UX, its evolution, and to spot the flawed concepts making their rounds today.
I saved this one for last. The stories about how and instances where people are stealing the thoughts and ideas of others. It’s happening in blog posts. It’s happening in books. It’s happening in conferences. It’s happening en masse with zero shame. To make matters worse, those partaking don’t have enough critical thinking skills or knowledge to recognize and reject such flawed resources. The perps accomplish their goals with little to no resistance. The numbers of those seeking to (apparently) achieve some level of celebrity or to be viewed by others as being superior (i.e., desiring to be preeminent) is off the charts.
One of my peers in the good fight for UX shared a story of how she ran a book she authored through Grammarly. According to the service, she “copied” a portion of her book from another source. Upon further investigation, when she reviewed the supposed original source and much to her surprise, it turned out that the individual had copied HER content and presented it as HIS own, which flipped the script and labeled her as the perp instead.
I realize that it can be difficult to recognize something as pirated, but unless you’re a publisher, it’s more important to recognize things later, especially as one received information about the offense. In other words, once you DO find out someone’s guilty of intellectual thievery, make sure you do the right thing. It it extremely important, however, as many today are sanctioning, endorsing, and recommending works that aren’t really original.
But wait!!! There’s more!!!
BONUS ITEM: STOP embracing fake promotions and advancement
As I stated in a recent LinkedIn post, NOBODY can go from nothing to being a principal, UX lead, or senior. The advancement timelines for a UX professional requires at least 7 years of ENTERPRISE-LEVEL PRACTICE to qualify as a senior and another 3 years to be a principal. Today, however, we’re seeing people go from being a hot dog vendor to being a high-ranking UX professional (on paper). And these people are some of the main folks responsible for spreading misinformation that those eager to get involved in UX are extremely quick to embrace. Remember the story of the Trojan horse? You’ll want to consider that as consider taking advance from unqualified folks and from folks that are not educators.
Folks, if a UXer does not go through proper growth and advancement phases, something is grossly amiss.
That’s All Folks!!!
That’s it for this go-round. Did we strike any nerves? For those we’ve resonated with via this post, I hope everyone has the courage to do the right thing. The future of the UX discipline depends upon your response.
You can hear more from the author by checking out The World of UX with Darren Hood wherever podcasts are available.