7 Things UXers Need to Stop Doing…. Immediately
by Darren Hood
Yep. It’s another list. This time, I’m focusing on some overlooked attitudes and practices that are seemingly small, but have major detrimental impact on the discipline, its perception, practitioners, stakeholders, and even UX maturity levels.
Short and sweet, let’s dive into the list of counterproductive and detrimental things UXers are doing around the world:
- Saying and buying into “UX/UI”
Say it with me. “There is no such thing as UX/UI.” After 20+ years in the design mainstream, you would think we would have advanced beyond people associating UX with aesthetics or limiting us to such, but in addition to UXers still embracing the concept of UX/UI, many supposed thought leaders and companies (e.g., Adobe) are doing the same. Someone might be wondering what the problem is with UX/UI, so consider the following: a) UI is a subset of UX; b) UX and UI are not interchangeable; c) When you say one, you’re not saying the other; d) When a UXer or someone thought to be an authority says “UX/UI,” they’re reinforcing the stereotype and implying that it’s okay to say such and that it’s accurate; and e) Such a perception causes people to oversimplify and undervalue the discipline. If you’re a visual designer, say that. If you’re a UX designer, say that. If you’re a UX designer who’s responsible for UI, you’re still a UX designer who has extended responsibilities. Don’t complicate things. This is bigger than you.
- Posting, sharing, or engaging in discussions about “before/after UX” images
Have you ever seen a before/after image where someone says that the “after” image is a proper representation of UX. In each case nothing is explained. The illustration, in many instances, omits several facets of UX. Yet, the claim “This is UX!!!” will also be presented. These illustrations are misguided and, in many instances, are simply used to take advantage of those who don’t really understand what UX is. They’ll settle for improvements, but don’t realize they’re actually being sold the proverbial “bill of goods.” What’s worse is that this illustrations often have hundreds or thousands of likes. People can’t see who’s behind the likes, so there is no indication of quality behind the visual sentiment. When these things occur, UX suffers.
- Oversimplifying UX
Have you ever heard someone refer to UX as “a mindset?” Considering the many methods, methodologies, artifacts, deliverables, and strategic mindsets, referring to UX as “a mindset” is (frankly) nothing short of delusional. This is also occurring with the before/after images. For years, people have been saying and doing things (with good intentions many times) in hopes of helping people understand what UX is and/or how to engage in a more efficient manner. The process of education reveals, however, that true simplicity is only gained when complexity is thoroughly digested and understood. This process is called “mastery.” Yes, it’s true that a simplistic element can be presented as an introduction, but that’s not what those who’ve been over simplifying are trying to do. For many, the oversimplified message IS the message. This, however, is inaccurate, and affront to the discipline, and it needs to stop.
- Partnering with those claiming to be UX mentors with little to no experience
I began talking about UX being under siege in 2013. In 2014, I spoke at an event there I was covering the Top 10 Things We Learned in 2013. In that talk, the #1 things we learned was what I called “The Rise of the Poseur.” When I said it, the entire place erupted in laughter. Fast forward to 2021 and nobody (who can see) is laughing. Taking this a few steps further, we have reached the day when people who have little or practically no experience are marketing themselves as mentors. Those hungry to learn either don’t have the ability to recognize that they shouldn’t fall for the misdirected, malpractice-oriented marketing scheme or are so zealous that their radar has been turned off. If they have come across other entry-level or junior UXers who feel seniors should be avoided and it makes them all the more gullible. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to know that being mentored by someone who’s only a couple of steps ahead of you is not truly beneficial, profitable, or sustainable (i.e., what you supposedly learn won’t stand the test of time). Folks won’t stop making the claims, but if they don’t have any suitors, the “pond” will dry up.
- Embracing the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality
As covered in a recent post, this popular mindset is detrimental to the person who practices it, as well as the discipline. Would you want to do business with a doctor, dentist, auto mechanic, or any other person in a professional position who’s faking it? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s unethical and detrimental to self and the discipline.
- Operating in accord with the isms (racism, cronyism, sexism, ageism)
It goes without saying that each of these factors is unethical. Sadly, they are all common place in UX practices. Many managers only hire who they know (cronyism). Some men focus on hiring men, while some women either look to hire other women or men they can push around (sexism). Older practitioners are frowned upon and shunned (ageism). Minorities are ignored, no matter their qualifications (racism). Some practices manifest all four. Even if someone only embraces one, the discipline of UX pays the price.
- Being impatient
One of the main reasons UX is in a tailspin these days is because there are too many people looking for a quick fix. Folks want to learn too fast, so someone tells them they can learn UX in 6 weeks or 6 months and they’re all in. Someone reads a few articles and feels they’re ready for their first job (and complain 8 months later when nobody will hire them). Many others want to rise through the ranks very quickly and appear to be ascending to senior and lead status, even though they have very little experience. In such cases, while the wait is indeed challenging, the truth is, UX is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Therefore, it’s important to prepare oneself and to be patient while things fall into place. We always need to be genuinely qualified (everybody is not), never stop learning, never become discouraged, keep applying for positions, keep your head up, continue networking, and make sure to renounce any sense of entitlement. When you do these things, you put yourself in a position to succeed.
Each of these factors creates tremendous problems for the discipline of UX as a whole, causes confusion for practitioners and stakeholders alike, paves the way for immense levels of frustration, and stymies personal progress. The supposed benefits once seems to receive when ignoring or practicing these things are fleeting and don’t come without consequences. I hope what UX looks like if these 7 factors were to change is clear to all.
Want to improve? Want to grow? Want to have positive impact on others? If so, the above-mentioned things need to be renounced. Be steadfast and go for it!
You can hear more from the author by checking out The World of UX with Darren Hood wherever podcasts are available.