The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Paul Bryan—Lead UX Consultant at UX Strategy Partners
- Pabini Gabriel-Petit—Publisher and Editor in Chief, UXmatters; UX Strategy and Design Consultant; Founding Director of Interaction Design Association (IxDA); UXmatters columnist
- Jordan Julien—Independent Experience Strategy Consultant
- David Kozatch—Principal at DIG
- Baruch Sachs—Senior Director of Human Factors Design at Pegasystems; UXmatters columnist
- Janet Six—Principal at Lone Star Interaction Design; UXmatters Managing Editor and columnist
Q: What do you believe are the coming trends in user experience?—from a UXmatters reader
Our experts have identified a number of shifts in corporate culture that may change the role of user experience within organizations and the way we work with our peers in other disciplines.
The Emergence of UX Strategy
“One of the biggest trends currently unfolding is the emergence of UX strategy as a specialty in the field of user experience. For about the last dozen years, UX strategy has been a big part of my work, but I hadn’t always referred to it as such. In 2006, attending two conferences—both of which I reviewed for UXmatters—prompted me to start consistently using the term UX strategy to describe the strategic aspects of my work:
- CHI 2006 in Montreal—where I enjoyed Liam Friedland and Jon Innes’s excellent course ‘Repositioning User Experience as a Strategic Process’
- Strategy06—the IIT Institute of Design’s second annual Strategy Conference
“As a UX specialty, UX strategy is now getting traction in both the UX community and the organizations for whom UX professionals work. In January 2011, Paul Bryan established the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn, which now boasts 4,276 members. In January 2012, Paul began writing his UX Strategy column for UXmatters. In 2013, Paul will launch the first UX Strategy Conference, which will take place in Atlanta.
“Over the years, UXmatters has published a lot of great content on UX strategy. Here is a list of the most popular UXmatters articles on UX strategy topics, from the UXmatters Top 100 in our Google Analytics rankings:
- ‘Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology,’ by Pabini Gabriel-Petit
- ‘Great User Experiences Require Great Front-End Development,’ by Jim Nieters, Amit Pande, and Uday M. Shankar
- ‘Integrating UX into Agile Development,’ an Ask UXmatters column, by Janet M. Six
- ‘7 Ingredients of a Successful UX Strategy,’ by Paul Bryan
- ‘Audience Segmentation Models,’ by Steve Baty
- ‘Sharing Ownership of UX,’ by Pabini Gabriel-Petit
- ‘Selling UX,’ by By Daniel Szuc, Paul J. Sherman, and John S. Rhodes
- ‘Communicating Customer and Business Value with a Value Matrix,’ by Richard F. Cecil
- ‘UX Roles in Organizations,’ part of an Ask UXmatters column, by Janet M. Six
- ‘Design Thinking,’ part of an Ask UXmatters column, by Janet M. Six
- ‘Strategy06: A UX Professional's Experience of the Conference,’ by Pabini Gabriel-Petit
- ‘The Rise of Cross-Channel UX Design,’ by Tyler Tate
- ‘What Does a UX Strategist Do?’ by Paul Bryan”
“For the past decade, user experience has been primarily a design and development process led by talented individuals who bring best practices to bear on design problems,” says Paul. “As user experience matures, it will become more closely aligned with business strategy—so the same priorities that drive the business will guide UX design. Instead of producing designs and deliverables to meet business requirements, UX professionals will collaborate with business strategists to co-create solutions that successfully engage customers and exceed competitive offerings. This expansion will require some learning on the part of UX professionals, who must gain literacy in the business drivers that cause their companies to succeed or fail in the marketplace.
“The days of the UX team dreaming up new designs and churning out creative deliverables within its own walls are over. It started with the transformation from waterfall development processes to agile development, which took UX professionals from the comfy confines of a creative UX team and transplanted them in cross-functional teams that are driven by an IT-centric development process.
“If the membership of the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn is any indication, product development, research, and even marketing professionals will be reaching out to UX teams for support, guidance, and collaboration. At first, this may seem threatening, because there will be a need to trim back redundant processes, and we’ll need to resolve conflicts of ownership. But UX teams will also have the benefit of being exposed to very different, yet complementary views of the problem spaces they’re dealing with, along with new approaches and tools for finding innovative solutions.”
Our Role As UX Professionals
“I think the biggest trend will be the dropping of the U from UX,” replies Jordan. “The term user is getting old. It made sense ten years ago, when everyone thought UX would never move beyond HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), IxD (Interaction Design), IA (Information Architecture), and usability. But UX professionals are now dealing with experiences that span multiple screens—sometimes even invisible interfaces—for users who are constantly connected and have massive social networks. Experience design already extends beyond the computer and the Internet, so it’s just a matter of time before we stop thinking of everyone as a user and start thinking about framing UX roles to speak to what UX professionals actually do. I think there will be a rise in experience strategists, experience architects, experience designers, and so on.”
“As might seem natural for the Editor in Chief of UXmatters, I care passionately about using optimal language to describe who we are and what we do as UX professionals,” counters Pabini. “For more than ten years now, I’ve heard the same argument that Jordan had just made regarding the use of the term user experience, or UX. Yet, the term is still in prevalent use. We’ve even expanded its application—for example, to UX strategy. Considering the name of this magazine, you might guess that I’m pretty committed to the term UX. Without the U for users, there is no UX. As UX professionals, we have enough difficulty communicating our role without changing the terminology we use to describe what we do and causing unnecessary confusion in people’s minds. Consistency matters.
“In the context of describing our role, neither experience nor X stands on its own in any meaningful way. So, if we were to drop the term user, we’d need to either come up with another adjective to precede experience, or the X that represents it in UX, or use it to modify some other noun. Can you think of a word that would even approach universal applicability?
“In my mind, the differentiation between the terms user experience, customer experience, and experience design is all about domain. If we’re designing applications—regardless of platform—or hardware user interfaces, we’re doing it for users. If we’re designing corporate Web sites and, especially, ecommerce sites, we’re doing it for customers. I’ve always used the term experience design only when referring to real-world experiences like museum experiences or theme-park experiences or dining experiences.
In recent years, there is a change afoot, and that’s the evolution of the design of cross-channel experiences—for which the term experience design seems a decent fit. But I’m uncomfortable with taking user or customer out of the terms we use to describe what we do, because our users and customers are where our focus belongs. So, I prefer the term customer experience design when referring to the design of cross-channel experiences across all of an organization’s touchpoints with its customers.”