Popularity Begets Knowledge? Maybe.
With the prevalence of user experience articles and blogs, I figured they would raise the visibility of our profession and give people a better understanding of what it is that we do. If user experience has gone mainstream, surely people that I meet at parties would stop asking me what I actually do for a living. Saying “user experience” would be no more unique or mysterious than plumber or hedge fund manager.
Unfortunately, this question does not stop just with people in our personal lives. Too often, I get the same level of confusion from clients, people who are actually paying me to provide user experience services. While, in a social setting, we can laugh off people’s lack of knowledge about or misunderstanding of the role that we play, when we encounter this lack of understanding in a professional environment, it can become quite dangerous to our ability to be effective.
Clients who don’t exactly get what user experience is tend to fall into two camps: those who believe that I swoop in and tell them what colors to choose and those who believe that I do everything from end to end without needing to talk to anyone, ever. Their impression in that I am basically a magician who, with a wave of my wand, can either brighten up a color palette or create the next App Store—no matter what data or process I need to have.
In a lot of organizations, user experience has become a commodity. Others see user experience as something that can be done to an organization in a nice, neat, little two-day workshop package. These issues have been around for a long time, and as user experience has matured both within and outside of organizations, we have seen a greater appreciation for and sophistication around user experience. More organizations now understand the full UX lifecycle, and because it is becoming ingrained in their design and development processes, they can more easily see and take advantage of its benefits.
So, with the prevalence of UX marketing materials that are out there, surely this should help my professional career as a UX consultant. One might think that I wouldn’t have to explain myself nearly as much anymore. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If anything, our jobs as UX professionals are getting harder. As the term user experience goes more mainstream, people’s appreciation of the complexities of actually doing this job is diminishing.