Reflections on Our Journey So Far

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A column by Janet M. Six
May 21, 2019

This is the 125th edition of our Ask UXmatters column! Thanks to our readers for being part of this anniversary. I am also very grateful to the many wonderful colleagues who have contributed to this column since our eleven-year journey began in 2008, and I look forward to collaborating on many more columns with them. Thank you all!

Today’s column is a look back over some of the many topics we have covered in Ask UXmatters thus far, as well as some of the changes we’ve observed in the industry over the years. The UX professions have evolved significantly, as have the business contexts in which we work.

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Every month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].

Topics We’ve Covered

Many early Ask UXmatters columns discussed basic UX design and research questions in detail. Since companies began to consider User Experience an essential part of a strong product strategy, we’ve covered a great variety of advanced topics.

Demonstrating the Value of User Experience

One hallmark of the first several years of Ask UXmatters was our learning how to demonstrate the value of User Experience to business leaders in our organizations. We published several columns on this topic:

How to Do Mobile and Responsive UX Design

Applying UX Design in an Agile Environment

Conducting Better User Research

Advancing Your Career in User Experience

Another topic that is always popular with our readers is how to advance your UX career.

How the Field of User Experience Has Changed

It has been exciting to see the growing acceptance of User Experience as an important part of product strategy and the success of products. As the field has grown, more and more people have come into it. However, while some of these new UX designers had very strong skills, others simply saw a great career opportunity and lack strong design skills. Some of the weaker designers tried to get more business by offering to do work at a lower price. This lower-quality work has confused the market for UX skills and driven wages and consulting rates down. Some companies cannot differentiate between high-quality and low-quality UX design work and are no longer willing to pay a premium for high-quality work.

Something that I did find encouraging in this time period was that many of the questions readers submitted to Ask UXmatters were about how to become a better UX designer. At the same time, we saw tremendous growth in the number of UX books, blogs, and training opportunities to help people improve their UX-design skills. Now that UX has become a more mature field, many UX professionals are specializing in particular product domains and niche applications or in specialties within User Experience.

UX Strategy

An especially exciting trend to watch was the increasing popularity of UX strategy. Many companies now understand the importance of good UX design and are willing to invest in it. User Experience is now part of the product-development process from the very beginning, as opposed to a step that came late in the product-development lifecycle. Some of our UX strategy columns include the following:

Applied UX Design Topics

We’ve published many Ask UXmatters columns on applied UX design topics such as the following:

On accessibility:

On global UX design:

On ResearchOps and DesignOps:

On user research:

On enterprise UX design:

On User Experience for systems engineering:

Making the World a Better Place

Throughout our Ask UXmatters columns, I see a common undercurrent: how can we make the world a better place? For example, our Ask UXmatters expert panel discussed how to have greater impact through our work in “Making the World a Better Place Through User Experience.” Certainly, there are many other fields that want to make the world a better place.

The question we ask here is: how we can best make that happen in respect to product user experiences. As we discussed in that column, it is very important to work for a company that values people, UX design, and the users of their products. Another key factor is educating our colleagues about how a strong UX design not only improves a product, but also has a larger impact on people. Furthermore, we need to connect UX design with business needs. As I wrote in that column:

“The first time I heard the statement ‘a business exists to make a profit,’ I felt heartbroken. In my mind, I questioned whether businesses want to make the world a better place, too. In reality, the answer is: some do and some don’t. All companies—no matter how noble their mission statement—must be profitable to survive. If a UX design solution does not drive profitability, it is not relevant to the business.

“Is this a sad truth? It might be if you maintain the perspective of a frustrated UX designer for whom an ideal design solution is all that matters. But, if you pivot and realize that you can help many people in their daily lives by creating an easier to use and more effective product and, at the same time, increase your company’s profitability, this can become a win-win situation. Your willingness to focus on business success means you can help more people.”

As a field, User Experience has greatly matured and grown. Our research and design methods are now time tested, and many of our colleagues in other disciplines understand the importance of having a strong UX design. As UX professionals continue to take a larger role inĀ  setting product strategy and even business strategy, User Experience will certainly have a larger positive impact on the daily lives of the people we want to help. 

Product Manager at Tom Sawyer Software

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Janet M. SixDr. Janet M. Six helps companies design easier-to-use products within their financial, time, and technical constraints. For her research in information visualization, Janet was awarded the University of Texas at Dallas Jonsson School of Engineering Computer Science Dissertation of the Year Award. She was also awarded the prestigious IEEE Dallas Section 2003 Outstanding Young Engineer Award. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications and the Kluwer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science. The proceedings of conferences on Graph Drawing, Information Visualization, and Algorithm Engineering and Experiments have also included the results of her research.  Read More

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