Remember buying a pair of jeans and finding the small inspector number in the pocket the 1st time you wore them? Ever looked at the backside or bottom of a piece of furniture and noticed the “inspected by” stamp? Sometimes, I feel like an inspector of a process, where I stamp my approval before the product heads out the door; not having the power to change or influence the product before it came to my station, nor having power to make sure others know how to contact me for problems after it left the factory.
I believe UX has to be more than a production cog. It has to be more than a step in the process. It needs to be a guiding philosophy that informs the entire process of design and creation. I speak of UX as User-Experience design – a complete and wholistic viewpoint that the experience of a customer (or user) is defined by their entire contact with a product or service. From customer calls… to website interaction… to packaging… UX is the entire experience of contact.
In order for UX to become bigger than colors, buttons, and workflows, it needs to break free of the “captors of UX”. Sometimes these captors are designers with limited knowledge and understanding of UX methods, and sometimes its captors are the organizational cultures and hierarchies that don’t allow for UX initiative/support.
UX isn’t found in a specific user-interview outline or heuristic guideline… it’s found in the philosophy behind such tools and methods. Thinking about User-Experience is a ideology that involves accounting for ideas and behavior that aren’t your own. It means opening the doors to objectivity and following insights with rigor and diligence. It means understanding that user empathy is more than a design consideration – it’s something that is felt.
UX needs to be a guiding philosophy where all people and departments begin to adopt decision-making skills relevant to their role and tools of production. If you are in customer support, UX for you means being patient, understanding, and empathetic – to the point that you actually help someone, not just type call notes on your computer. If you are a developer, UX for you means programming an error response that doesn’t buzz and make the user feel like they did something “wrong”.
If UX designers can represent something more than a list of tools, methods, and practices for understanding users, they can become an influence of change for others. At my job, I’m outnumbered by developers, 20:1. I can never account for all their ideas, code, or technology. But if I can get them to think like me when I’m not around, then I can break free of my cube. I can go to them with a common language, rational, and accountability in such a way that promotes change. I believe UX designers can have their biggest impact by affecting the ideas and values of the people around them – helping them see a world outside their own. It means re-defining the mission for everyone and having them on board.