Random Thought- Is UX Design a Novelty? (hint: the answer is no)

For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been working as a contract UX Designer for a company in America’s Finest City (that’s San Diego to those who don’t live or work here…).

When I was hired on, I was the second UX guy they had ever really met. The first guy, a super nice, stand-up guy who had worked for Sony online, had spent the last two years championing UX, and trying to get them to bring in someone to help with the load of work, being that the projects they were working on needed good UX, and it shows now in projects he didn’t have time to invest design thought into – being the sole UX person and there being dozens of developers and numerous projects doesn’t help.

I should have listened when he said he’d been trying for two years to get them onboard with user experience.

To them, from what I can see, UX is a novelty.

So, I design wireframes, and the developers as well as the visual designer kind of follow them. The visual designer sits pretty close to me, so I can provide art direction, since having been a visual designer, I know what works. And being that I’m seen as a non-typical UX Designer (I do visual design vs. sending it out to someone else), I think the whole UX thing is an end-to-end process, or should be and the UX Designer should know how to use Illustrator and Photoshop, and know how to design for the overall experience.

As far as keeping an eye on the devs, well, it’s not so easy, as we’re on a real tight schedule, and I’m cranking out wireframes as fast as they need them, since there really is very little luxury of getting any done ahead of upcoming sprints (this place is learning about and trying to be an Agile environment). As of now, there’s about 30-40 wireframes to do, 10 devs, and one me.

Because they’re not used to having UX (which I said shows on earlier projects), they come up with what they call “Developer Innovations”, as well as ignore affordances I put in the wireframes for a reason. Changing radio buttons to a drop-down list may not seem like a huge deal, but it is, especially if they don’t ask, and then the wireframes don’t match the app, and QA asks which is the right one (answer, my wireframes..). Or why is there more than one way to navigate to a specific screen (answer, because the button that allows it on one screen isn’t going to be on all the screens, yet the user still needs to get there somehow..heavy sigh).

I’m hoping that someday, UX Design will become standard, both in big companies as well as small ones. Users need good (well actually GREAT ) design. And it would be nice to be listened to, instead of getting that look from co-workers like I’m some crazy Uncle with crazy ideas. I talk, and they smile and just nod…

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