Random Thought (more or less) – Wake Up San Diego, UX is here

I read an interesting article posted this morning through the UX Professionals LinkedIn group, in regards to why UX salaries will continue to rise – the article is here.

It goes on to say that UX Designers and UX folk in general are in high demand but in short supply. Okay, I’ll buy that. I get that a lot from recruiters about how we are hard to find, especially good UX designers.

I’d say the software companies (custom solutions, government, video games, e-commerce) and retailers in the big markets get that, and the importance of UX design. Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, the San Francisco surrounding bay area — they all get UX and covet the importance of having great user experiences designed. It’s mature in those areas. There are LOTS of openings for UX design folks in those places.

But somehow, the place I grew up in and love so much, San Diego, isn’t really getting it. I don’t know why, but it was kind of the same back when the web was forming. Those other places got it and San Diego was slow to the race. Okay, to be fair there are a few companies that get it, and there are single champions of UX in lots of companies shouting out loud how good UX is needed, the importance of it, and to the point of going hoarse because no one is really listening. In San Diego, for the most part, UX is a luxury. Most companies figure they have good developers who can code really well, and that’s good enough to get the job done.

The problem with that is even though developers make good code, they don’t have the insight to make a good product, or good customer experience. I often tell people that UX designers are like an architect and the developer is the builder. We listen to what a client wants and needs (we emote and listen to their feelings), and then design the perfect house or building (their app or website) for them. We design the plans, pick out the colors and furniture, or in some cases work with the interior designers to create a great experience. Then the builders come in, follow the plans, build it, and see the thoughts and vision come to life. THAT is one of the most amazing and rewarding parts of being a UX designer.

But a lot of companies are happy with having the builders. Until they hire or contract a UX designer. Then suddenly all the stuff they’ve built in the past pales in comparison to what the UX designer has created. And hopefully they get that UX design IS important. And sometimes they don’t.

So, when companies here in San Diego interview or are looking for a UX designer, most don’t seem to know what to look for. At least that’s been my experience as I’ve either worked on contract for, or interviewed at. Usually when I leave after an interview, it makes them consider really what UX is, and that they need to reassess their needs. The good thing is I’m helping them understand what UX design is. The bad thing is they then aren’t ready to hire – anyone.

Some want a UX designer who can do wireframes (check), interaction design (check), visual design (check) and program (uhh..). Okay, so three out of 4 ain’t bad. Some places I interviewed at have interviewed other UX designers who won’t even touch visual design (what??), and would rather farm it out (again, what????). Some want a UX designer who only wants to create wireframes… and some want them to come up with great ideas and leave all the other stuff to the experts.

So, I guess I’m not like a lot of UX designers, since I grew up drawing, designing, storytelling, engineering (you should see my plans for a flying Delorean..), taking really complicated things and making them simple, and yes, at one point even programming. Okay, so I don’t program now, but I get programming enough to know what can and can’t be done, to be able to look at code, or talk to coders and understand what they’re saying and respectfully speak their language enough that I don’t sound like some design lunatic. I can tell them what I want, point them to good examples, design out the kinetics so they get what the experience is supposed to be for the customer, user, audience.

I’m very passionate about great user experience design. And there are a lot of great user experience designers here in San Diego. It’s time companies stopped relying on doing so-so, “good enough” projects, whether they’re e-commerce, government, educational, consumer, marketing, or even entertainment based.

Time to wake up San Diego. UX is here and we’re ready to do great things.

And that’s my Random Thought for the day.

Greg – Renaissance something or other guy.

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4 thoughts on “Random Thought (more or less) – Wake Up San Diego, UX is here

  1. Hi Greg,
    Nice rant! My experience exactly on the “not really getting it aspect”. Bet we’ve interviewed at the same companies this year.

    I am one of those UX designers who can do it all, but I have to be honest. As much as I enjoy visual design, love Photoshop, and understand how “look and feel” must complement and reinforce the goals of interaction design, I’ve worked with too many great visual designers, who went to Art Institute or have a MFA degree, to presume to meet the same level of excellence as a career graphic designer. Their world is color palettes, typography, style guides, branding across web properties and other media.

    My favorite and most effective gigs have been working in close collaboration on a design with a great visual designer (from marketing or creative) where I’m translating business requirements, supplying information architecture/taxonomy, competitive analysis, personas, content inventory, storyboards, interaction design, and wireframes, and negotiating scope and features roadmap based on backend/schedule/budget constraints. Same applies to coding.

    Our field is progressing. Not too many years ago, it used to be one guy, the “web designer,” who did it all. But the web was a pretty unsightly and unusable place. To extend your housing metaphor: it was like a rambling, make-shift shanty town, with blind alleys, corrugated roofs, half-painted walls, and no plumbing. Then the town got re-development money: copy-cat row houses, strip malls, and “the projects” showed up. Better shelter for sure, but bland, unergonomic, uncomfortable, and quickly abandoned. Then money poured into the town: 1% of the populace divided into city planners, and the architects, builders, decorators who provided everyone who with beautiful, custom housing to suit their needs and intentions.

    found this linked on uxtalent.com

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