The Snobbery of UX


UX, or User Experience, is a great thing. It’s about, I think, creating wonderful, happy, engaging experiences for people. To me, it spans across software/apps, websites, products, cars, shopping centers, retail stores, and even themed entertainment.

UX is the glue that binds us together.

In all the years I’ve been part of the UX community, I’ve met colleagues who either believe we need to make co-workers, family, and friends, champions of UX – get them onboard and follow the cause, or think that we need to keep the secrets of good UX design to ourselves, like a magician never tells how a trick is done.

So I’d like to address the latter group. And for those of you who don’t think you belong to it, please consider what I’m about to say, for even though I want to think I’m in the first group, sometimes I’ve fallen into the pride of being a UX snob.

The thought about this all came about recently at a local meetup of UX pros, where a “TV show” was being filmed. The idea was you had people showing off their great idea, and then a panel of UX experts would comment and make suggestions to make it better, Shark Tank style.

What I noticed during the taping (or I should say digitizing) of the “show” was that the people showing their ideas were very passionate about them, and they thought they came up with the greatest thing since sliced bread. And to be honest, there were some great ideas/products being shown.

The panel would then make comments, some lighthearted, some constructive. But what kind of bugged me was some of the language they used.

Design language.

For us, design language is fine, using terms like “Design cues” and “Affordances”.  We tend to use those amongst ourselves often, to get to the point of something. However, normal everyday people who have an idea, or our co-workers, or bosses, don’t know what those are (especially what in the name of God’s green earth is an “affordance”).

It makes us sound like design snobs.

As the panelists were making suggestions and comments, I thought to myself while sitting in the audience, how would I be making suggestions, or wording them?  I think in the past, I may have been more snobby sounding, but all I could think of was “this guy is not getting what they’re saying. They need to sound more HUMAN”.

We need to create great experiences all the time, whether that’s for some thing, or even when talking to some ONE.

We need to always be cognizant of being in the first group – to win people over to the UX cause.

So please don’t use words like “affordances”, unless you’re talking to a college professor or fellow colleague – even at that, let’s make an effort to sound more human and less like someone with a Phd in human centered design or whatever.

It makes the listener feel dumb, and it even makes us look stupid. If we’re going to make UX matter to everyone, we need to champion it on the person-to-person, normal everyday  guy or gal level.

Put away your Phd or some degree for those moments, and focus on always creating a great experience instead.




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