This article is for you, majority of designers, eager young companies who love buzz words, and [especially] assembly-line web agencies that just crank out template-site after template-site. Here is a look at why your whole concept of user experience design is flawed from the get-go.
Data Is A Tool
When you look at the common topics surrounding user experience (UX) design, good ol’ data is fairly ubiquitous. You can’t hardly read an article about UX, or a job posting for a UX designer, or a faux-specialized tech company description, without any mention of data. Everyone loves to talk about the buzz topics of engagement analytics, a/b testing, and so on. We’re not saying those methods are not terrifically useful tools – but this is where the mistake is made. Data is only a tool, and not the whole job. Time and time again, however, having the ability to collect data and tweak the elements accordingly is equated with UX design.
Trial-and-Error is not Design
Working off the last point, implementing small changes in the layout due to the results of some supposed all-telling a/b testing analysis is just trial-and-error, and most definitely not design. Really, if anything, trial-and-error makes you less of a conscious designer and more like the factory workers in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: read a gauge, turn a knob; see a bulb light up, move a dial. Design is an action, not the reaction.
A Click is not Experience
The data usually referred to when talking about UX design typically reflects some sort of engagement marker. Maybe you’re measuring scroll depth, or perhaps clicks from an a/b test – some action that is assumed to reflect the user’s experience. This is the mistake – who says an action accurately describes an experience? Consider, for instance, that you’re walking down a path, and you come to a fork. Each option is equally as littered and overgrown, but you choose to walk down the path to the left because it has a blue sign instead of the red sign on the right, and it just so happens that 9 out of 10 people that came to that fork also chose the path with the blue sign. The statistical and undeniable fact that the overwhelming majority of people that day chose the same option due to a variation of color between the two does not mean that their experience was any different than they would have had taking the other path. Data is just a measurement of actions – which can in fact be a powerful tool for analysis and refining of a layout – and not a reflection of the experience perceived by the user. Maybe someone doing this sort of testing and refining could have a name like “user flow architect” or some other equally buzzy and super-specialized moniker – but this is not UX design, and detracts from our final point.
All good design is UX
The purpose of any designer is to produce an efficient way to experience some bit (or a bunch of bits) of information. Whether we’re talking about a brand identity, or a magazine layout, or a website, or a concert poster – the experience of that product should be the designer’s main focus. With this in mind, the albeit specialized role of the user interface designer (the “UI” commonly alongside UX) makes perfect sense, but the term “user experience designer” just seems like a load of crap, and just another buzz word to momentarily differentiate from the crowd. Unfortunately, the majority of self-proclaimed UX designers seem to not understand even fundamentals of clean, precise, purposeful design – much less the neurological and psychological processes that direct an individual’s perception, engagement, or experience.
If you can design one thing, you can design everything.
We don’t mean to offend those few-and-far-between UX designers out there who actually practice great design and have fundamental understandings of psychology and perception informing their projects, and we certainly don’t shun all things data. Data is great, and can give great insights into previously untapped areas of research. But lately, it seems to have taken over the focus of projects, and more attention has been paid to analytics than to understanding and incorporating good design practices from the start. In our experience, the data only reaffirms good intuition, but fundamentally is flawed in its inability to intrinsically direct good design. As the late Massimo Vignelli understood that the role of the designer is to methodically and purposefully direct experience, and that “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.”