At the recent Warm Gun conference in San Francisco I heard a similar refrain: we’re looking for a good UX designer and can’t find one. I heard this from both startups and huge companies. Representatives from both Google and Facebook complained they could not find enough good UX designers.
That’s actually amazing. The two most successful software companies on the planet are having a hard time finding good UX professionals!
The next obvious question: What makes a good UX designer? I’m sure there are people all over the spectrum on this question, from those who think the term “UX Designer” is itself redundant to those who can list out the exact job responsibilities that a good UX designer would need to have.
For me, the practical answer is that a good UX designer is responsible for the user experience of those using their software. They don’t just design it, they follow up and make sure that it works. They both create and then confirm that the interface is providing a positive user experience.
In this way UX designers sit at the crux of Art and Science. They design a screen, just like an interface designer, but they also measure how well that screen works. They might do this by usability testing, looking at conversion metrics, measuring user satisfaction, A/B testing, or some other method. Then, they iterate and improve the screen over time to make it work even better.
Dave McClure, the founder of Warm Gun, recommends that designers spend 80% of their time redesigning existing features while only 20% of their time on new features. That’s not what usually happens, of course, the vast majority of energy is spent on creating something new.
Measuring the effectiveness of design is new for many designers. And indeed, we are still very early on in being able to do it well. There are several reasons why design isn’t measured, including not having agreement on success metrics, not knowing how to measure a positive user experience with your product/service, and not being able to put measurement methods in place. None of this stuff is easy: it takes a culture dedicated to gathering feedback and improving by it, the ability to access customers and web site analytics data, as well as the scheduling ability to iterate and get things done when metrics aren’t going in the right direction.
The big difference between someone who is a UX professional and someone who isn’t comes back to that word: responsibility. When your job is to provide a positive user experience, you have to do whatever it takes to get it done, from imagining new designs to measuring current ones to make sure they work. You have to advocate for your users when their voices aren’t heard, and align the business objectives with user objectives at every step.
In the future I think all designers will be held accountable for their designs. When that day comes, we can dispense with the “UX” part of the job title. Until then, however, responsibility for providing a positive user experience will be the key differentiator for UX professionals, and as Google and Facebook can attest it’s currently not easy to find someone who does it well.