The term “UX” is becoming like duct tape. People are sticking it everywhere. Take, for example, the UX-related jobs titles people are using these days, essentially a concatenation of UX on the front of an existing thing: UX designer (a term I’ve used), UX architect, UX consultant, UX researcher. The other day I even saw UX web developer. (I have no idea what this means).
But really this is nothing new. People adopt terms as they become successful in the marketplace because that’s what people are talking about. It helps them fit into the ever-changing competitive world of work. So it’s not surprising to see designers change their title from Designer to IA to UX professional and back again…the world of design is constantly being redefined and re-calibrated. In fact, if people don’t evolve their professional focus over time you might wonder if they are keeping up with the current state of the art.
But UX seems different. Everyone seems to be using it. With so many people using the term “UX” does it risk being marginalized? If everyone is using the term UX does it lose it’s meaning, becoming too broad to be special? That is, if UX is being used by anybody remotely close to design, then it undermines the original goal of the term to focus more attention on the people we design for. If using the term UX becomes more of a way to fit in than a way to describe what you do, then we’ve lost.
While I keep hearing these arguments, I don’t think there is any need to worry.
The term UX is more accurate than most. UX describes its mission in its own words: to improve the user experience. That’s why I hear executives, marketers, designers, and developers alike use the term closely enough that they might actually be talking about the same thing. People understand the term UX better than other terms we’ve used in the past. Besides, “Design” is as loaded as any word, bringing its own baggage with it. Designers are often seen at odds with the rest of the business, wearing black-rimmed glasses and making things look pretty. In the short term I think UX can be safely used to bypass that trap and help put focus on the people we’re designing for, not the designers themselves.
The term isn’t what’s important. In the long-run, the term is not what is important, the work is. The only thing that matters for professionals in this space is that you are improving the experience of your users day in and day out. It doesn’t matter what you call it…call it IA or UX or Design or whatever. Those terms are merely navigation cues for discussion, contextual indicators people use to orient themselves initially. After that initial orientation, the terms don’t matter, the work does.
So don’t worry about UX being marginalized. It’s just a term. It will be the people who make false promises and don’t do actual UX work who will become marginalized.