What Good Looks Like

think outside the box in vintage wood type

 

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking and discussing with other UXers about where UX is going and how the lines are getting more blurred as UX becomes more pervasive. At the same time I still get dragged into the “UX 101” conversations that should have ended 10 years ago with people who profess to be experts.

The easy answer is that UX is was born about 15 years ago out of the user centred design processes. It was first applied in usability, user research and information architecture. UX now includes design and development skills sets as well as strategy. The principals and core objectives of UX however, have not changed. They have matured. UX is now a huge industry and widely understood. Clients themselves are very sophisticated.

Most people in UX know this and have a common understanding and know what good UX is. I see myself as a UX person first. Whatever deliverable I am producing (IA, strategy or design) I think about the person who is going to be using the end product or system.

What good looks like is the outcome. No one can hold up a sample and say this is good without explaining the thinking the decisions that have gone into it and why these were made and how they came to those conclusions.

To the casual observer a design or an information architecture can look good. Great even. This is why understanding what user experience is and being able to explain and measure it is the only way to avoid costly mistakes or interfaces that do not work.

As an example:

A lot of people think Microsoft does not create great experiences. They proudly share their insanity in a blog post. This has to be the top retweet for the UX community today. Most people thought it was a joke but here is the story about the “streamlined UI” from Seldo.

Orange text may look good to some people but it is not usable by everyone. Yellow on green is even worse. Some usability issues like those are easy once you know them and the reasons why. Skills like developing a taxonomy or using categorization become second nature. All of that falls in the realm of knowing what is best practice. Developing that knowledge is fundamental but that is just the foundation. It takes time and a lot of experience to become proficient in user experience. Picking up the tools and the skills are the easy part. The hardest part is keeping up and staying current.

UX design differs from non UX design by bringing a wisdom and depth of knowledge of what users want from the design as well as understanding persuasion. In some cases every element on the page has a rational that is based on user research and rigorous measuring for effectiveness.

It is not about memorizing or copying. The bar keeps getting higher and this is user driven. What matters most is understanding and studying user behaviour. Think how people do things and what their need state is as well as frame of mind and other considerations. Constant research and measuring the user experience are the only way to ensure a positive outcome.

This is why deep understanding of social media and mobile applications needs to be a part of the UX thinking. Keeping on the edge and looking into the future is the only way to keep up.

A lack of this understanding can make people defensive and get them to promote individual specialties at the expensive of others, often demonstrating a narrow mindedness that is counterproductive.

Good UX does not come in a box.

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