competency initiative

Peer to Peer Evaluations Are Here to Stay, For Now

Everywhere you look the web sites are going up which allow people to rate you and comment on your work in your industry.

Most people thought it was a great idea to get all those rouge tadesmen rated. Plumber, builders, plasters are listed and rated by the work they do by how good a job they did. In social media a photo of you looking not so good can up being posted on ‘Hot or Not’ and sent around the office. Warts and all. TV shows like Rogue Traders turns the tables on those dodgey guys who are out to take your money in exchange for shoddy work. Lawyers have ratings too now.

In the world of digital and internet awards have been the boost to many an agency. But not individuals are being singled out and rated on Mixtent, Power UX, Linkedin with more to come .

There is no point hiding your head in the sand and thinking it will all blow over and you can carry on as normal. It might. But right now ‘peer to peer’ and ‘client’ assessments are gaining momentum and that is the wrong thing to do. Your participation is not mandatory. You are already playing the game whether you want to or not. Quitting the game doesnt work either.

We are all part of a big industry now and how that industry sees us has a huge impact our career as well as the clients we attack. People are the company.

In a creative profession seeing is believing. Usually most people can tell good design from bad. Even if they cannot articulate why and know what to do.

In User Experience it is the ‘why and what to do’ you want to know. The casual UX observer cannot usually tell good from bad. Even to the expert user it takes more than a cursary glance. I was asked to check over some work recently and my first impression was “wow this looks good and thorough”. But then as I started going through it I noticed an error, and then another and things went progressively worse. It was a massive specification and it took a full 6-8 hours before the full picture of the horror was revealed.

The problem is there is a skill shortage and with no standards. The bar to enter the industry is very low. Anyone can call themselves a User Experience Consultant. There are no mandatory qualifications. All a person needs is a few skills which mostly have to do with knowledge of how to use the tools. The tools themselves are cheap and easy to use. The methods vary widely.

What do you call a bad doctor who graduated at the bottom of his class? Answer: Doctor

In most professions there is no disctiction between good and bad. That is for their employers to deal with. In the User Experience profession it is highly unlikely anyone is going to die. However the sucess of a business or the sucess of the end system costing tens of millions of pounds maybe just down to the User Experience Practitioner’s skills.

Ford learned the hard way. In a recent article in the NY Times  poor user experience was blamed for the rating of the car plummenting from 5 to 20.

UX is finally growing up. In the early hurly-burly days there were no UX qualifications. Some people dove in head first and others took their time learning to swim. Anybody can learn and grow. There are no barriers to knowledge. I went to College for design, technology and pyscology. If I was in todays times it would be a degree in HCI. Instead it was a seemingly random selection of courses that to my career in UX. I have spent almost 20 years of learning and developing new skills to get to this point.

But while the degree should not be mandatory standard it is not. UX is also option to a lot of misinterpretation What is UX?. White papers are being submitted to professional bodies calling on stricter definitions and education in the industry.

Unitl there are industry standards, the best solution is to embrace it.  Make sure you are counted. Hiding is a huge mistake. You might as well put a sign around your neck that says I am a fraud and a con artist. Put your hands up and assess whether you got what it takes to work in user experience. Network and use the negative feedback to identify areas for improvement and learn. Accept and decide if you really want to be a UX practitioner. If you do then emerge yourself in the workshops, events, books and conferences to build real skills and knowledge. Mentoring could also be an option. Things change fast.

If you don’t, when you do finally take your head out of the sand, you might find that things have moved on so much you no longer have a career. Those that dont keep up are doomed to fail.