A Survival Strategy for Handling the UX Crazy Person

crazy
manifesto

UX is maturing. 2007 article bringing together consultants on a global scale.

This week the topic of discussion at the Hospital Club, during our usual UX Martini Madness, was about the difficulty in getting consensus on getting a UX Manifesto. Whenever it seems we are finally getting a common understanding of what UX is some new Crazy jumps up and wants to reinvent the wheel?  The UX wheel that is. It is like being on a UX merry-go-round. When actually UX on a trajectory path that in the last few years has seen what we do mature. UX has evolved a lot in very short period of time. This is exciting!

We call them Crazies the Crazies because their reaction is to behave like a crazy person and display increasingly odd behaviour the closer we get.

Instead of embracing the new emerging standards they want to re-invent their own, around them. We have seen user experience descriptions recently where they mention everything except anything to do with user experience. Instead of embracing the changes and wanting to get involved they go into a destructive and self protectionist mode.

Their crazy thinking is bad enough for them but it is even more damaging to the industry, the people they work with and the companies they work for. It is highly toxic and must be disposed of with extreme care.

ux alliance

The UX Alliance is Global

 

Some of the best user experience people and teams are now client side. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what some of the specialists have done and are doing. Companies like Frog, User Focus, Foviance, Flow, Foolproof, Sapient, EMC, LBi have really raised the bar and helped user experience to mature.

crazy

The Crazy response is doing more harm than good.

But there are still some toddlers out there who have not realised it is about the end user and not about them.

How to spot a Crazy:

  • Crazies want to define what a UX consultant is and not use industry standards
  • Crazies want to define the exact skills set now and for the next xxxx years
  • Crazies see the value of UX to “differentiate”  and want to brand it (or call it something else), own it and use it for their own needs
  • Crazies obsess about code, tools, process, scripts, levels and methods and so on…. everything except what UX is about!
  • Crazies talk a lot but do not do and almost never show… their own site looks more “State of the Ark” than “Stake of the Art” [If they have a graphical header they are a crazy]
  • Crazies moan about themselves and why they are not being plucked from obscurity [From Andy Budd] rather than learn about the industry and do something of merit
  • If the crazies are not getting their way they feel victimised
  • Crazies talk and care more about themselves and less about the end user or anyone else for that matter
  • Crazies are all about producing the end result (user interface) but pay very little attention to the journey

 

Crazies want UX to be about them and their skills. Really, does the user care how a UX Consultant defines themselves and whether you know some bad ass scripts? No. It is about the user and creating a stunning user experience. That is a worthwhile and measurable objective. User experience is a team effort. As a user experience consultant the role is to ensure the user is considered and accounted for.

 

UX Crazy Survival Tip 1: Go where the industry is going. Look at what companies like Frog and User Focus [David Travis] has to say. Follow the leaders.

Google “user experience” and you will find a stack of books, conferences, methods, tools, magazines, clubs and lots of like minded thinkers willing to share their information and perspectives. No where is it about tech. It is all about the user. It is the user that unites us.

Frog mind design

The Frog Mind puts users first. Frog gets it.

The crazy may try to bounce with a book they read that is 10 years old. “oh yes I read this years ago and have my diploma from xxx”. Stay with what is current and take a consolidated view from what is currently out there on blogs and in workshops. The big players all seems to have a similar view of user experience with varying  nuances in descriptions.

The Peer Index top 500 from Foolproof is a great please to start

UX Crazy Survival Tip 2: Share the reading lists and as much information as possible with as many people as possible. Knowledge and research is a powerful weapon against the Crazy. 

Crazies  do not like the fact that UX people meet up and want to share knowledge. They seem to ignore the fact there are degree courses, certifications and standards emerging. They want… errrr.. demand a description that fits their often narrow minded and outdated view and skills. UX people are in huge numbers and have a big voice in the world of digital. UX is not a bag of tricks it is about a mind set that puts the user first.

dark arts

Would you want to be operated on by self assessed surgeons?

Do not limit that information just to the team but educate widely. Invite other people in to discuss. UX is about collaboration and empowering. It is not a Society for the Dark Arts. The more people in your organisation who understand what user experience is the less power the crazy will have and the focus will shift to UX.

UX Crazy Survival Tip 3: Go to as many events as possible and talk to people in the industry. Listen to the people who matter and who are doing great stuff. Let their voices drown out the Crazy. 

The rest of us (non crazies) seem to want to help the users. We recognise that users are important. They can make a product successful or not. We want recognition and the professional status that a profession brings. We are not all out to be mavericks and ninjas.

We have evolved from the UCD, web design time line

UX evolution diagram

Click on the diagram to see the UX evolution

 

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. User experience is about the user. It is not about me or you. Users belong to tribes and share common traits. We are trained to look for common traits. UX brings convention (in an innovative way). It makes sure the end result works for the majority of people. The awards now are for usability and are about delivering a measurable experience. They are not the subjective far out designs of old (that probably did not work either). We want inclusiveness and accessibility. We wants standards. We are people people.  That is probably why we have a million conferences ;-).

UX Crazy Survival Tip 4: Embrace web and user centered standards and change with them. Do not let the Crazies define you. It is your career in the end. 

Taken from Wikipedia:

Recent advances in mobileubiquitoussocial, and tangible computing technologies have moved human-computer interaction into practically all areas of human activity. This has led to a shift away from usability engineering to a much richer scope of user experience, where user’s feelings, motivations, and values are given as much, if not more, attention than efficiency, effectiveness and basic subjective satisfaction (i.e. the three traditional usability metrics[4])

Just because you are a UX Consultant does not mean you can not specialise. In fact it is the opposite or not and entirely your choice. Specialise away if you want. But put the user first and understand the core skills of UX. If you think being an HTML5 expert will help then go for it. If you want to be the best in user research then that too will be a huge advantage. Just remember that complete specialisation is a cul-de-sac. New tools and graduates are emerging. The whole industry is changing. Typographers learned the hard way of what can be a fickle business.

UX Crazy Survival Tip 5: Be flexible, adaptable and design for change. Learn as much as you can and go with your own instinct. Do not let the Crazy paint you into a corner. Be vocal and have your own sense of who you are. Think ahead. What is in demand now will be redundant tomorrow. 

Digital is about change. It is not fixed. There is no description of UX today that will be still relevant tomorrow. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. UX Consultants must be first and foremost be flexible and willing to adapt. Understanding the user and keeping abreast of change is the way forward.

UX is a moving feast. No one can say what the tools are for tomorrow will be. One thing is the same. The user. The user is there. They are changing too. They also do not play to stereo types. Follow the user. What are they doing now that they were not doing yesterday? When I am in meeting and some one says, “oh generation X only uses social media”. Oh really, then why is the average of a twitter user 45? Research, research research and know your stuff. Have the goods to back up what you are doing with conviction.

I also had to remind some one that we are not building for tomorrow we are building for 400 tomorrows. It will take 400 days for a complete relaunch. At the day of launch the new system must be ready for that day, not tomorrow.

UX Crazy Survival Tip 6: Collaborate and share ideas with other UX people. Nothing beats a get together with other UX professionals and having good verbal bashing of what the Crazies are doing.  Having people you can rely on to help keep your sanity is a wise strategy.

Having a group of like minded peers can help. Nothing beats unwinding when you can have a sensible discussion with sane people. We have all been there. Some of us still have crazies in our life. Who knows when the next one will pop up and start wrecking havoc.  The good news is that the UX Crazies’ days are numbered. Let’s keep meeting up, coming together and working to common standards. In the end they won’t win.

It is an ongoing process of education and learning by example both good and bad.Thanks for reading please share or leave a comment!

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