“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Isn’t UX just another piece of distracting jargon?

I was wondering if/when I was going to have something new to add to this blog, then inspiration finds its self in a Bar called “Hell” … It’s closing so there is little point in advertising it.

Victor Lombardi and I were talking about conferences, UX community, factionalization of UX, and how to communicate to clients and the business side internally about the value of design. I went back on my little soapbox about separating UX into its 3 major formative pieces: structure & definition, behavior, and presentation. Then in the discussion it occurred to me, “User Experience” is just as jargonny and hard to understand as “Information Architecture”, “Interaction Design” and “Usability”. With this in mind I thought. What could we say that is different? What is it are we really doing? And it hit me (at least for me and hopefully you will help me judge) … “Digital Solutions”.

I realize this might be a tad controversial or might even invoke the feeling of “So!” or “Who cares?”, but I guess I do and I think others do.

What I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t mention design, but then again, not all of us are desgners in the UX community, and it might be limiting to say, “Digital”? I do believe that the 90% core of this community is engaged in dealing with digitally related, products, services and systems. I do know that there are many who use these same skills, processes, and methods to do things like organizational change, innovation watching, and general orgranizational re-structuring, but that doesn’t mean that the the whole thing falls apart. I mean, many many of our core methods & processes are shared by many different design and non-design related solutioneering. I think it is fine that our customers know we specialize in the digital domain b/c there are special skills required for working this domain even if the processes and methods have large areas of overlap.

But what about the “User” … Well, we’ve all heard all the complaints about that word in the past, but the most valuable critique I’ve heard about its use is that why should we ONLY be concerned with the User. Designers, and design offer the greatest combination of skills, processes and methods for achieving innovation and arriving at the best thought out solutions. (How’s that for a religious truism?) But when we say that we are “user centric” we are loosing a wholistic and broader contextual reality that we should bring to the solutions we design. How many times have you heard that an IA or other UX designer is hired to be the “User Advocate”. I’m sure some of you are saying … Sure! that makes sense. But why are you JUST the “USER Advocate”? Why aren’t you also the business advocate, and the advocate for the patient (in the case of medical devices), or the advocate for the investor, and so on.

I know this isn’t rocket science and I know others have said similar things. But hey, maybe just like tonight it sorta sank a bit deeper for me into my thick skull, that my relating how I arrived here, might help you figure out something new for yourself. I mean, isn’t that the centrol premise of design? That we get to iterate off of each other’s ideas.

So I doubt anyone is running to change the name of their department or anything, but I just wanted to share my revelation that “user” context while invaluable is just a part of the puzzle. What a pretty puzzle it is, eh?

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