–Engage

“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

Misconceptions of User Experience (My original and complete response to Whitney Hess)

Earlier this week Whitney Hess had a piece published on Mashable.com entitled, “10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design”. Besides the well articulated premise of the article stated in the title, Whitney (@whitneyhess) did a tremendous job of demonstrating the power of the network (specirfically her network). She integrated the opinions of various notable practitioners seemlessly in her piece.

The impressive list of peeps she references includes:

First a few thoughts about this collection:

  1. Besides myself only Mario &  Livia currently works inside the  corporation they actually do design work for. I wonder if this skews the article at all. Now that being said, many HAVE in their careers worked for large corps. Erin for example worked at AOL and then Yahoo both for extended stays. Dan worked at Ameritrade for a long spell as well.
  2. A large % of the folks will be speaking at or attending Interaction 09 | Vancouver in just 3 short weeks. You may want to register to join them there to follow up. (How’s that for a blatant plug, eh?)

Well, I was also one of the references in the piece. The way Whitney did her research for the piece was to ask us a broad question and then she harvested out the most compelling nuggets to fit the flow of her piece (which she did really well).

But an idea she had was to invite (suggest) that some (if not all) of us contributors on our own blogs post our entire response to her original query.

So here is my response:

It is difficult to pin down “The biggest misconception of user experience” because it differs depending on your background.

I think the most important misconception that seems to focus around user experience being focused on achieving more usable products & services. While usability is important to user experience, its focus on efficiency and effectiveness seems to blur the other important factors in user experience which include learnability and visceral and behavioral emotional responses to the products and services we use. This is most largely felt from the business & marketing sides who don’t understand aesthetics, but also comes from the creative side as well. Creatives use this misconception of user experience as a means of drawing borders between what they do and what user experience professionals do.

It is very important for people to understand that user experience is a multifaceted project that requires deep collaboration between all facets of business, design, technology, and research to come together and work holistically. Basically, while the role of the UX practitioner is often necessary to achieve a good UX, what is more important is the breaking down of silos in the product organization and creating a deep collaborative environment.

So there ya go!

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  • http://www.graphpaper.com Christopher Fahey

    I just wanted to point out that a difference between innies and outies is often one of breadth vs. depth. Outies have seen it all, but in light doses. Innies see a narrower variety of misperceptions, but their effects are more salient and felt more deeply.

  • Lorraine Chisholm

    Thanks for your full post! Whitney’s full article was great as well. Your last paragraph captures what I’m seeing as my role to foster as UX practitioner within a small creative company.

    See you in Vancouver!

  • nemrut

    “the most important misconception that seems to focus around user experience being focused on achieving more usable products & services. While usability is important to user experience, its focus on efficiency and effectiveness seems to blur the other important factors in user experience which include learnability and visceral and behavioral emotional responses”

    I think you’re playing semantics here and it will only lead to divisiveness in the industry. This has been an ongoing problem w/many of the so-called ‘notable practitioners’ you cite, many of which fought tooth and nail, not so long ago, against the label of ‘user experience’ in favor of ‘Information Architect.’

    Now to get back to your original quote above, ‘usability’ per say, is a key metric in a successful user experience and encompasses all if not more of the examples you cited(eg, learnability, behavioral/emotional reponses,etc). This is what is often referred to as quantitativ vs qualitative data.

    There also seems to be this either/or, black/white definition of UX practitioners. Chris Fahey states, ‘..difference between innies and outies is often one of breadth vs. depth.’ Why can’t one have both? I personally know many who do. What was the purpose of Chris’s statement other than to stir the pot? Shouldn’t someone with his purported esteem be trying to promote both vs posting snarky comments?

    The UX industry is in danger of follwing the same misguided path so often tread by the graphic design industry – that of perpetual infighting, misguided agendas and unclear definitions of what it is we do. Let’s stop playing semantics which just trivialize the value many UX practitioners bring to the table.

  • dave

    Nemrut,
    I think you are finding a fight where there isn’t one. The misconception I’m talking about are those people who feel that all user experience is about is usability. I use the word usability not to suggest that there aren’t people doing more who have the title, but b/c the we need semantic realities in order to describe clearly the world around us and MANY (the misconception itself) believe that usability is about the end-user’s ability to complete a task. Whether or not it should mean more or that there is a another word that does mean more is irrelevant. That doesn’t change the fact that many people feel that the primary goal (ya get it, the misconception) that user experience’s primary if not only goal is to improve usability in its narrow definition and that that is enough.

    The innie/outtie thing, I’m not even going to touch. It was really an observation I made about the bulk of the people Whitney referenced and if you don’t think it makes a difference (I’m not into breadth vs. depth thing that Chris states, btw) then G-d bless ya.

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