An easy way to address misconceptions is to look at what UX is NOT — and where these misconceptions come from in the first place.
As discussed in Part 1, the reason for some of these misconceptions is that many companies define UX roles differently and have different ideas about what a UX designer should do. Apart from carefully going through each role and interpreting the type of tasks and what’s expected of you, it’s also important to continuously advocate for user-centered design.
As a UX designer, most of all, you’re an advocate for the users. Even when no one else understands what UX is, you need to continue advocating and educating while standing up for decisions that will cater to the users’ needs.
In order to do that, these are 4 things that are important to keep in mind:
1. UX is NOT just about designing according to best practices and heuristics.
Sadly, this is still a misconception for many. You might often get requests such as “Can’t you just look at my website / app and tell me how to improve the UX?” or “You’re an UX expert, can’t you just make this app user friendly?” While knowing design guidelines, best practices and usability heuristics is an important part of the job, you still need to do research that involves the real users. Everything else is a complement and not a replacement.
2. UX specialised roles are NOT an excuse to not understand the overall UX process.
Let’s say that even though you’re still a beginner, you already know you’re in love with designing user interfaces and want to specialise as a UI designer. That’s great! However, UI designers still need to understand the overall UX process and how the users shape their design decisions. If you are not using real data to guide your designs, you cannot claim to be doing user-centered design.
3. UX is NOT about solo work, even if you’re the solo UX designer in your team.
This seems to be one the most difficult concepts to grasp, especially for solo designers without a UX team. Just because you don’t have a UX team, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a team. Perspectives from different backgrounds and fields are in fact very useful as part of the UX process.
There are many reasons why you should never work in silo:
- Bias: If you’re conducting qualitative UX research on your own, for example, all data will be interpreted from your point of view only.
- Empathy: If stakeholders and your team members have never actually seen your users and were part of the process, how will you make them care?
- Alignment: If your team is aligned, there will be decisions made that won’t take your user considerations in need.
UX should always involve teamwork, even if you’re the solo UX designer in the whole company. A book I recommend if you’re in this situation is The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide, by Leah Buley.
4. UX is NOT about certain deliverables or tools.
Anyone can draft a quick persona, but what if it’s never used? Maybe your team members have seen it once and never took a second look at it. How about that pretty user flow that nobody understood and never moved the project forward? You can add as many impressive looking UX deliverables to your case studies and portfolio and still not add real value to the UX process. Deliverables do not prove your UX knowledge, your process and ability to identify the strategy needed to achieve both business and user goals does.
Any role or activity that is based on decisions that are not driven by real user needs is NOT really UX. As a UX professional, you need to make decisions based on real data which comes from being in real contact with the users.
Knowing the core meaning of UX when getting started puts you at a huge advantage. But most of all, it makes you a better designer, one who deeply cares about the user's needs. In the end, UX is about making people’s lives better.