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UX Designers are Liars

 June 2016

“UX designers are liars.” Yup. That’s what he said, Paul Boag, talking about user experience at the infoShare conference in Gdansk recently.

I was there to listen to some great speakers, including David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” Jon von Tetzchenner, founder of Opera and Vivaldi, Ivan Hernandez, flying trapeze artist gone Customer Experience Strategist and Peter Sunde from the Pirate Bay.

In this post however, I want to focus on some takeaways from Paul Boag, who can best be described as a User Experience Holistic. He shared some insights that I think are key to launching and providing a video on demand service.

See, companies have during the past 10 years been forced to go through a transition to stay relevant in the market. They have had to go from being a traditional company in their domain to becoming a technology company in their domain. The publishing industry is a great example, where companies who have not embraced web and mobile business models are struggling to stay afloat. Now there is another shift about to happen. Companies will need to go from being technology companies to being user experience companies.

The reason? Well, consumers have gone from expecting a service to be available online to also expect a great user experience from the service. Users are becoming extremely good at identifying bad experiences, and are increasingly more vocal about them in social media. To make users happy today, you will need to ensure a great user experience throughout your service or product offering. Users take user experience seriously.

There are quite a few fairly recent examples where the user experience has had huge impacts in traditional business areas. Both Uber and AirBnB have made it big by making improvements to the user experience over the traditional players.

So exactly what is the user experience? I would say a lot of people still confuse user experience and user interface, even though a broader understanding of what UX is is thankfully becoming increasingly evident among our customers and in our industry. And that is a good thing, as Accedo is delivering a lot more to the user experience than just the user interface. But Boag put into words, on an important and higher level, what user experience really is all about. It is about every interaction between the service provider and the customer, not only the user interface experience. Everything from marketing to customer service and core product execution is a user experience.

This is why Boag calls UX designers “liars”—no one person can design a user experience. There are too many points to address for any one person. UX is the intersect of product design, user interface design and customer experience. And—if there are UX designers, how come there are no UX developers? In fact, developers should be very much involved in the user experience. They are the ones building most of it. Developers should be included in UX workshops, usability testing and the design phase, not excluded. Developers who have a better understanding of user experience will inherently build better user experiences.

The truth is all business functions in an organization are part of creating the user experience, and in most companies only the user interface designers are actively thinking about the user experience. To bring a great user experience end-to-end the entire organization needs to work together. Business silos need to be broken down and collaboration opened up.

Boag visualized this by saying that UX is like a garden. It needs to be taken care of, and the more you look after it the better it gets. Still most services are treated more like buildings: you plan it, you build it, and occasionally you do some maintenance. The problem with that is that launching a service is not the end of a process, it is the beginning. Once a service is launched you are able to start improving on the user experience by observing your users and making changes accordingly. Not just to the user interface, but to all parts of the service.

Boag concluded by advising that companies create User Experience Champions across the organisation. There are parts of the end-to-end user experience that a designer will never ever have the chance to design, so other people will need to fill those gaps. The best thing one can do is to make sure those people know what they are doing.

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