Show me the data
Recently I bumped into a job opening about a Web Developer who, among other qualifications, he/she should have “a good eye for UX”. I’ve also heard and read about companies that the UX research is done by people that “are good” in understanding user needs, like product managers or developers. And this is ok.
I don’t want to deep dive into the way people use the term “UX”. For many, it means having a user-centered approach, and that’s how I’m going to use it here for the purpose of summarizing.
In agile teams, and not only, it’s more than welcome for everyone to have developed “a good eye on UX”. As UI designers/developers/QA testers/etc should have basic knowledge on page rendering or know what a usability test is, in the same way, it would be very helpful for the team that everyone should be able to understand user needs and identify basic UX bugs. The whole team should be able to know, in general, what improves or disrupts the user experience.
Quoting Nielsen-Norman’s group: “while most organizations profess to believe in user research, doing it and truly influencing design remains a challenge”. Having accessibility in mind and assuring that every team member is aware of basic accessibility rules, doesn’t mean that the final product is fully accessible by everyone. Having UX involved in a team’s decisions, based on ideas and assumptions, doesn’t mean that you are following a user-centered approach.
Designing for user experience can be empirical, but it results from design, psychological, social and cognitive theory. In UX Design, there is right and wrong, there are proofs and there is data. Everything else is just opinions and assumptions. I believe that it is ok to have people in your team that are not UX Researchers but design for UX, because it’s a good start. It is ok but it’s not enough. You have to interview your users, measure your goals, see the “how” and “why” in numbers, words and in their eyes.
So, my whole point is not to prove that UX Research is valuable. We already know that. I’m saying that having a company consisting of teams that know your user, doesn’t mean that you design for better user experience. You design based on your team’s opinions and experiences. If it worked, you were lucky. But when you fail in doing so, the answer of why is in the data. So, involve every team member in the process of UX design, introduce them to your users, make them facilitate your UX workshops, and make sure that all these are a part of your UX research process. Make sure that you have a plan, the right people and tools to do it and that you will result with the data that proves your progress. So, make sure that you have many people that “are good at UX” and at least one that is good at validating the assumptions.