I’m not a UX designer, I’m happily ignorant

Well known London UX’er and Sapient Nitro chap Boon wrote this powerful blog post earlier this week. In it, he attempts to give an honest aprasial of his and his companies UX activity, as well as discussing how though he can imagine a great user experience in his head, he sometime lacks the research and iteration to back them up.

NB: There is also a much more structured response to Boon’s blog here by fjvwing, but read mine first.

It helped me clarify some thoughts which I have been having lately. I often can’t even imagine a great user experience for a given situation. If I get brought into meetings for my UX knowledge, I feel (and possibly look) a bit of a fool when I don’t sketch out a seamless UI or magical app environment straight off the bat. As far as I’m aware, I’m no an interaction designer. Yet I get the feeling this is what people are expecting, this my be my professional paranoia though.

At this point, I should elaborate on my own position. I’m happy to admit that I’m new to the UX field. Up until 4 months ago, my job was an Account Exec on a European autoshow programme. I’d been interested in UX for about a year previous, and was lucky enough to be able to make the move across inside my current agency.

I’ve found that it’s not an easy field to get into. For one, there is a lot to learn. I made a list of all the theory i’d need to get my head around and the books I needed to read. It read like an undergraduate degree programme.

To complicate things more, UX’ers love to critise their own field by writing articles along the lines of “Forget everything, UX is shit” or come up with new models and processes for what essentially is, still a human centred design theory. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be part of such an active and new community, but as a newbie, it’s a bitch to try and keep up.

So my lack of overall knowledge means that I won’t come up with the next Path because frankly, I’m not a digital designer. And likewise, when I’m asked in a brainstorm session ‘What do 24 year olds do”, I don’t know, because I’m not every 24 year old (I mostly listen to the Archers by the way).

But I’d argue this is a good thing. It makes me humble. It dosen’t scare me to say ‘I have absolutely no idea’ . Admitting I don’t know the answer doesn’t fill me with dread. On the contrary, I find it empowering. My absolute hero Richard Feynman puts it better than I ever can;

“I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things. It’s much more interesting with not knowing than to live with answers that might be wrong.” Feynman

To put it in a UX context, when I’m asked to find out the process people go through to purchase a new car, or what would be the best platform for an app, I’m not tainted by past experiences. I’m not going to jump to assumptions.

The key is, don’t pretend to know what the answer is, but I know how to find it out. I don’t know what platform the app should be based on (if any platform at all), but I know how to research to find it out. I don’t know what 24 year olds do, but I know how to talk to them and find out what they do.

So like Boon, I’m not a UX designer. I don’t know how to design a great user experience (yet). What I am is a research led person. Without the research, the iteration, the usability testing, I struggle, but I’m ok with that.

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