Thursday, July 3, 2014

On Horses and Water

This week I've been chewing on some thoughts about promotion of the UX practice within our organization. While we have lots of opportunities, being embedded in a web development organization, there are still opportunities to build awareness and help drive better product design (and therefore successful adoption). Here are five people who challenged me this week:

  1. The person who thinks UX is a good idea but can't get off the ground: A client wanted to engage us for some research to provide objective evidence for design decisions. After weeks of trying to contact her and insert myself in her project, I've stopped trying.
  2. The person who thinks design is something anyone can do well: A client contacted me to give his non-designers a crash course in good form design--rather than asking whether or not they should be doing that, and why we're not using internal resources we already have.
  3. The person who is a designer and said it was useless to talk to users. Wow. There is nothing I can add to this.
  4. The person who asked for a "UX Developer" (what some in our industry call a  "Unicorn"--beautiful but mythical) who can make some ugly user interfaces "more appealing". Has no information about what the users need or want, never mentioned the word "design", and never scheduled an agreed-to meeting for follow-up.
  5. The person who asked for us to use UX to help improve their adoption and outcomes on the next phase of their project, but won't talk to anyone on my team until the project starts.
We have this strange culture of people wanting to try to do everything themselves, assuming they know how to best work in UX, without the openness to collaborate and ask how we can help. It's another example of people coming up with a solution before the problem has been identified.

If I were assigned to code an application, I would never go to a developer and say, "could you give me a quick 30 minutes to show me how to code?" I'd question whether I should actually be doing that, if there are people available who possess the skill. We need to figure out how to convey that design is a developed area of practice that requires some education and expertise, and not just a bunch of tools and checklists.

With the possible exception of #3, in some way, these are all people who are fighting their own impulses. They know intuitively this is something that should be done, but because of ignorance, discomfort or ineptitude, we are unable to move forward.

I can work to overcome ignorance and discomfort, but the ineptitude is a tougher foe. At the moment, I'm tempted to let these "opportunities" slip away, because I'm tired of trying to make the horses drink.