Ask A UXpert: What is the Biggest Myth You Hear About Working as a UX Designer?

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UXperts Sarah Parmenter, Paul Boag, Amy Jackson and Andy Vitale
Ask A UXpert: What is the Biggest Myth You Hear About Working as a UX Designer?

User experience design is becoming an increasingly common and necessary practice, but there are still a number of misconceptions surrounding what UX design is actually about. What does working as a UX designer truly entail and what do you need to know about UX design in today’s business world?

We reached out to four user experience design experts to set the record straight on a number of common UX myths. From directors to recruiters, they weighed in on what constitutes UX design and what you need to know about developing user experiences that also keep business in mind. Here’s what they had to say.

Myth: UX stops at the screen. Reality: It’s goes far beyond that.

Without a doubt, the most significant myth relating to UX design is that the job stops at the edge of the screen. That, in most people’s minds, there is very little difference between UI and UX design. In fact, you even see job adverts asking for UX/UI Designers.

Yes, a UX designer is interested in the user interface, but they also care about performance, social media channels, and even sensors. UX designers concern themselves with every aspect of the experience both online and off.

For example, I spend as much time helping organizations change their processes and organisational structures as I do building digital services. That is because how a business operates has just as much impact on the experience as the digital touchpoints that customers use. A good example of this is Zappos’ fantastic return policy. Would users have started buying shoes online merely because Zappos had a beautiful website, or was it because they knew they could return something easily if they didn’t like it?

Myth: UX comes at the end of the project. Reality: Good UX should be there from the start.

UX design is my most favorite task at the start of a project. However, it still surprises me how many people design and develop a project only to factor in UX design at the end. I find it less common amongst agencies to work that way, but more common from in-house teams and small freelancers, which suggests they’re not given the time (or budgets) to understand the needs of the users fully, or a research phase is being skipped somewhere.

UX should be woven into the very fabric of a designer. It doesn’t matter what kind of designer you are, whether it’s for the web, product, or even physical spaces — if you’re not thinking about the user and their needs before you’re picking the color palettes and typefaces, you’re just decorating.

Myth: UX is only about the user. Reality: It’s about the marriage of user outcomes and business goals.

The biggest myth I hear about UX designers is that they are solely focused on the user and not interested in understanding the business’ perspective. This way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. While user experience designers are focused on the goals, pain points, and desired outcomes of the user, they are equally focused on understanding the business strategies, realities, or constraints. The business creates the opportunity that allows us to solve for our users’ needs, both articulated and unarticulated.

UX design is about the marriage of user outcomes and business goals to create a consistent and valuable experience that encompasses all aspects of a user’s interaction with a company, at every touchpoint, across the entire ecosystem of its products, solutions, and services. This requires working with cross-functional partners and taking into account their subject matter expertise and robust agendas. When you understand that the business manager is worried about profits, the marketing manager about brand and experience, and the technology team about scalability and performance, it is easier to prioritize solutions that best match the needs of the user and will become a reality for them.

~ Andy Vitale, director of user experience, Polaris Industries.

Myth: All UX jobs are the same. Reality: They’re not and it’s up to you to ask the right questions, starting with the job interview.

From the recruiting side, one of the biggest myths I encounter is the belief that the interview is nearly exclusively about selling yourself as a designer. While you certainly are expected to explain what you have done, how you have gotten to where you are, and what you want to do next, if you go into the process in sell only mode, you will miss the opportunity to ask the critical questions that can help you determine if the role and company is right for you.

Often, when I ask why someone wants to leave their current role, the answer is that it is not what they expected. The underlying problem is usually that they feel they could have asked more questions when interviewing and pushed on what they were unclear on. When I ask why they did not, they return to the assumption they had to talk more about themselves, that interviewing was a formal evaluation of them, and there was not an easy or accepted way to ask those tougher questions.

This is not at all the case. While everyone should approach interviews in a professional and serious manner, it is your job to discover what you need and want to know, to uncover what may not have been shared that may be important to you, understand where the fit is between what they need to get done and what you can and want to do next, and ask questions to help you avoid saying yes to the wrong job. You need to know about them as much as they need to know about you. Forget the myth, it is your right and your responsibility to yourself.

~ Amy Jackson, UX only recruiter/matchmaker, AmyJacksonTalent.

Have you experienced any of these misconceptions? What UX myths do you encounter in your practice and what do you tell people to set them straight? Share your thoughts in the comments below so we can work to dispel myths surrounding the UX industry.

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