Separating User Experience (UX) Design from Technology

UX is a mindset and lifestyle, not a job title in a specific field.

Several years ago, I wrote an article about my observations about “being a UX designer”. I reflected on how I wasn’t really a UX Designer, I could be more accurately called a Content Designer. In some ways I was wrong, in other ways, I was right.

I was wrong because I didn’t consider what I was doing “big enough” — therefore I wasn’t a UX Designer.

I was right though in that other people without the title of “User Experience Designer” were making decisions that affected the user’s experience. A more accurate reflection would have been that both myself and others were designing some portion of the experience — just at different levels of influence.

At about that same time, several UX thought leaders were also shopping around the phrase “Everyone is a UX Designer.” Naturally this ruffled the feathers of trained professionals (including myself) who had invested greatly in learning the skills of being a “UX Designer” and were annoyed that others were claiming a title they felt others were not qualified to hold. An apt response was, “Sure, I cook food, but I’m not a chef.”

That ignores the truth of the statement though — everyone does create experiences. Even that person who cooks despite not calling themselves a chef is still creating an eating experience.

This talk does a great job listing out how different roles are also part of the user experience.

UX Design is a mindset and a lifestyle, not a job title.

As I’ve gained more experience, my stance has shifted that being a ux designer is not about designing websites or apps (though this is the type of project people use to learn), but UX design is a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s where you live out the overarching principles of UX Design.

I share more in another article but, for simplicity sake:

  1. Listen to others — if you make something for someone, you show it to them and get feedback.
  2. Co-create– you might work together to find the solution
  3. Change– there is a difference in what was and in what is now.

Help me separate UX Design from Digital Design

Because the principles of UX Design have largely been codified in a technology context though, I find that they can be limited to the tech sphere and struggle to break out. It’s not something that happens on purpose, but why only try to improve app and website experiences? Why wouldn’t we want to try to improve all experiences?

Obviously, if that really does kick into high gear, we’ll reach another inflection point where if every title is “[Blank] experience designer”, then the phrase loses meaning. I’d argue that’s a good thing though– I will rejoice the day that every person is expected and seeks to create thoughtful, intentional experiences no matter what they are doing.

During the day, Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity and works part-time freelancing. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, working with yarn, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.

Digital Designer

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