While I’m aware that politically insensitive writing often generates way more discussion than writing that walks a political middle ground, I have always tried to keep my blog posts and articles appropriately balanced and written in such a way that nobody in the mainstream will find them offensive.
As the body of text that will become the UX Careers Handbook rapidly grows, I find myself wondering how best to have the book fully explore a number of UX career issues while simultaneously not alienating anyone with very different perspectives about these issues.
I’m aware of several topics of discussion within the area of UX careers that are sensitive and that UX professionals have strong feelings about.
What am I missing?
But I want to know from you – what am I missing? What else is a hot button issue within the overall framework of UX careers that said the wrong way could be seen as offensive?
Important note: I’m looking to identify the issues and understand the various perspectives on the issues and who holds these perspectives – not to know which perspective is the “right” one.
- I plan to continue to update this post as issues are identified by you.
- I want to make sure that the book is appropriately sensitive to recognized mainstream UX concerns.
Inventory of sensitive topics
I continue to see conversations on UX certification, most recently last month in a UX Magazine Quickpanel. I’ve even written myself about this issue in a UXmatters article on whether there is a business case for certification by UX Organizations (conclusion: it’s not feasible for UX organizations).
Sides of the issue:
- Yes – a good thing (For certification: organizations that offer certification; recruiters/employers who want to be able to quickly validate credentials; those new to the field who want to show a marker of their qualifications or who are in a corporate culture that encourages employees to be certified).
- No – bad idea (Against certification: Those who have been in the UX field for a long time and don’t feel that it’s a good marker of qualifications; those who believe that UX is a diverse field where it’s either not appropriate or not feasible to offer certification or believe that certifiers should be a separate entity from those who offer certification as is not the case by any UX certifiers in the United States).
What’s the umbrella called?
There is a fair bit of consistency with the fact that there is an umbrella of careers and skillsets that are clustered together at the junction of people and their interaction with products and technology. What specifically those careers and skillsets are changes from online diagram to online diagram (and there sure are a lot of those online diagrams out there!) but conceptually it remains the same.
What to call the umbrella and what generally to call practitioners within that umbrella is a bit more debatable.
Potential names for the umbrella:
- User Experience, which is practiced by UX professionals or UXers. When asked specifically about their role, these practitioners could feel free to call themselves as such, or be more specific with such job titles as interaction designer, user researcher, information architect, etc.
- User Experience Design because ultimately everything comes back to the design. So the interaction designer is of course a part of UX design, but so are the user researcher and the information architect who are ultimately part of the design process.
- Experience Design because Don Norman, who is credited with coming up with the term “user experience,” subsequently wrote on his blog that terms like users and customers “degrade the people to whom we design,” and there are others who agree with this concept.
The unicorn controversy
There are a variety of interpretations of the phrase “UX unicorn” – that is, a UX professional who has pretty much expert skills in many, if not most, areas that fall under UX. While there doesn’t seem to be any disagreement that there are plenty of employers who want a UX unicorn, there is controversy about whether they can exist.
Sides of the issue:
- Unicorns don’t exist, at least not as practitioners advance in their careers. While UX generalists may exist early in a career, trying different areas and skillsets within the broad UX umbrella, the idea that UX practitioners can be expert in everything seems nonsensical, like a jack of all trades and master of none. There are simply too many discrete skills within each career pathway that forms user experience to possibly imagine a high level of expertise in all of them.
- Theoretical discussions of existence are irrelevant. We must find a UX Swiss army knife! “We can only hire one UX professional but we need lots of UX skills. I’ll post a job description and throw in all the skills that we need and then select from the candidates” says the employer. And then “Hey, why isn’t anyone experienced and highly qualified applying?”
- Unicorns are real, but it’s a hurdle to become one – lots of learning and lots of experiences are needed. The strongest advocate of this that I’ve seen has been Jared Spool who has written about this topic.
What other issues are there?
Like I pointed out at the beginning, while I’m not interested in generating passionate discussions about these starter issues or any other issues, I am interested in knowing what all the politically sensitive issues in UX careers are and what sides or options exist within these high-level topics. I want to make sure that the book fairly addresses what UX career issues you are passionate about.
Umbrella Image: Lexxlam / Bigstock.com
Unicorn Image: Dazdraperma / Bigstock.com