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The Death of UX (As We Know It)

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Apologies for the click-baity title. But it is what it is.

I moved out to California several years ago because it was the Mecca of UX. I picked up work immediately, but as I worked I noticed a subtle change in the field. At first it seemed just a series of coincidences, but as I became friends with more and more members of my profession, shared experiences started creating a pattern. UX was dying from the inside. It wasn't across all companies, but it was growing and spreading.

Here's what is killing UX:

Hiring managers don't want UX, they want Visual Design.

Over and over I've been asked to show pretty designs instead of process and deliverables. The conversations are less about user centered design, and more about pixel-perfect comps. In the minds of many, "UX Design" equals "Visual Design."

It's fine to hire visual designers. You need them to make everything final and pretty. But you also need UX. The ROI is better, and you get happier users. You just need to know they aren't the same person. There's a reason unicorns are so rare. They explode on contact.

Hiring managers want young and hip designers.

There's this belief that only a twenty-something can create relevant designs. If you don't look hip, how can you know what's hip? This is due to a basic misunderstanding of what UX is. You design based on what users need, not what's "hip."

And while we're at it, a six week course in UX where you create a beautiful but fake project for your portfolio doesn't make you a UX Designer. At best you're ready for the most junior of roles, under an experienced UX Designer. Fake projects have none of the baggage that a real UX project carries with it, and almost none of the science.

So if you want a senior UX Designer with 10 years of experience, that 25 year old, fresh out of General Assembly, is probably not the person you want, no matter how cool and artsy they look.

Companies are losing interest in the value and rigor of true UX, and want what they've been told they want.

UX takes time. Sometimes not a lot of time, but definitely more time than just making up a flashy design and putting it in front of stakeholders. Many hiring managers think they don't have enough time to include true UX in their process. This is usually because they've never done UX correctly. They have someone who calls themselves a UX Designer, but without really knowing UX they've been playing the wrong tune the whole time.

Many visual designers have tacked "UX" to their titles without any of the training. That's fine for a junior position, but when you have an Art Director who is setting UX policy, you run into problems. They're trained for very different things. I've worked with people who've had the title "UX Art Director" who had no idea that was meaningless. You need an Art Director, and you need a UX Director, but they shouldn't be the same person. They are completely different parts of the process.

If Illustrator is your main tool for design instead of Axure or Omnigraffle, you're doing it wrong. If you're creating "production ready wireframes," you're doing it wrong.

But companies don't know all this when they're new to UX, or their UX SME is really a visual designer. They assume everyone is on the same page, when it isn't even the right book.

Somehow we need to educate hiring managers. Maybe it is up to those visual designers who want to be UX Designers. Get training in UX, educate your supervisors on what you need to do to change tracks. Talk to someone senior in the UX community to get help. Some of them may have already moved into Product Manager positions, but they're out there, and always willing to talk about UX. Convince hiring managers that you need a senior UX person to help you become a UX person yourself.

Meanwhile I'll be over here in the corner studying to be an arc welder because no one wants Senior UX Designers anymore.

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