Wednesday, March 23, 2005

UX on the Cutting Room Floor

Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised at The Scenario's poor UX.

Jeffrey Veen tells us of his experience on a panel judging interactive designs created by some of the world's top agencies and brands:
As I clicked through the hundreds of submissions, I started to get an uneasy feeling. Why was all of this so bad? I mean, it was really bad. Could it be that what I have always believed to be good interaction differs dramatically from what "professionals" believe?
Veen's list of observed trends in the entries (he dubs them "a summary of web design in 1997") is damning. His final one hits the bullseye:
User-centered design vs. marketing and image. Most sites had no sense whatsoever of how to engage a potential customer through the Web.
And his conclusion is chilling: "These are the experiences most people have on the web, and use to form their opinions of what this new medium can be."

Here's what really concerns me. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that these top agencies had UX specialists on their project teams. It's no stretch for me to imagine that excellent user discovery was part of the design process. Conscientious UXCentrists did their work, presented their findings, wrote their reports and perhaps even wireframed or otherwise participated in initial UX design.

Yet their efforts ended up on the cutting room floor.

I've been there. I'm there now. I pour my heart into my work and see it dribble away under the assault of timelines, budgets and "business as usual." They say old habits die hard—and that's especially true for old corporate, marketing and IT habits. Designers, branders and coders may read their Cluetrains, they may Re-Imagine, they may talk of Purple Cows, but you can't turn a battleship on a dime.

A few years ago, we had to make a strong case for sound UX design. Well, we've been heard (as Lou Rosenfeld points out so well). IA, UX and interaction design are now on the Web design table. Although picked last, we're finally part of the team. And now is when the real work begins—the work of changing minds and hearts. We need to show, demonstrate and prove (over and over again) that UX can't be part of the game, but is the game itself.

Truly amazing interactive designs and user experiences come from organizations wholly infected with UXCentricity. And we're not there yet.

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