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May 5, 2003: UX Bumpage

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  • Louis Rosenfeld
    May 5, 2003: UX Bumpage User experience (UX) is too young to be clearly defined as a field, a movement, a community, a methodology, or a goal. But whatever
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2003
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      May 5, 2003: UX Bumpage

      User experience (UX) is too young to be clearly defined as a field, a
      movement, a community, a methodology, or a goal. But whatever it is, there
      is definitely a there there.

      For example, Dennis Schleicher, with a background in ethnography, just sent
      an email to me, with a background in librarianship, about a presentation on
      UX made by Lee Anne Kowalski, who I'm guessing has a background in technical
      writing. In turn I forwarded Dennis' email to Jess McMullin, whose
      background is in psychology.

      Meanwhile, many of us are gearing up for the first DUX conference (DUX =
      Designing User Experiences), which is co-sponsored by SIGCHI, SIGGRAPH, and
      the AIGA. Those are very strange bedfellows indeed; oh, to have been a fly
      on the wall at their program committee meetings...

      I'm sure you've come across such weird interdisciplinary agglomerations in
      your own work, whether or not the term UX came up. And I'm guessing there
      are many folks in some fields not (yet) typically considered as part of
      UX--like content management, knowledge management, programming, data
      modeling--that are suddenly bumping into the term.

      With all this bumpage going on, it'd be nice to be able to say exactly what
      UX is--a field, for example--even if we can't agree to the scope of our
      definition. (The AIGA has made a noble effort to define the term
      "experience design," which I suggest is synonymous with UX.) But maybe it's
      even premature to attempt agreement over what UX is. Instead, I suggest we
      consider some more basic goals to help solidify UX:

      * The best starting point is growing awareness of UX. As pointed out above,
      more and more people are naturally becoming aware of the existence of UX
      through grass-roots efforts, and it's heartening to see concerted top-down
      efforts on the part of professional associations. What else can we do to
      make the light bulbs appear over our colleagues' heads any faster? Simple:
      we can do a better job of explaining *why* we need UX. Here's what works
      for me: today's information environments are simply too complex and too
      strategic to be well-designed by a single disciplinary perspective, using
      that discipline's conventional methods. How might you explain the need for
      something called UX?

      * With so many disciplines at the table, we need a common UX language. Or
      at least we need to remember to translate for each other. For example, when
      I presented at the Content Management Strategies conference last week, I had
      to be careful to use the term "end users" rather than "users". For content
      managers, "users" refers to authors and editors who will interact with a
      content management system. If I hadn't done that little bit of translating,
      many of those attending my talk would have been lost. Small acts like this,
      whether at conference presentations or in day-to-day conversations with
      colleagues, ultimately go a long way.

      * Assuming our mutual communications improve, we can begin to develop a
      common UX methodology or, better put, toolkit to help us research, develop
      and test our designs. This is already happening; indeed, newer fields like
      interaction design, information architecture, and knowledge management have
      arisen in large part to provide integrated sets of methods from existing
      fields. But we still have a long way to go, as there many existing fields
      still rely a bit too exclusively on their old standbys (e.g., marketing
      folks relying on focus groups).

      These goals are ambitious, but they're also already underway, at least
      organically. They're probably more realistic than trying to develop a
      single definition of UX, or creating a UX community, much less a UX
      discipline. These are even loftier goals, and will all require both broader
      awareness and some common vocabulary, so let's start by getting the word out
      and being ready to do a little translating.


      Lee Anne Kowalski's STC presentation ::
      STC :: http://www.stc.org/
      DUX conference :: http://www.dux2003.org/
      SIGCHI :: http://www.acm.org/sigchi/
      SIGGRAPH :: http://www.siggraph.org/
      AIGA :: http://www.aiga.org/
      AIGA's definition of experience design ::
      Content Management Strategies conference :: http://www.cm-strategies.com/
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