Monday, December 1, 2008

The Dichotomy of being in UX

The age-old question most people in UX ask:

Am I a designer, or in research (via usability testing)?

For me, right now, I'm in both. I know under conventional wisdom of a usability practitioner or designer, this is a big no-no; though we do have at least one other person as a researcher so I'm off the hook for that. However, the second side of that is my colleague is starting to be trained to do some interaction designing. While that's good for the interim, it's not a good long-term solution. It's overhead that we don't need especially at times when much needs to be tested. So right now, we're in need of a great UX Designer.

It has been said time and time again - the people who test should not code. The people who code, should not test. And now, the people who design should not test nor code and vice-versa. But what happens when there's not enough manpower to cover the two parts required in better UX? One person does the designing, the other the testing - but we're not.

I come from a background where it was quite good training in Industrial Design to be able to design, test and redesign through iterations and different phases. And yes, it was indeed challenging to build up a certain amount of objectivity because there is so much emotional energy invested into the prototype and project. But that was a near virtual world, an ideal world where one person could do the amount of work of several, so I don't think it applies here as much.

Yes, more skills are being built and an understanding of the interaction elements in a U.I. is being formed when one person does the job of two. But it will need to end some time soon so we can operate entirely on our strengths and what we want to do, not just what we'll settle on for convenience sake.

There is also a battle in the mind whenever I come across a design I need to redo because of the test results I obtained. While I can remain objective, I can still feel it's not 100%. So now, we test each other's designs.

In the real world, there are teams of people. For a UX Team, there are people who are generalists and those who specialize. This article says it very well. I would think of myself as a generalists with some very good design skills - and I know I'm not the best designer. I also find the most challenging and rewarding part to be the research portion by heading the mockup off at the pass. I consider my analytical skills to be better than my designing skills.

I've heard somewhere:

"It's only when we can operate on our strengths can those around us operate the same way."

So, how about it?