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An apology and an opportunity

Today’s earlier post, UX is snake-oil bullshit, was indeed an April Fool. Sorry to the people who had their “WTF blood boil”, among other reactions.

I’m also sorry to the people I parodied in the post. Please feel comfortable knowing that if I didn’t respect you and what you did, I wouldn’t feel willing to send you up in that fashion.

Now of course some people saw the joke, and some people didn’t. But what was most interesting was that in both camps there was a (large) fraction of respondents who recognised in the jokes the germ of truth. They realised that the humour came not from eschewing reality completely, but from taking cues from it and dialling them up to 11 so that the absurdity became clear.

So each of the points in my previous post is true, just not as true as the rhetoric would have you believe. The field of UX does contain people who can spout the platitudes, but don’t back it up. There is an amount of “look at this fail”. It is a fast-moving field, so it’s hard to find timeless, consistent, actionable advice. And there are people who will tell you that whatever they’re doing (or selling) is UX, that when bolted to your product creates magical UX goodness.

What that means is not, as my April Fool post concluded, that it’s time to withdraw from study of User Experience. It means that there’s a tremendous appetite among software engineers for resources offering specific, actionable tasks that we can undertake to improve the experience of our products.

One of the books on user experience I’ve got the most out of is Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. When he does have some specific issue to point out in the design of a website, he also shows either how the problem was or could be addressed. We could do with a “Don’t make me think!” for the mobile user experience. We need someone to cherry-pick the research on user testing, ethnography and other techniques, telling us what’s important and what to ignore. What we can be doing, and what we should be doing.

That’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to become the Smartphone UX Boffin.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Benedict Cohen | April 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I reccomend “Don’t Make Me Think!” to all devs because the advice, while focused on the web, is easily applied to all UI development.

    Ironically a UX ‘guru’ told me that mobile is so different from web that web best practice is completely irrelevant to mobile design.