UX design enables braver creativity

We love a healthy discussion. Most weeks you’ll find us over on twitter joining in with #UXChat and often, most of the team can be spotted on LinkedIn discussing everything from UX terms to upcoming trends with our peers. Recently though, Adam spotted something on his LinkedIn which he fundamentally disagreed with.

Justin Meyers talking about UX design on LinkedIm
Justin Meyers on LinkedIn

Where to start?

No disrespect to Justin Meyers, author of the above, but it’s clear that his understanding of UX and its benefits is limited. Over the last few years, with the rise in UX as a profession, we’ve seen a raft of ‘UX’ designers and ‘UXers’ pop up in companies and agencies all over the world. This may well be where the problem starts. By inserting the word ‘UX’ into the job title of every Tom, Dick and Harriet responsible for drawing wireframes, a company is not addressing the true value of UX design. It sounds to me, like these are the types of people Justin is coming across. Let me tell you now, they are not practising UX and I highly doubt they’re ever involving users.

In my experience, and there’s a lot of it, properly executed UX leads to the opposite of ‘homogenised brands and websites’ - in fact, UX design enables braver creativity.

There’s no doubt that there are plenty of websites which look like each other - carbon copy designs being pushed out at bargain bucket prices on sites like fiverr, people per hour and the likes. And Justin is right, we have to combat this sea of absolute fucking mediocrity. Where he’s wrong though, is thinking that avoiding UX is the answer.

Taking the same tired approach to design on every project is a risk-averse mentality which stifles progress. Design is ultimately a manifestation of assumptions about how best to meet user and business needs. The best way to know what those needs are is to put that design in front of the people it’s been designed for.

The answer?

Let’s head back to the statement I made earlier: UX design enables braver design.

True UX allows us to create new, original designs and test them with users. Sharing that evidence enables decision makers to stop watering down potentially brilliant, innovative exciting design due to the assumption people won’t like it or won’t be able to use it. And that process, done properly, will always lead to something far from homogenised. It’ll lead to something which is bespoke to that business and their users. But, this can only happen when users are involved.

We start every design project with a discovery phase. In that phase we agree assumptions with key stakeholders, turning them into testable hypotheses. We then prove or disprove these with real users. From there we work iteratively in a cycle of design and testing until we’re confident we have something which will deliver exactly as it should AND look great at the same time.

It’s true that by involving UX, some of your initial ideas may end up being paired back but that’s only ever because they’ve been user tested and they just don’t work. At the end of the day, if you’re designing for a commercial business and something is getting in the way of reaching the end goal of a sale, conversion or sign up, that thing needs to go.

Likewise those designers who think they’re just producing art and don’t care if their work is actually useful or usable as long as it’s beautiful are just as detrimental. If designers want to be artists, they’re in the wrong job. And, quite frankly, they can do it on their time.

To finish this, in direct opposition to Justin’s final statement I’d argue that if you care about your brand, keep UX designers at the forefront of what you do. User centred design is the key to delivering something which works, something your customers want and something they understand. It allows braver creativity than otherwise. Surely that’s the ultimate goal for any business?