Can Experiences Be Designed: A Response

I just finished reading this revealing post by Oliver Reichenstein over at iA (which I think is amazing) and can’t help but react to it.

The gist is this: “UX” has become warped by people in many ways (in practice, in title, in promise) that he’s fed up and needs to set things straight.

The question he posed is definitely worth discussing:

Can experiences be designed?

I’ll try to answer that now:

Of course they can. But that doesn’t mean they are static. They need to evolve over time, just like every living thing on this planet. If you, as the UX person responsible for evolving the experience, aren’t reacting to user needs, you won’t help your client remain a viable business. It’s that simple.

How do you do this? The biggest thing a UX leader can do for a client is to champion the vision of the experience while being open-minded. Business drivers change, products change and even sometimes the key decision maker changes during a project.

The way to stay open-minded is by separating your ego from the work. Ego is the single biggest project killer and time waster of them all. It takes the wind out of every team member, makes the client think you’re controlling his/her destiny (which is never the case) and worst of all, keeps you from listening to the users.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also seen egoless teams in action and it. Is. Agonizing. I’ve watched them go back and rethink initiatives because they worry there might be a shred of new information that could undo all of their work. The truth is, there will ALWAYS be a shred of new information. Sometimes, they come in bunches! By keeping an open-mind, they just might inform rather than “undo” the work.

As for Oliver’s side conversation about UX titles and how people unjustly claim them, I can’t help but agree. For me, the proof is in the work and, most importantly, the results. Anyone can claim almost anything on an agency website, resume or Linkedin profile. However, if they can directly speak to the results, and equally important, the things they learned along the way to achieve those results, then they’re worth engaging. Simply claiming a title doesn’t mean you’ve produced anything of value to a client, user or your own organization.