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Author: Steve Jenkins
13th September 2013

Andy Budd: an industry insight into UX design

Clearleft founder and UX specialist Andy Budd gives his expert opinion on the current state of UX and tips for breaking into the industry

Andy Budd: an industry insight into UX designUser Experience is an evolving practice. How would you describe the current state of UX?
The practice is evolving, but not as fast as disciplines like front-end development. I think that’s because user experience looks at the way humans interact with digital devices and while the devices are slowly changing, we’re not. So I think the main evolution has been in the way we package and present our work. Gone are the 100 page documents full of boxes and arrows, replaced by sketches, sticky notes and discussions around the whiteboard.
However, I do worry about the health of the user experience industry as I’ve been witnessing a worrying number of  senior practitioners distance themselves from the term of late. This is due to a slew of people with little knowledge of the field adding UX to their job title or list of services, in an attempt to meet growing demand. The results are ‘senior UX consultants’ with little over 2 years experience giving clients a mediocre service and bringing the whole profession into disrepute. Consequently I’m seeing quite a few people reposition themselves as interaction designers or product designers to differentiate themselves from the herd.

How important is UX in the site building process?
I guess that depends on what you see as important. From a business perspective it’s still possible to create new businesses that solve particularly annoying problems with little consideration of design. However, as we all become more savvy consumers and less tolerant of badly designed interfaces, user experience becomes a much more important key to success. In fact, as development becomes more democratised through powerful libraries and web services, user experience is one of the few differentiations business have left.
For me that’s all moot. I truly believe that if we’re summoning new technology into the world we have a duty not to impose painful and frustrating experiences on people if we can help it. I genuinely see user experience as a moral crusade as well as a big commercial one.

UX as a career choice is an attractive proposition. What advice would you give to those who want to join the UX crowd?
I’d tell them to go and read this blog post:‘How to break into user experience design’ (available at bit.ly/kyKohJ).
I’d then suggest that they go and do a good interaction design degree (if they can
find one) and come and intern at Clearleft clearleft.com/is/hiring/interns

Titles such as UX designer, UX developer are commonplace, but do these adequately describe the role?
I don’t know. Does the term ‘architect’ adequately describe the whole range of services from the team that created the shard to the bloke that helped design your kitchen extension? At a cocktail party with friends, possibly. In a 10,000 person architecture firm, probably not.
In truth, job titles are just a short hand to a particular territory. What really matters is what you do and how well you do it.

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    • http://www.robbydesigns.com/ RobbyDesigns

      There are a lot of Dev’s today who design ‘in browser’ and not use Photoshop at all. Does Andy think this is a good idea?
      I think the design should always be created in Photoshop (or similar software) not only from a UX standpoint but also so the client can see what they’re getting.