Optimal UX: Who Holds the Keys?

Early in my career, I was talking about user experience (UX) with a coworker and the importance of involving UX teams during the software development life cycle to ensure that the software provided users with an optimal user experience. I talked about the process UX teams go through to provide value and how we really get to know the users and tailor the experiences to fit their individual needs.

After my mini-lecture on UX, my coworker just looked at me and responded with “Well anyone can do it.”

As a UX professional, I was shocked and even angered that someone would devalue my skills and knowledge by saying that just anyone can weigh in on user experience. After all, we (meaning the UX team) are the ones trained in this discipline. We are the ones that know the most about UX. No one else can do it, just us.

When I think back to that conversation, I laugh at how wrong and naive I was. If I had the same conversation with that coworker today, my reaction would be a lot different. I’d agree with him whole-heartedly and talk about how a great user experience isn’t possible without input from others. I’d tell him that my most successful projects have involved business analysts, designers, developers, account executives, and various other teams.

The truth is that everyone has insight into a great user experience. As UX professionals, we can sometimes get caught between the black and white lines of our wireframes, blinded to the many different ways to create an optimal user experience. Since our discipline is constantly evolving, it’s important to be open to methodologies and approaches introduced by those outside the UX team.

Instead of focusing on job titles, education, training, and experience, we must remember the end goal: providing users with the best experience possible. Ultimately, we’re the ones responsible for activities such as user research, persona development, flow diagrams, information architecture, and wireframes. However, we’re equally responsible for communicating our ideas to others in a way that opens up the conversation to alternative approaches and ideas. In the end, everyone is a user who has unique experiences to share. It’s our job to gather tidbits from these experiences and connect them to further improve the experience we’re formulating. If we don’t consider communication and alternative idea generation our main responsibilities, how can we be sure we’re truly providing the best experience?

Over the years my mindset has definitely changed. User experience is no longer something that only the UX team can do. It’s something that everyone can and should contribute to, given the opportunity. User experience – everyone CAN do it.

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