Driving towards autonomy – A UXer’s perspective

Over the past 15+ years I’ve noticed a dissatisfaction with the day-to-day of working as UXer in corporate environments in essence the problem boils down into two main complaints.

  • Some people don’t know exactly what’s expected from them in the execution of their role, quite often people understand what they’re being asked to do but can’t understand how that fits into the high level company objectives.
  • Some people are frustrated their deliverables are mandated, and don’t have any control over then way they complete their task.

My view is that the wider system we’re participating is at fault i.e. UX isn’t being engaged early enough to help define the solution from the high level business objects. Obviously the long term goal must be to move UX higher up the delivery chain so we can help to shape the solution before they are handed down to be designed.

Here I’m choosing to accept the reality (that at the moment there is a mismatch between what the designer believes they should be designing to achieve what the business wants, and what they are being asked to ‘design’) rather than fall into a position of learned helplessness and frustration that I’m not doing the job I expect to be doing.

So I have been considering the impact that this mismatch has on the team and individual morale, as I worry that this mismatch erodes motivation, and limits a persons ability to become autonomous; causing frustration and dissatisfaction. After all how many times can an individual be told no, before they give up offering suggestions all together? While we can’t, at the moment, alter the nature of the tasks being handed down. We can create an environment of personal and team autonomy, where we can select the tools, approach and environment we complete our tasks in.

Why is autonomy important?

Autonomy, being able to choose how (and where) you achieve a task, is important as it is an innate precondition of psychological wellbeing and should be something every organisation supports. It is also a clear signifier of a teams maturity and that an individual’s skills and experiences are valued.

My view is that autonomy, in an environment where a persons’s ability to influence a solution is constrained, creates job satisfaction leading to higher quality output, loyalty and deeper engagement in their role.

Note: I appreciate that some individuals are already highly motivated, and we can all point to examples where they are autonomous but i’m considering a framework but which we create a environment to make all staff regardless of their skill level achieve the same level of autonomy and empowerment.

How then can we create and reinforce an autonomous environment to counteract the mismatch?

To achieve autonomy a person needs:

  • Purpose – to define, or understand an outcome and the ‘value’ of the outcome to which an individual can dedicate themselves to achieving.
  • Mastery – the continual pursuit to build the skills and capabilities to deploy in order to achieve a purpose.
  • To be Trusted – to utilise theirs skills and expertise in the best way that they can to achieve the tasks they are being asked to do.

The role of a responsible organisation is to:

  • Clarify purpose
  • Support the mastery of skills and tools
  • Trust the individual to execute their role to the best of their ability.

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum and an organisation has to have a mature attitude to exercising their responsibility.

Clarify purpose

Organisation base purpose

UXers move into the profession to do good, they want to use psychology, insights and design to make the world a better place. They want to adapt the world of business and technology to meet the needs of the individual.

Some UXers are lucky, they will work for a startup or research organisation who are designing novel, purely user focused systems, but most aren’t.

Most UXers are hired by businesses who wants to make sure that the product or service they’re offering is able to extract the most amount of value from the customer.

We need to honest about this, a lot of the time the work itself isn’t sexy, but as long as the work is valued by the organisation, and helps to relieve the pain of the customer somewhat then most people are happy to work hard to deliver these projects.

This is usually enough to give someone a sense of purpose about their work within the context of their role but the key is to be honest about the situation. You’re not going to get anywhere by enticing people in with all the wonders of the world, if the reality is quite different.

Career base purpose

However, In order to get the a person or team fully engage, we need to engender a culture of career base purpose. Career based purpose extends beyond a person’s employment. By fostering a culture of career based, purpose will have a massive impact on morale, and the value a person brings to their role. It’s my view that everyone regardless of their role or position wants to become the best they can be, so we need to ensure that we enable people to get on a path to mastery.

Mastery of tools and skills

So if the work isn’t living up to expectations then what will motivate the UXer to give their best your business?


If you create an environment where a UXer is supported in learning and using new tools and skills then you can help them towards a sense of mastery. This is essential for retaining senior members of the team but is mandatory for junior members of the team.

Most organisation have a self-development initiatives that will introduce them to the tools and activities they can use in their jobs but a mature organisation will provide a mentoring program that allows an individual to evaluate and select the tools they want use, in a supportive environment where mistakes are welcomed as a learning outcome.

It is the responsibility of senior members of the team to discuss the pros and cons and to create a base for learning. Their job is not to provide a dot to dot execution plan but to provide a framework by which the junior member of the team can self discover and master the requisite skills.

This approach has the added benefit of creating a team culture where self discovery is a default behaviour, and the team will gel in a way that prescription doesn’t allow.

When an individual has a sense of purpose and is on the road to mastery it then that the organisation has to trust them to do their best without the need to micromanage them


It should be a given that if someone is good enough to get through their interview and probation period then they should be trusted to conduct their role as a thinking, trustworthy human being. It’s the mark of a mature organisation that people are treated like adults to discuss, disagree and find approaches to deliver without the need for a rigid delivery methodology.

There is, without question, the need to coordinate activities that overlap, and are delivered through a single mechanism but to require an individual to produce wireframes before designs, or to produce a specification document in a rigid format just to achieve a delivery checkpoint is senseless. it prevents the team from using intellegence and individual skills within the team in the most appropriate way and puts people in an ‘volume rather than value’ mentality.

If a UXer and a designer or developer can get an understanding of what needs to be achieved through sketching and a collaborative design sessions, then so be it. We have to remember that the purpose of any delivery activity is to achieve an outcome for the business, not to produce the largest volume of documentation.

There should be guidelines which model ‘best’ behaviour but any kind of dictatorial process beyond that will slow down delivery, dilute autonomy and kill motivation.

It’s an organisation’s role to create team principles and culture that supports and expects trust. It’s an individual’s responsibility to deliver against those principles in the best way they can. Checks and balances should and will exist through regular review session with mentors, and through measuring business value from the task delivery.

We should allow people to be free to deliver, to make mistakes and to take responsibility for those, to time shift their work if a personal commitment occurs in working hours. We should trust that people do things to the best of their abilities and in the best way they know how. We should trust that people won’t take the piss if you give them freedom over their time, or working practices.

If we create clarity of purpose, enable people to walk the path to mastery and trust them to be the best that they can be, then we will create an autonomous environment, where the people and business will move towards creating value and contentment.

After thoughts – for the UXer

Treating workers as adults, allowing them to be autonomous is a big step for a lot of organisations, but i believe it to be step well worth taking.

The other side of the coin, is that those of us who seek greater autonomy has to embrace the principles too. We have to want to become masters in our field, and sometimes the only way to do this is by doing those mundane tasks. Those task you don’t want to do, or don’t see any value in.

I was listening to an audio book the other day and was reminded that world class sports professionals become world class by purposeful practice. They kick hundreds of corners, or penalty kick. They shoot hundreds of hoops. They take responsibility for their careers and understand the path to mastery isn’t achieve in months.. it’s a continuum over a lifetime.

If we want to be treated like adults, and be offered autonomy then we must keep learning, keep practicing. We must treat every task as a learning opportunity to hone our skills to create value for the businesses we work for.

We must also be honest, and trustworthy. We can do this by being open about what we’re doing and why, we must not being afraid to show the steps to delivery and to make our work visible to our team; We must above all demonstrate value.

Forget Affordances? Not so fast….

In Don Norman’s influential book ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ he introduced the term ‘Perceived Affordance’ (referred to as affordance) to the design community. At the time it was necessary to give a name to a fundamental aspect of their work, namely how do you communicate to a person the intended use of an object?

What is a perceived affordance?

An affordance, in design speak, is a property of an object that implies how it can be used. For example, the design of a chair affords: sitting on, being used for support when standing and standing on. These are some (not all) of the things you can do (actions) with a chair because of the way it was designed.

However, affordances still exist even if it’s not intended by the designer at all. Take an instance of a chair with wheels, the chair still affords standing on, it has height, is sturdy and has a large, flat seating area. The inclusion of the wheels make standing unsafe, the affordance is still present but that particular use is not intended.

From the moment Don introduced the term it took on a life of its own, as Don himself describes:

“When I introduced the term into design in 1988 I was referring to perceivable affordances. Since then, the term has been widely used and misused. The result has been confusion…”

The misuse lays in the problem that affordances are all the possible actions a person can take with an object, not just the designed/intended action. For example a tablet computer screen affords tapping. The inclusion of an icon (as a clue to where you tap to launch an application) does not create the affordance; it’s the properties of a tablet screen that does.

Now, 25 years later, Don has called to retire the term affordance, instead we should use signifier. Signifier more accurately describes how a designer lets a person know what to do (rather than what’s possible) by providing a clue to the desired action.

Continuing the example above the application icon is a signifier, as it indicates where on the screen you should tap to launch the app. You can’t launch that app by tapping on any other area of the screen.

You may be thinking that affordance is now a redundant principle of interaction design. I disagree, affordances are still important because of the metaphors we use.

When we choose a metaphor to represent our systems conceptual model we inherit the schema of that object. We automatically create in the user’s mind a set of possible actions.

What’s a Schema?

Schemas allow us to acquire new information quickly and efficiently by liking it to some other information already stored in memory. For example, I can describe a Zebra to someone who has never seen one as a Horse with black and white stripes. The Horse schema, if known, will allow that person to use any information they have about Horses and apply that to the Zebra. You would then know that a Zebra is black and white has: hooves, mane, tail, eats grass, and is about 5ft tall.

The downside to schemas is that they can allow for the memorisation of incorrect or incomplete information, if a person’s only experience of a horse is of the miniature variety, they will incorrectly remember that all Zebras are only 3ft tall

When computer engineers used the concept of a filing system as the way to represent stored files on a computer hard disc, they had to ensure (amongst other things) that files and folders could be easily added, renamed, moved and deleted, this is because these are some of actions available when using actual folders and files I.e. Someone who uses paper files, and folders can: label and relabel them, add additional files to existing folders and rearrange them. They can add addition files to cabinet drawers and they can throw away old files and folders. A person who uses a filing system will have expectations based upon the use and available actions of the real world counterpart.

If we don’t take time to understand the available actions of real world objects, it’s possible that we could miss a vital action which would ultimately cause frustration for the person using the system.

It seems unlikely to me that the originators of the modern file system considered the affordances of physical file and folders when designing the system. It is most likely that they were more concerned with the available restricted space on the hard disc. Had they taken time to understand the possible actions inherent in the metaphor they chose, then we might not have had an operating system that only allows filenames with 8 characters, as we did with DOS based systems.

It is still essential then for designers to understand affordances, so that they hone their ability to look at the world in terms of the available actions. Then, when choosing metaphors to represent our systems we can ensure that we have full understanding of what actions should be made available or not.

Disruptive thinking is an essential UX Skill.

We are at a cross-road in the way we do business; the landscape has changed beyond all recognition in the last 15 years due to a perfect storm of influences.

The mass adoption of the internet has provided immediate access to information and a wider choice of products and services, pushing our customers to expect more from us. They now expect products and services which are tailored to them, accessible at a time, location and through a device or channel that suits them. Anything short of that is inconvenient and your competitors are only a few clicks away.

At the same time, the unreliable, not-good-enough technologies and infrastructure of the past have matured and are now: stable, cheap and easy to implement. Allowing competitors to finance and launch new products and services in months rather than years.

The only way to survive is to adapt to this new world, to think differently from your competitors. To understand: why your customers really buy your products and services, why they reject them and then to select the right product, technology and business processes to give it to them.

Disruptive innovation (which I refer to as disruptive thinking) gives focus to this customer need, and coupled with some UX activities provides the agility to design innovative, customer-focused product propositions. Allowing you to pick off your competitors one by one; regardless of whether you’re an internet start-up or multinational corporation.

Disruption is coming to every industry and if you’re not in the game, you might as well pack up and go home, just ask Kodak.

The problem is that the UX industry is still maturing; it is still to become a proactive partner in this process. Currently, companies hire UX companies or consultants to address tactical goals to design or optimise their website to increase sales, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. These companies have already identified an immediate need and are focused on delivering against those goals. UX is seen as a function of the product delivery process. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the variety of different job specs and associated job titles, most of these are delivery focused.

The solution is for UX to reach out from the delivery process, to become part of the business development process. Disruptive thinking gives us permission to do this, it allows us to flip things on their head to not only ask how do people use our products and service but why?

By asking why we can help our clients to uncover new growth opportunities, to create new products and services or enhance existing ones. Helping them to move their business in new directions to meet untapped customer needs.

For example,

A client sells home entertainment system through an online product catalogue and they’ve noticed that 30% of customer will add different product combinations to their shopping basket and leave without purchasing. They’ve asked you to analyse the shopping basket and purchasing funnel to improve the sales conversion rate.

Tactical thinking:

  • Observe customer using the site and look for obstacles to completion.
  • Redesign the shopping basket and optimise the funnel to improve conversion.

Disruptive thinking

  • Why aren’t people completing the purchase?
  • If they aren’t using the shopping cart to buy things then what are they using it for?
  • Is it to:
    • Gauge the cost of a future purchases?
    • To create a wish list?
    • To understand the aggregated costs of a complex purchase
  • Can we use this insight to create new opportunities to increase sales, reduce cost and improve customer satisfaction?
  • Could we create a home entertainment configuration tool that groups individual elements together in one package for different configurations, room sizes and budgets? Would this increase customer satisfaction by reducing the mental effort for choosing individual elements, while realising a higher profits for the company through predefined bundles?

Disruptive thinking in practice

Here are some retrospective examples from my work on how disruptive thinking could be used to create new opportunities:

Our online purchase funnel for insurance isn’t converting enough people, how do we improve it?

  • Tactical – What are users doing through the purchasing funnel, how do we identifying the functional barriers to completing and optimise the customer journeys to reduce the abandonment rate.
  • Disruptive thinking – What do people buy this insurance for? Does our product meet those needs? What would a product look like that does meet those needs?

Our telephone health information line is costing too much to run, how can we move this to a lower-cost digital channel?

  • Tactical – how can we design and build a website which provides access to high-quality health information.
  • Disruptive thinking – Why do people choose a ‘less convenient’ route to get this information (rather than through the current website or Google)? What support do they get on the phone that they don’t get via the web? What tools could we provide to the call handler to make this process more efficient? What tools do we need to develop to support customer in finding the information they need through existing information resources such as Google?

By asking “why?” we can then use usability testing, contextual enquiries, focus groups and other UX activities to uncover the unmet needs by observing the workarounds, and compensating behaviour that highlights the gaps and creates opportunities for growth, and product innovation.

The UX profession also has the skill to visualise the solution by creating interactive prototypes or product mock-ups to iteratively test and validate the new proposition at a relatively low cost. Ensuring that the customer’s needs are being met.


Disruptive thinking allows companies to find new growth opportunities, by understanding what customers use their products and services for. User Experience allows us to uncover those opportunities, and to provide a rapid mechanism designing and testing them.

Further Reading

  • The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth
  • Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business

10+ years in UX – What I’ve learnt

January 15 2001 was that day that, as a developer, I realised that at the end of my beautifully crafted algorithms was a person trying to get something done. In my case it was when designing software to allow a call handler from LAPD to review a 911 call to find any missed details of the emergency dispatch call she had just taken.

From that moment onwards I have dedicated myself to becoming the best craftsman I can be. In the subsequent years I have moved from being a developer (by way of development team leader, solution architect, project manager) to a user experience consultant.

Over that time I applied “user experience” thinking to how to manage and improve the “health” of my development teams, project teams and then my own business.

While reflecting I considered if it was my experiences: working in a variety of different environments (agencies, in house, freelance and contracting), for designing and implementing interfaces for desktop, mobile and web platforms would afford me the right to call myself a UX Consultant. Or if it is my grasp and application of the core principles of UX through Information architecture, interaction design, usability and accessibility that counts? 

Over those years I’ve spent hours participating in and where necessary creating, as with UX Exchange and other offline groups, the opportunity to engage with, mentor and learn from others in the field: User Researchers, UX Professionals, practitioners and academics.

Throughout that time, I purposefully subjected my thinking and designs to rigorous testing, and worked hard to learn what worked and what didn’t and in which contexts. The purpose of this testing was to help me to measure how far along the journey I had travelled.

I now believe that I have the skills and experience to meet, not only, the surface level challenges of the role but also, I now realise, the experience to apply user experience thinking strategically to address wider commercial challenges as a UX Consultant.

Perhaps most importantly I believe that my passion for: learning, challenging my own thinking, challenging the orthodoxy, recognising that I don’t know everything, for being confident enough to ask for help, for being brave enough to try and fail rather then never try at all has given me the requisite personal tools to adapt to any challenges the role will present.

In the end, I work extremely hard to craft products and service that work for people; People who are just on the whole trying to get on with living.


UX Delivery Framework

Every project has different outputs and needs. This framework approach allows me to focus less on a rigid process and more on addressing the business and customer goals. Depending on the nature of the project I will implement one of more of the following steps. For example, if the client requires a new solution definition, conceptualisation and evaluation may be necessary. If the project is already in progress only the evaluation may be required.

Definition – What is the problem space?

Definition is intended to establish what the intention of the project is, to understand what’s happening now and how it differs from what needs to be achieved. The focus is on understanding the business, technical and user goals and to tum them into measurable outcomes.

Key output: High-level functional specification

Can include: project scoping document, business case, stakeholder workgroups, user research plan, user research activities, mental models, personas, business process models.

Conceptualisation – What will the solution look like?

Conceptualisation turns the high-level functional specification into a full functional specification including: wireframes, prototypes and user journeys, which are delivered to the design and development production teams. Throughout these steps the solution is validated against business, user and technical goals and revised where necessary through a project control process.

Key output: Full functional specification

Can include: wireframes, user journeys, prototypes, information architecture, stakeholder management, supplier management, technical liaison

Evaluation – Does the solution meet the intended outcome?

Evaluation allows for the specific measurement of the project against the stated business goals. Evaluation can be implemented prior to the definition phase to provide a benchmark for the next phase of development.

Key output: Evaluation report and next steps

Can include: usability testing, expert review, keystroke level mapping, conversion optimisation, competitor analysis.

E-book eco-system: Empowering publishers, empowering readers

The advent of the e-book reader has changed reading for a whole swathe of the population. People have access to massive libraries of books, which can be purchased and delivered instantly. No longer do you have to wait a whole 24 hours to receive your book, you can now have your library in your pocket wherever you are.

While this is massively more convenient there are some downsides. The act of reading is a solitary pursuit, but the act of sharing knowledge and experience is a social endeavour. Discovering, discussing and sharing books is a big component if this.

Digital Rights Management

DRM means that it’s difficult, if not impossible to share your books with friends and colleagues. It’s also next to impossible to quote books as the expected, copy and paste functionality is usually prevented.

Hope is on the horizon though, Amazon.com have started to enable lend features, which allow a kindle user to lend their book for 14 days to another kindle user. Currently this is limited to customers in the USA but I imagine it won’t be long before it’s rolled out to the rest of the world.

Empowering publishers

I imagine the option to “lend” books is controlled by the individual publishers, and an inherent fear of most publishers is that if you can too easily lend books then there is potential for lost revenue.

Currently if you recommend a book to someone, you have to either share your login information with them or they have to buy a copy of the book themselves. Given the current situation, where people are recreating their libraries digitally, it must be a boom period for publishers; as books sales have declined massively in recent years. The switch to e-books, for a limited period, must be giving the industry a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Empowering publishers, empowering readers

With the potential for this loss of a shared reading experience a middle ground must be found between publishers and readers; Whilst discussing this with a friend we came up with the following suggestions.

Firstly I would reduce the 14-day lending period offered by Amazon to a 7-day lending period and add two new elements.

  1. At the end of the lending period the recipient is given a discounted to buy the lent book.
  2. If the recipient buys the book the lender should be give a small discount off their next purchase.

Reducing the lending period would entice readers to buy their own copy while they’re reading the book; I imagine most people in our time-poor society would take longer than the 7 days to read the book.

Offering a discount would make purchasing the book more likely, as by the end of the lending period, they are hopefully engaged by the book.

Providing a discount to the lender for a future purchases would entice them to lend more books, which will increasing the potential for additional revenue to the publishers.

Whilst there would obviously be some additional constraints, I believe a lending system as outlined above would provided a win-win situation for readers and publishers and will bring the social element back into the activity of reading.

My notes, your notes

Another area of change would be in sharing notes and quotes, through the lending system I would like to see lenders and recipients be given the option to share notes. Allowing them to have a conversation, facilitated through the context of the book.

Currently all e-book readers allow for annotations and highlights. Notes are private but highlights are shared globally. In the lending situation outlined above I would expect to see the option to share notes with the recipient, and the ability to comment on each other notes.

Perhaps, in the future we will be even the ability to see everyone’s notes, and to facilitate a wider discussions. Of course you should have the ability to switch off or restrict access to the notes.


There’s snow need to worry!

Call me a cynic but I’m a little sceptical of most companies social media policies; usually, they’re just another route for further direct marketing.

However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the use to which Blue Star busses and First Buses Hampshire have put their Facebook pages.

Throughout the recent cold snap, both have used their accounts to give frequent updates about the road conditions and changes to bus routes affected by snow.

The staff have been manning the pages throughout the day and night, giving early warning of all changes and delays.

As a regular public transport user, I’ve been very grateful, ensuring that I can get to where I need to go without much fuss.

Using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to support your customers, respond to queries and provide transparency is real-world usability, straight out of the book.

Anyone familiar with Jakob Neilsen’s usability heuristics will recognise the following:

1. Visibility of system status

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time.

2. Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

3. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

4. Help and documentation

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

The interesting thing is that the system, in this case, is complex, made up of the delivery platform, in-office business representatives, bus drivers and customers.

The platform is being used as an agent to ensure that the real word system notifies and supports its users in completing their tasks.

For a usability geek, the snow has been a lot of fun 🙂

Nudge me will ya!

The health minister is empowering councils to “nudge” us into a healthier lifestyle

This phrase confirms that David Cameron and the “compassionate conservatives” are acting on their consultations with Prof. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler about social policy reform.

For those of you who don’t recognise the names, Prof. Sunstein is currently the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Thaler is a behavioural economist most noted for his work with Daniel Kahneman and
Amos Tversky on the Nobel prize winning prospect theory.

Together they co-authored Nudge, a book about choice architecture, which is way of thinking about people and the choices they have, to improve the quality of decision making about “Health, Wealth, and Happiness”.

In essence nudge is about understanding that human beings are not “rational agents” (I.e. given all the information a person will always make the best possible decision) and that through a series of rules of thumb (heuristics), constraints and errors of thinking (cognitive errors) humans tend to behave less rationally. The book describes some of the common errors we make and shows how to encourage people to make better decisions. On the whole it is a fascinating book and well worth the read.

However, the idea that our behaviour is being subtly influenced, by the way choices are offered to us, by any governing party leaves me feeling a little cold.

I’m not intending to sound like a bleeding heart liberal. I can see a lot of benefit in designing a way to offer choice, while reducing the burden on the population to process and understand complex information, across multiple verticals.

I’m also aware that this happens anyway and I’d personally prefer someone, who’s informed, to be responsible for designing my choices then for it to happen adhoc with unknown consequences.

The reason my blood runs cold is simply that it’s the conservative party that’s doing it! This is not a statement on my political affiliation but is simply an extension of thought about choice architecture. If someone can design a way for me to make better choices by understanding my errors in thinking then surely my understanding of that persons motivations is as clouded by the same errors.

Think about it this way, I grew up under a conservative government. I remember the party being mired by the poll tax scandal, sleaze, individual self interest and rampant capitalism. They left power in 1997 with an extremely low poll rating and took 13 years to become a credible force in politics again.

It is quite possible that in the last 13 years the conservative party have changed. That they are the party of a fairer, equal society but for some reason I just can’t buy it. (Baring in mind, they are openly using an approach to encourage people to make better decisions (on who’s agenda?) which some could view as coercive and you can start to see my problem). Perhaps John Major was right and England is a “country of long shadows” and my cynicism is simply an instance of the Semmelweis effect, a “reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms”, perhaps?

Ultimately though I applaud the government for being open about what they are doing, and why. If I were them though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a backlash, as people misjudge their motivations.

Let’s hope Thaler at least taught them about some other errors in thinking, which might cast doubt on their (no-doubt) good intentions.

What is UX – The many faces of user experience.

The many way’s I’ve described UX

What is UX (1)

User Experience is an umbrella term for a series of different disciplines:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • information Architecture
  • Interaction Design

but certainly not interchangeable with web developer, it’s true to say that some web developers do some maybe all of the above but in the most part their job is about cutting code to create products. Also, some user experience professionals do cut code but it’s not their primary role.

Lets not also forget that user experience operates outside of the web, so customer experience tends to refer to the experience a person has with a brand across all it’s platforms: in the shop from, customer service calls, marketing materials etc. Where as Human factors and Ergonomics tend (??) to refer to products not services.

What is UX (2)

UX activities give us a unique insight into how the customers interact with our product and service but the product and services only really exist to improve the bottom line of the organisations who commission them. 

UX therefore should also be about defining and measuring business goals and validating the outcomes in terms of customer acceptance and business realisation. 

What is UX (3)

 “A person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service.” – ISO 2941-210, (Thanks to Allen Caeg)

What is UX (4)

UX is the sweet spot between business, technical and customer requirements.

What is UX (5)

UX works across three elements of service delivery. 

  1. Strategy I.e goal definition
  2. Asset delivery i.e Outputs
  3. Measuring the outcome

Depending on how you’re engaged on a project you will view UX differently. 

Suppose we view “service delivery” as product lifecycle with 4 key phases. 


  1. Definition
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Testing


It’s easy to see how the role of a UX professional won’t fit easily into the definition I gave in what is UX (1)

Phase 1. Deals primarily with early stage tasks, setting out the business case for change, requirements analysis. Here a UX professional will use research techniques to evaluate the opportunity to help set the business goals for the project. There are some research techniques which can be used but very little outputs from IxD, IA etc. at this stage

Through phase 2. and 3. Were moving into the realms of creating outputs to support other functions delivering. Here IxD, IA etc can and do play a cruital role. It’s in this phase that most UX professionals exist. 

Phase 4 is where UX professionals again provide a strategic role. Did the delivery meet the project goals?

All this rests on the premis that a project needs to pay equal weight to: business, technical and customer needs.

UX plays a role in all four phases although traditionally these roles are given different job titles. Business Analys, Change consultant, web designer etc. etc. The skills a UX professional has are relevant to all these job titles. 

Job titles are a way for a company to define and constrain a persons role to fit it’s individual needs and area of responsibility. The skillsets though (as described in the diffrent UX roles) are present in most roles engaged in product or service delivery.

What is UX (6)

A way to chat up the only girl at a geek-up

What is UX (6)

What [Guru X] tells us it is.