UX as a career is one of the fastest growing, exciting sectors in the interactive industry. The demand for UX talent is at an all-time high, driven by the ever-changing world in which we live and those organisations that hold customer and business experiences at the heart of their strategy. But how has it grown in the world of business?
ADLIB caught up with Rebecca Taylor, UX consultant at Deckchair to find out. Taylor works with organisations, businesses and design agencies to help them deliver better results on their digital projects through strategic UX focus. She explains how user experience is changing and how businesses can manage expectations as a result.
In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?
I originally got into the industry around 14 years ago, trained as a graphic designer. I met my current business partner, Ollie Francis, in 2006, and rapidly converted to web design, dipping my toes in quite a lot of web development too. Over the years I’ve done design, branding, digital project management, digital strategy and more, as well as running and growing my own business. My focus has always been on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a project and business.
As a business, we started doing UX before it became a thing. We suddenly realised how much we were focusing on WHY our clients did what they did, what their real problem was versus the solution they asked for in the brief, as well as the evidence rather than subjective opinion that would back this up. We were crafting a user-centred process that made our projects far more successful. Then a number of years later, UX popped up and we realised that’s where we fitted.
What is your take on the evolution of the UX industry? Is there a major milestone or development that you could highlight?
UX has gone from a sideline discipline to a highly desirable career prospect. It’s changed from being something that was generally disregarded or missed out on a project, to now being actively asked for and in the best case, a central and running thread on a project or product/service development.
I’d say that the rise of mobile is a major milestone in the development of UX. Most people now have some kind of web-powered mobile device attached to their body at all times! Often subconsciously our expectations as users are that we can and should be able to do pretty much anything on our device – buy clothes, order food, check emails and interact on social, video call, change the thermostat at home, read the news… the list goes on forever, and my list barely scratches the service. The point being that, we expect to do this, and we expect to do it easily and quickly – and, importantly – we expect it to be tailored to us as individuals.
And that’s where the user experience comes in. Businesses and organisations need to understand how people use their products, what they need and why, and how they can marry this with their own commercial objectives. UX process has been proven to provide this knowledge and bring fantastic ROI. If businesses don’t get it right, they lose face as a brand, they lose sales or conversion, they get left behind.
In your view, how does user experience differ in agencies compared to in-house teams?
It depends entirely on the size and mindset of the agency and digital team. I’ve met and worked with a lot in my time. If they’re progressive and truly embracing digital, I’d say they’re likely to take UX pretty seriously and will have at least a UX Designer, perhaps even a few UX roles and a Head of UX, or Head of Digital.
Historically, I’ve seen a lot of teams and agencies state how 'digital' they are, yet when it comes down to the project process, UX simply isn’t a part of it. Quite often in-house teams might be more focused – for example, they’re creating or working on one product, app or service that is the sole focus of their organisation i.e. a banking app or a fitness app. So they’d perhaps be working with a fixed set of users, and be iterating rather than creating from scratch.
Whereas agencies typically have a ever-changing roster of clients and projects, so the type of UX they do would vary a lot – sometimes they might be developing an app, other times they might be evolving a website. Or perhaps they might be engaged purely to carry out user research or auditing.
How do businesses, in general, adapt to changes in the UX industry?
In terms of employment, I think the two have to speak to each other. Changes in the UX industry are likely to reflect or be caused by changes in technology, changes in audiences needs and use cases, and changes in a business.
I’d also see the industry changing based on people taking UX more seriously – roles may become more focused and singular, and it’s my hope that eventually, UX will be a given – that projects will be just done that way as standard.
I think businesses and UX will adapt to each other – for me UX is very much about understanding and working with businesses. Conversely, we often adapt our process and the way we work to suit the business or organisation that we are working with.
Businesses need to keep their fingers on the pulse – they need to work with UXers, attend events, invest in training. For me, UX is primarily about a mindset – focusing on the problem, putting the users first. And I don’t see that changing.