The Frontier of User Experience

In the months I spent figuring out what was going to be my next move after Adaptive Path, I spoke with many folks about the transition. And in that process I began to realize something that I had never articulated.

Up until a few years ago there was no better place to push the boundaries of user experience than in design consulting, and within that, no better place than Adaptive Path. This was because the field was undergoing rapid methodological development. Those of us in the field of UX were making it up as we went along, and Adaptive Path had the fortune of an operating model that encouraged codifying these approaches and teaching them.

And then, around 2008, that changed. The pace of development ground nearly to a halt. The territory had been charted. There weren’t new methods to explore. We as an industry had largely figured out how to do our work. It was mostly a matter of applying the most appropriate tool given the nature of the problem. UX. as a practice, had matured.

Given that the field had matured, and we know how to design for user experience, it begs the question, Why are so many experiences so bad? It was in 2008 that I began to seriously think, write, and speak about organizational change, with a 90-minute talk at UI13, “16 Challenging Steps to Becoming an Experience-Driven Organization.”

There are a number of companies with very smart people, talented designers, and an honest desire to do right by the customer, and yet they deliver crappy experiences. And even though I had been talking about it for three years, it hadn’t really hit me until April or so of last year — the frontier of user experience is organizational. How do you get a company to sustainably, repeatedly, dependably deliver great experiences? That’s the biggest challenge our field faces. And while as a consultant I could offer advice or guidance, I wasn’t really solving tackling the problem. In order to seriously address these challenges, it requires a day-in, day-out organizational engagement that lasts for years, a kind of engagement that project-based design consulting simply does not afford.

4 thoughts on “The Frontier of User Experience

  1. Martin Kuplens-Ewart

    Precisely this. You can craft the most elegant, engaging experience online, but they must be truthful. If the experience fails in an offline interaction, your grand achievement is exposed as a bad lie.

  2. I’d say, I’m thinking about 3Ds. Dedication, discipline and deadline. Because sooner or late, we’ve got to rework on it.

  3. UX Design doesn’t exist and designers have only tried to reinterpreted what great product designers, design thinkers and design managers having been doing for many decades before the web ever came along. The only things that have matured are the designers themselves.

    The experience a user has happens through every facet of a company or organization.