UX in itself – misguided?

I came across this interesting article on how Jon Kolko wrote that we have a misguided focus on brand and user experience.


His point being, we cannot control the user or the experience of the user.

As members of both groups cling to brand and UX as differentiators, they have mistakenly focused on control as a means of generating revenue. In fact, neither brand nor UX will serve as the driving force behind financial success in the coming decades. “User experience” is just a new name for old thinking, and “User experience practitioners” exhibit the same hubris that has long plagued “brand thinking”: the large name-as-mindshare mentality that a company can own a space, a segment, or even a consumer.

He mentions that the product is no longer the champion, rather the data and what we do with it is now key.

Interesting, too, is the speed at which the digital artifact has moved from being exclusive and expensive to nearly free and ubiquitous. Software, once priced at hundreds of dollars and appropriately as scarce, is now widely available for no cost; networked services have enabled content feeds across artifacts, rendering even some services as irrelevant in the larger scheme of the competitive landscape. As an example, for many years, Microsoft offered a for-fee product called Outlook, which manages electronic mail. Google then offered a free service called Gmail, which also manages electronic mail. Then, as Google externalized the Google mail feed through a series of APIs, mail can be embedded in unlikely places—including other products, such as an instant messenger client (like Trillian), or even on other websites.

He also states that the consumption of content by consumers is not one-way like in the past, but rather interactive and therefore cultural because it’s not just one party who contributes to it, but rather people who make up a community.

The focus on brand and control of the user experience is an attempt to avoid the above commoditization and irrelevance of artifact, and it references a dated model of dominance—one where a company produces something for a person to consume.

This is powerful, as it describes an implicit way of extending a designers reach—and personal point of view, or message—into the masses. It is this mass distribution of dialogue that describes culture; we build culture through our objects, services and systems, as we define behavior through interactions. This is of equal prominence to the claim of “designing experiences”, yet leaves open the potential—the need—for the people (pardon, the consumers) to actually participate and contribute in a meaningful way.

He lastly states that the goal of design is to inform behavioural change, which is a far more serious position than that of just designing for “fleeting” experiences.

For most designers, this responsibility is hidden by the celebratory claims of designing experiences. This claim almost abdicates the long-term responsibility, as “an experience” has an end, at which time the designers’ role seemingly ends. The work is meaningful only on an immediate level of craft and creation, and while designers often take pride in a product once it has launched, they do not frequently make the connection between their creations and the culture that surrounds them. “They’ve stopped using my product—their experience is over.” Convenient—but utterly false. Because emphasis is placed on innovation or brand, designers learn to value their work based on newness or recognition; metrics for success are tied to profit and marketshare, rather than positive and long-term culture change.

I find his view on the far reaching effects of design enlightening for me, and it serves as a reminder that yes, campaigns and services end, but it is part of the fabric of experiences and people and therefore part of culture, whether we like it or not, whether we care much about it or not, it is a huge opportunity.



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