Is UX Design Really a Thing?

This might seem an odd question as user experience (UX for short) obviously has become a thing in the last few years. I think the question I’m really asking is this – isn’t UX design just design? The whole UX thing is kind of meaningless. I know, can of worms…

In any other industry things get designed but they don’t have special titles for designing for the people using the product – that’s obvious. I can’t imagine that a car designer would be called a driver experience designer. The driver having a positive experience is an inherent part of the design process.

I guess that the area of UX exists to give some separation from purely aesthetic design. It’s about making things easier to use rather than just pretty. I’ve always seen design as being both. You can’t really have one without the other.

My other UX gripe is that it’s not really a hard skill, not like development work. It’s something that anyone can do. It’s a blend of common sense, empathy, pretending to forget everything you know and a willingness to fight for what’s best for the user not the developer. When trying to come up with the best user experience for, say, a form, I feel the easiest approach is simply to build something, use it a few times, see where the pain points are, develop alternatives, repeat.

It’s true that with experience you get it right first time more often but you also get that by imitating the big guns – Amazon, Google, Facebook, BBC. These guys know what they’re doing and have usually done the thinking for us.