How UX Plays (and Works) Together:
A UXnet Panel Discussion in NYC
by Joy Zigo
User Interface Architect, HarperCollins Publishers
UXnet is a new group “formed
to help make connections between the people and organizations that represent
User Experience disciplines, and to encourage interchange and cooperation.”
UPA is one of these organizations; UPA president Whitney Quesenbery is
on the UXnet Executive Council.
On March 15, 2005, UXnet held a cross-organizational event in New York,
sponsored by the Parsons School of Design, the Parsons Design Lab and
the UXnet NYC Leadership Council. The Council, which is a “Local
Ambassador” of UXnet, includes:
Dave Heller produced and named
this popular event.
Louis Rosenfeld, co-author of
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and a UXnet co-founder,
keynoted and moderated the event.
- Conor Brady, Creative Director at Avenue
A | Razorfish
- Mark Hurst,
founder of Creative Good and host of the Gel conference,
- Whitney Quesenbery,
independent usability and design consultant, president of UPA
- Josh Seiden, founder and president of 36
- James Spahr, acting
assistant chair of Communications Design at Pratt Institute
- Marilyn Tremaine,
educator at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and past President of
Lou introduced UXnet and its initiatives, including an online directory
of related groups and local events Calendars.
He pointed out that facilitating connections among more people in more
organizations is a key to increased value for all of us. “We can
all benefit by working together,” going beyond ‘This is mine’
to explore the power of supporting each other and learning from each other.
What Is This Thing Called UX?
Lou catalyzed a broad-ranging discussion, beginning with the basic but
thorny question of how people define the term “user experience.”
Some panelists felt that a definition was not necessary, or even desirable.
Whitney suggested leaving it undefined to allow for more collaboration,
a sharing of the umbrella rather than pinning down the boundaries.
Marilyn said “it’s valuable to have a concrete definition
of UX that you can write down, so that people outside the group know what
it is.” She pointed out the need for a definition that students
and their parents can understand, so they can value starting a career
in the field. Marilyn also emphasized the importance of making UX into
a profession that is salient to the public: “We need a children’s
book called I Want to be a UX Designer.”
Mark contended that in the business world, it's results and
metrics that matter. “Clients don’t care what we call it,
as long as we do a good job.”
Dave suggested that “what matters is the definition of the disciplines
Who All Is Under the Umbrella Together?
Many agreed that the key to success is getting the right person to lead
the right part of a project at the right time.
Conor said that while Razorfish has an “Experience Lead”
on each project, the makeup of the UX team is constantly changing; the
important thing is that “all members of the team have to respect
Similarly, Josh spoke about an enterprise software project where a group
of business analysts “have done great specs, but the product was
coming out bad” until the need for another discipline—interaction
Marilyn suggested that another group should be under the UX umbrella:
people in the Association for Information
Systems, who have a business background and emphasize a quantitative
approach. Although they may never have heard of UX, they are doing UX
Amy Kang, in the audience, described herself as a “product manager”
who has a business background and tries to solve business problems in
her work – in an environment without IA’s. But product managers
like Amy are also UX people who serve as advocates for users.
This two-hour discussion also took on: how each of us as a UX professional
tries to fill the gaps in our own knowledge, how a university and a consultancy
teach both craft and strategy to people who are entering the field, and
how panelists define the properties of a successful UX consulting engagement.