Do You Need a UX Person?

During a recent conversation with a person in senior management at a mid-sized organization, I was asked, "Do I need a UX person?"

My initial answer was, as nearly always, "It depends."

But as I thought about it some more, I changed my answer to YES.

On a team that manages digital products and websites, someone needs to be responsible for the user's experience. Does it need to be someone called a "UX designer"? No. But someone needs to be assigned explicit responsibility for overseeing the user experience.

Because "UX" is not wireframes. It is not interface design. It is not testing and research. It is the experience a person has when they interact with your products or people. If you want that experience to be positive, you cannot leave the oversight of it to chance.

You need a UX person if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

  1. Do you have a product that people use?
  2. Do you have a website that people use?
  3. Do you have internal software that people use?
  4. Do you have an app that people use?

What does a UX person do?

The "UX person" is responsible for managing the user experience across all your products, websites, apps, and software. Some might call that person a "designer." Design means to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan (according to Merriam Webster). Just don't get what I call capital-D Design confused with small-d design that is more associated with what something looks like. What it looks like matters, but it's far from the only thing that matters.

Perhaps it would be better to call the person a "UX strategist" or "UX manager" so that there is no confusion about their responsibility. And make no mistake that this person would have big responsibilities. Some of the things involved in ensuring a positive user experience include (but are not limited to):

  • Facilitating interviews, testing, or workshops with users
  • Facilitating interviews or workshops with internal stakeholders
  • Working with internal team members of all kinds as well as consultants and contractors to make and execute plans for the experience
  • Presenting concepts to executives and other stakeholders

The UX person needs authority, not just responsiblity

Having a UX person is important to the success of any organization. All too often, someone in this role only has responsibility. For that person to be successful, they need to be given authority to perform the work needed, which entails bringing others along with them. They need to be experienced professionals who have been participating in designing experiences for multiple years. It does not need to be their full-time responsibility. They could be a consultant rather than an employee. One size does not fit all.

It is difficult to quantify the value of having a person in charge of the user experience. But those who have made the change know that this is invaluable. Everyone benefits: the internal design team, the internal stakeholders, and your customers/members/donors/clients/students (whatever you collectively call the people who use your products). And when those three groups benefit, so does the organization itself. It's win-win-win-win.

So what about you? What is happening where you work?

Please respond in the comments the answer to one of these questions:

  1. What are the tangible benefits you've seen of having a UX person?
  2. Why don't you have a UX person?