Does UX design have a good future?

Yes and no. The label “UX” may fall out of fashion or become permanently and unhappily glued to UI in “UX/UI”, but don’t worry about the label. Worry about the skill set. The skillset will still be needed a hundred years from now.

The label itself, “UX”, is so badly abused now that it’s practically meaningless. Depending on who’s writing the job description, it could mean any number of things:

  • Person who takes requirements and makes wireframes for the graphic designers.
  • “Hey, we need a button on this page, what color should it be?”
  • Web designer who also writes the front-end code.
  • Graphic designer.
  • Person who makes the mock-ups.
  • Person who breaks the tie when stakeholders and developers disagree on what’s more “intuitive”.
  • Person who slows down development by asking for things that are more difficult to code.

The full scope of user-experience design, however, is the — you guessed it — entire user experience. It’s not a little value-added widget stamped “UX” you just bolt on to the product to make it more “intuitive”.

As a UX designer, you need to be competent in usability and ergonomics but also the emotional effect of the design, primarily but not only aesthetic design. You must be a competent interaction designer and information architect, and you must know how to validate your design choices with usability or A/B testing and other real-world methods. You don’t necessarily need to be a graphic designer, but you do need to know how to evaluate a design aesthetically. You don’t necessarily need to be a writer, but you do need to know how to evaluate labels and copy. You don’t necessarily need to have a degree in business, but you do need to understand how to balance business objectives, resource constraints, and user needs.

If you have that competence, you are a valuable asset to any product regardless of your label. It means you can affect outcomes like customer satisfaction, sales, retention, error rates, customer-service calls, and brand perception. Importantly, that competence is not specific to any technology. It’s not “Web UX” as opposed to “mobile UX”. It’s a good design optimized for people, context, and goals.

Be a designer, not a label, and your future will be just fine.

Author: Richard Soares

Top-performing professional with 20+ years of experience successfully leading cross-geographical teams that built innovative and compelling capability into high-quality software applications.