UX IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE FACT!

ux-hero-blogpost

WHEN PEOPLE BASH UX - I PUSH BACK

I read an article today from a "professional" tech blogger that kind of got me pissed. This person insisted that wire frames were dead. I also felt this person was bashing ux as an unnecessary step in the process. This approach is downright irresponsible and the article was clearly written by someone who is ignorant of the ux process and potentially working for a company that follows the design by committee standards.  Now - in fairness - That last statement is me venting a bit. However - I can say for a fact that the designer either does not know what wireframes really are, what UX does, or that his company does not have a qualified ux person working on that particular team. 

THE ARGUMENT DISPELLED - Part 1

"Always question wireframes, they are often rushed and have plenty of oversights. Besides they are just one answer to the problem, one person should not be responsible for an entire product or service."  

There is so much wrong with this statement that I have to take it point by point.

1. "...You should always question wireframes, they are often rushed and have plenty of oversights." 
~
FALSE

The assumption the user is making is that a wireframe is a "pre-design" which indicates his misunderstanding of the purpose.

When business requirements are made - A wireframe helps lay that information out on a page in a meaningful way to make sure that all the requirements have been met and that the page makes sense to users. Wireframes are lo fidelity by design. They are NOT supposed to influence the visual design in anyway! They are only there to make sure that the requirements have been met and that to give an idea of UI placement with regard to user data. They may help in outlining certain functionality, but a good designer will not use color, logos, or final typography when creating wires.

There is no such thing as hi-fidelity wireframes

Nothing in a wire frame should be part of a finished product. wireframes are block-y and ugly by design because they are not meant to be seen as final by any step of the imagination. What the user is talking about is not a wireframe,  but a lo-fidelity final design. What is probably happening is that the UX person is including brand defined styles into his or her wireframes. This is technically wrong and leads to all kinds of problems. While some may see it as a suggestion, others see it as final. That is why you should only block out the design and not include final art of any kind.  Even Place holder images can influence the design. In fact - This is such an issue that the ever dreaded "COMIC SANS" font is used in some wire frames because of how hated it is...simply so no one will use it

2. "...Besides they are just one answer to the problem..."
~
FALSE

Wireframes don't solve problems...research solves problems...testing solves problems... wireframes are simply a visual communication of the aforementioned solutions. That being said - Research and testing sometimes get it wrong. If this is the case, you can make adjustments to the wireframes rather quickly to accommodate course correction. Try taking a finished prototype with several hours of development on a flawed solution, and then make changes to that. Congratulations - You have wasted a ton of time and money creating something that could have been fixed with a simple wire frame adjustment.   

3. "...one person should not be responsible for an entire product or service."
~
TRUE - This includes the designer !

This is hard to see as anything other than jealousy. When you work on a team with designers and usability specialists, you are all working towards a common goal. That goal is defined and filtered through the entire team of people. The only way one person is dictating the direction of a product is if you are the boss or the only person working on the product. In this statement, the blogger sounds like he is upset, not because one person owns the design, but because he is not that one person. 

DON'T GET ME WRONG - I LOVE DESIGNERS 

Good designers push boundaries and embrace the impossible. Our job is simply to define the boundaries of the play field. The job of the designer is to feed the imagination and engage the interest of the users. The designer plays an incredibly important role in the process of bringing life to a product...however...It does not mean that their vision trumps anyone else's and that they don't have to follow a process.     

Usability is not opinions!!
Usability is research, testing, and hard work. The way this blogger worded his rant makes him sound petty at best. Honestly - It sounds like his team has a broken process and his company should intervene and figure out where the problem is.

THE ARGUMENT - Part 2

The blogger goes on to make more statements that show his lack of knowledge about UX. "... the better the wireframes get the less work there is for visual designers."

WOW - it's hard to validate anything this blogger is saying with statements like this.
AGAIN - THERE ARE NO SUCH THING AS HI-FIDELITY WIREFRAMES.

The fact that this designer is working with hi-fidelity wireframes suggest that several things can be going on here:

  1. The team process at this organization is broken
  2. The UX designer is really a visual designer with some IA knowledge and not really a usability person (I find this to be quite common)
  3. The UX person was told to include high fidelity designs because the blocked out wireframes he/she was passing off were being viewed as incomplete by management - which suggests a problem with the structure and a disconnect with management regarding what wireframes are and why they are important. 

SUMMARY

The bottom line here is that UX is paramount to a successful product launch. Taking shortcuts in your process will only serve to create a shaky foundation and damage future development - TRUST ME - I have learned the hard way - skipping steps can (and usually will) bite you in the end..

Solving your problems before they go into design, is always a better, faster, cheaper, solution than trying to change something after it has been prototyped. A real UX designer knows that the smallest change could be like pulling the wrong block from a game of JENGA. People make assumptions all the time when offering feedback. As a UX person, I look at every possible angle. I research the impact of each change as it pertains to the site as a whole. I would not be doing my job if I didn't do the research. I especially hate when I hear people tell me words like  "JUST" or "ONLY" because it suggests that the person using the term has knowledge about the thing they are commenting on when they rarely ever do.

Example: "It's only a small change on the navigation...." or "It's just adding a new shipping option...."

Ultimately - Usability is the study of how people interact with systems. If your UX person isn't doing research, analyzing data,  or offering documentation to support design UI, they may not be a usability expert...they're probably a production designer with strong opinions on design. 

Lastly, If your designer sounds like this guy - you should probably look at your team process. There is a good chance that this person is working on a team that is broken or disconnected. It is my guess that it won't be too long before that disconnect starts surfacing in the companies product.