The Rise of the UX Developer


Various Red coloured fancy dress hats from UX Australia 2011 Day 1

As with any young industry we tend to endlessly debate the labels we should be placing on the User Experience based roles that we are conducting.

Along with this debate on the labels, we seem to be now in a blame game on who really is responsible as an industry (which I had no idea we where) for the on going career development of  junior,  mid level and senior UX people. Maybe better to just fix it folks.

As these elements of navel gazing have been going on quietly in the background the game has been changing.   Maybe For the better.

With any new discipline, well new to the main stream, it will influence other roles as elements of its workflow and techniques become widely known.

Over the last three or so years I have been noticing that there has been a  dramatic tendency to move away from the UX professional to favouring o role more like that of a senior developer or sometimes a BA with UX skills. Not that BA′s doing UX is that new, we all moonlight as BA′s when we can’t find UX work.

Let′s call them a UX developer.

It is not all that bad.

Now I know a lot of you will be a gast at this.  But just think for a moment.

To often as UX professionals we are asked to do the impossible, to be the super UX hero and save the day.

You know the scenario well.  You get a phone call asking for help with a project that is in its final stages.  All they need is a little UX magic to make the project shine.  Familiar?

Now you know it’s way to late in the project for you to have any major influence on any of the underlying flaws in the UX. But you take the gig anyway.

You do it in the  vain hope that you can at least make a little difference and hopefully the project management will learn that the time to get the UX professional involved is at day one, not before launch.

You do the best you can, but you know it’s not going to be good enough.

The watching, learning, mentoring.

Now the senior developer or BA watches and learns from you, maybe you inspire them to go and do a little professional development on UX.  Overall they pick up a few core UX skills.   Which is good.

On the next project these forward thinking devs or BA start to apply these learnt skills early in the process, so at least in part there is some element of UCD with a UX component considered.  Which again is good.

After all they are already a part of team framework – project manager, BA, dev. With someone in this team championing the UX component there is no need to inject a UX consultant into the mix, who is just going to disrupt things anyway.

Now from a project management view the injection of the UX professional just didn’t work out that well anyway. At least now the team internally now has the UX skills to move forward.

Developers control the game anyway.

Yes the UX developer does have at Cooper puts it “skin in the game”.  Yes they are concerned with optionisation of the system, to focus on the best business outcome.

However the UX consultant isn’t the only one that can deliver a non biased view that supports the user cases.   A good BA or UX developer can wear this hat as well. They can be objective they can change hats mid stream.

I have seen this more and more with recent projects.

Afterall we as UX professionals don’t control the projects, the devs do.   Now maybe we should be training and mentoring developers in the UX cause not designers. Which is opposed somewhat to what Nat Boehm has to say.

So overtime maybe the UX consultant will be as dead as the webmaster, a thing of the past.

In the future maybe consideration of the UX will be just a mainstream inclusive activity of the development team.

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