UX Designer is a term shortened from User Experience Designer. It’s an amalgam of several distinct roles which have evolved since software became recognized as a valuable tool. In the earlier days someone who drew what they thought the screens in your project should look like, you were called a UI Designer, or User Interface Designer. As software rapidly became more complex, information architects were called upon to draft meticulous diagrams, mapping data structures and content. To better understand what people are really doing with software, a legion of Usability Researchers grew their craft – wielding a rich combination of behavioral psychology and a deep understanding of their product’s technicalities.
As needs have changed, business structures altered, there is often less of a distinction between these roles, although User Research has stayed true to its roots. As it should. Today the title User Experience Designer has become more of an umbrella term, encompassing a range of skills that includes user assessment, information architecture, workflow analysis, and graphic design. Most User Experience Designers possess a strong understanding of at least one of these. The best can operate effectively at all of them. The best are rare, indeed.
So why should anyone want to bring someone with such distributed skills into their organization? The reality is, each individual piece of the UX Designer’s mantle can be easily filled by contracted individuals, some can be distributed to existing team members, and maybe your organization is running at such a pace that you do not have time to consider something as esoteric as User Experience. Your organization probably doesn’t need a User Experience Designer. You’ve got it all covered.
In reality, most engineering organizations operate too close to the code to pay attention to the big picture. And that big picture is what the people will see when they try to use your online experience, mobile app, social experience, or dedicated administration tool. If you get it wrong, you will have few chances to turn the tide. You’re gambling on the patience level of your average user, and the only way to hedge your bet is by having a huge installed user base who see themselves as having few options aside from yours. Good luck.
Or, you can look to a discipline that is by nature designed to bring awareness of that big picture to your project. Someone who can help provide guidance and direction early on, or to raise a red flag when things are going in a bad direction. Perhaps someone whose sole purpose is to keep an eye on what your users will see and experience. After all, it’s the users who are ultimately paying the bills.