The Death of UX

I’ve seen folks, seemingly confused, going around posting questions on LinkedIn and Quora about the death of UX. And more than a few times, I’ve had to stop, facepalm, sigh and craft a response. My Quora response to the question “Is UX Dying?” has started to pick up so momentum, so I thought it’d be worth sharing.

I’ll start by acknowledging that you’re asking “Is UX Dying” indicates one of either two things: 1) You’ve been reading articles about “automation and the role of AI in design” and you question whether UX work has a place in our future or 2) You’re not clear on what UX is.

In either case, to really answer your question, you have to start by defining UX. The definition I have come to feel most comfortable with is: “All technical, business, and design innovation (analysis, definition, articulation, development) which occurs at the intersection of technology, information, and human beings.”

Technology, as a fundamental premise, moves continuously into the future, at times far outpacing our collective capacity to harness it. As we become more connected, and as more data on our connected lives are collected – the more work we need to do to meaningfully understand it. As our understanding of new technologies, data pools and their impact on our lives evolve, new design patterns for how we interact with them need to be defined.

While there has been a codification of code libraries, UI pattern libraries and structured packages for web themes like you can find on Themeforest, Squarespace and other services like web-storefronts from Amazon, Megento… etc… these are just the natural progression to indicate that “UX” work on publishing content or selling things on the web have become well understood/established “norms” and there is little need to further define/design solutions for those more “generic” digital activities – as they have become a part of our digital fabric.

Does this mean that UX is dead? Absolutely not.

In fact, the only thing this means is that UX design professionals can stop spending their time working on solutions that have largely been solved and begin tackling new problems. I look at the wasteland of over 30 years of technologies, legacy systems, and the demand to digitize, automate, and design services at the pace of our new-found “need” for immediacy and see even some of the largest companies and organizations struggling to avoid disruption from their more agile startup competitors.

  • I see startup entrepreneurs with highly innovative solutions and ideas that need rapid prototyping, user research, and UI design refinement.
  • I see government agencies still looking for ways to digitize their services.
  • I see an entire healthcare industry struggling to build a cohesive infrastructure for innovative healthcare management interfaces.
  • I see more and more big-data / IoT / business intelligence pools without meaningful interfaces to mine and take action.

There is an entire field of opportunity waiting for UXers to usher in guidelines for human factors, task analysis, taxonomies, usability/accessibility heuristics, interaction modeling, information design, UI component definition, interface design, and usability testing… rinse, lather, repeat. This work IS the lifeblood of innovation. To declare it is dead is to declare that our capacity to innovate is dead.

Any UXer in fear of industry collapse – repeat this: “Innovate and Change or die.”