The most amazing thing, to me, is when people try to pretend that they have expertise when they actually know very little. This is an epidemic in UX. And like any good vaccine, I have to infect you with a small dose so you can kill it in real life. So here is my guide to how it’s done.
While a confident, rational person would admit it when they don’t understand something during a conversation, apparently it is much more satisfying to be a douchebag and add your misguided two cents instead.
The unfortunate part is that UX is a mystery to a lot of clients, bosses, and colleagues, so they will believe whatever nonsense comes out of someone’s mouth, even when it will hurt their business.
The following guide will teach you the phrases and strategies you need to get through a meeting with a client, a job interview, or an online discussion forum while having no idea what you’re talking about.
If you do any of these, I hate you. If you hear any of these in real life, call bullshit, immediately.
1: “From a design perspective…”
Every time I hear or read a UX argument that starts with this phrase I disregard whatever comes after it. There is no such thing as a “design perspective.” There is no God of Design sitting somewhere, creating a perspective that agrees completely with your bullshit preferences. When someone starts their argument with this phrase, what you should hear in your mind is “My personal, unsupported, irrelevant preference is…”
2: “Best Practices say…”
Best practices are a real thing, but that doesn’t mean that the UX person has used them, knows them, or knows what makes them “best”. Whenever someone prescribes a solution based on the fact that it is a “best practice” it means they haven’t thought of a solution, so they’re using someone else’s. Just ask them why that best practice applies, and when they fall all over themselves trying to break it down, you’ll know. If a non-design person says this, just walk the other way.
3: “Let’s look at an analogy…”
Analogies aren’t bad per se, but you can use them to make just about anything sound like a good idea. If someone is using an analogy to explain what they plan to do, fine. If they are using it to explain why they want to do it, plug your ears. Concrete solutions should have concrete reasons, not metaphorical abstract ones.
4: [Industry Jargon Here]
In my opinion, a UX designer that speaks a lot of jargon is bad at their job. Think about it: this is a person who is PAID to make things easy to understand. If you don’t understand what they just said because it was full of buzzwords and nonsense, they either suck, or they are covering the fact that they have absolutely no clue what the answer is… which means they suck. Never pay for jargon. Never hire jargon. Never use jargon if you can help it.
5: “The research says…”
I am genuinely amazed how often this is said by UX professionals, even in discussion forums with other UX professionals. There is no mountain in Nepal that you can climb to ask The Research Oracle what they say about your particular problem. There is always conflicting views among researchers, and the research they have done isn’t necessarily good or applicable to your problem. The UX person is the researcher, but calling themselves “The Research” makes most people keep their questions to themselves. When someone says this, ask to see the studies, the methods, the sources, and talk about the raw data versus the interpretation of that data.
6: “This is an established pattern.”
Just in case you’re not aware, a common way of solving a particular problem in design is called a Design Pattern. An example is something like hiding the menu in a mobile app to make the layout simpler, like Facebook’s app. There is nothing wrong with patterns, but when someone wants to use a solution because it’s a pattern you have a problem. Your problem: the designer is lazy. This phrase basically says “It’s the first thing I thought of, and I am tired of thinking.” What you should ask next is why that pattern is the right solution for the current problem.
7: “Twitter does it.”
Similar to the previous one, this is merely copying something that exists, whether it is a good idea or not. It is often followed by something like “they wouldn’t use it if they hadn’t tested it.” Actually they would, just like this person is trying to do now. I cannot say this clearly enough: the fact that another website did it is NEVER a good reason to do ANYTHING. Ever. In your life. Period.
8: Focus Groups.
Pffft. Where are we, at an ad agency in 1965? Do some reading about user testing, analytics, eye tracking, card sorting, interview methods, A/B testing, and anything else you find that sounds related. And let us never speak of focus groups again.
9: Blame users (that you created).
Blaming users is the basic form of denial among UX people. When a designer says the users aren’t registering because they are stupid, or they couldn’t find the button, or whatever, you should hear “I fucked up.” The more sophisticated version of this is to blame a “type” of user, or the “average user”. When a UX person or a marketer starts justifying colors or features or prices or the text fields in a form — that will cost you money to change — by saying that their hypothetical users want it… stop the bus.
10: Use big numbers. Any big numbers.
I can’t tell you the number of times that I have heard someone justify doing anything on Facebook, because Facebook has over a billion users. Or say that a campaign was highly successful because of how many banner exposures they bought. And so on. Those numbers mean absolutely nothing unless they translated into a high percentage of successful registrations, purchases, etc. AND… those conversions were people that were happy and came back again. If you spend $1000 for every like on Facebook because your SEO is terrible, it doesn’t really matter how many users Facebook has, now does it?
When someone wants you to do something because they have a lot of 0’s in their presentation, you should fire them.
Now go out into the world, call some bullshit, and make me proud!