Friday, July 27, 2007

Managing Experience: Adaptive Path nails it

The folks at Adaptive Path recently announced their 2nd "MX conference", which focuses on, basically, how to actually get things done. In the announcement, they say:

The unsung heroes are those folks who shepherd projects through an organization, demonstrating the value of an experience design approach, ensuring that their product maintains quality in the face of competing priorities. Such shepherding is hard, but is necessary for design to succeed.

This is why we created the MX Conference. MX stands for Managing Experience. It exists to fill the void between the practical discussions craft, and the hand-wavey discussions of The Power Of Design. The event is focused on helping people understand what it takes to get great experiences out into the world, in the process building a community of folks addressing similar challenges.

Bravo! On this blog, I've touched on this topic a couple times (like here, here, and here). Basically I feel a sense of frustration that more thought and effort isn't spent on what I would consider to be the core issue that faces most user experience professionals - how difficult it is to get improvements into a product. We spend a lot of time talking about how to create a good design, and we do a lot of chest-thumping about how important good design is, but as the post above notes, there's a large void between these two.

Don't get me wrong. I think good design is hard. I think it's reasonable that this is a major topic of conversation. I think as a profession we still have plenty to learn in this space. In addition, I think it's obvious that we've got a long way to go in changing the default IT culture so that the importance of experience design is a foregone assumption - so some chest-thumping is warranted.

But in some sense those are the easy problems to solve. I am guessing there are lots of places that fit each of the following three criteria:

1. They have quality user experience professionals on staff

2. They have an organization that understands the importance of experience design

3. Getting actual improvements into the product requires navigating around 100 roadblocks and an Act of God

I think the reason more time isn't spent on this subject is that it's uncomfortably murky. The roadblocks aren't the same from organization to organization. It's not always clear who in an organization should be the shepherd. And, to be honest, I think there are user experience folks who feel that their job is to create quality design... and if that design doesn't make it into the product, they've still done their job.

But personally, I think a lot of the roadblocks are common (though not universal), and it would be good for the UX community to discuss techniques for getting around them. It won't be a one size fits all solution, but I think we have a lot to learn from each other here.

No comments: