UX and the Art of Digital Appropriation

So, I feel caught in a language loop recently. I talk about (and practice) User Experience. I do these things in the digital/mobile space. And really, I’m mostly focusing on good, strategic paths to design.

But all of it is an illusion.

User experience is pervasive. It is ubiquitous. Like air. And I don’t design air… I breathe it, I need it to live, I experience it, it’s all around me. It’s ubiquitous too.

User experience is about more than just digital experiences. If we accept that it is pervasive, ubiquitous, we have to accept that it extends well beyond our digital boundaries. But we most often hear about “UX” in relation to developing digital experiences.

User experience has always existed. It’s just that we only really thought about it in terms of something that we create in the last half century. Product design is about creating user experiences. It pre-exists digital.

I think the discourse around User Experience needs to change. We need to move away from the tactical side of the now, ‘nameless’ profession, where practitioners argue over whether they are Information Architects, Experience Architects, Interaction Designers, etc. As long as we stay anchored to the pedantic, we’ll never aspire to the greater good.

I repeat, User experience is pervasive. It is ubiquitous. Companies and agencies need to step back and realise that the concept of user experience will mean change in the way their businesses operate. It’s too big to be owned by any one team, shoved down any one silo. It is too fundamentally important to leave to any one concept, methodology or team. To understand user experience is to create a fundamentally open and collaborative environment with a healthy exchange between and amongst users, businesses, agencies.

And we need to get away from it being a digital construction. It isn’t just about digital. Customers have more than just digital experiences. And as much as Martha Lane Fox and the current Government work to shove everyone down the digital path, if it is really about user experiences (ubiquitous, remember?) then it is about understanding people first and then creating products and services that meet their needs.

Digital has appropriated a universal experience. Digital is not ubiquitous… not yet, even though it’s easy to believe, living in London, that the entire world must be digital.

We’re at a pivotal point where organisations have the opportunity to become horizontally integrated extending all the way out into their communities – and with their communities invited into their organisations.

It’s time to be disruptive, silo-breaking collaborative horizontally-integrated experimentalists. Or whatever we want to be called.

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