Aurelius Podcast – Episode 63 highlights with Darren Hood:
- UX Maturity: What UX maturity looks like at the organization and individual level
- How UX maturity level impacts the planning and effectiveness of UX work
- Tips for assessing your personal, team and organizational UX maturity
- The impact of UX maturity on leadership and the hiring process
- Challenges and the state of UX maturity as an industry in 2023
- Darren’s steps for assessing and improving your own UX maturity
Our guest this time is Darren Hood, a seasoned UX practitioner, educator, speaker and author in the field of design and research. Darren has been doing UX for more than 20 years across various industries and company sizes so he’s seen what good, and bad, UX looks like. His passion for the work we do is palpable and it shows how greatly he values integrity and clarity in our field.
We had a conversation focused on the topic of UX maturity. Naturally, we talked about what UX maturity really means, but also the various lenses to assess UX maturity. Darren shared several personal stories as well as his framework for understanding the UX maturity for yourself, your team and the company you work for.
Darren shared several insights about how UX maturity impacts the quality of work we do, but also how it can affect the hiring process, leadership approach and more. If you’re interested in what UX maturity is, how to figure out where you and your team may stand in that area and are curious about how to improve your UX maturity, you’re gonna love this episode.
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(this transcript was automatically created using our very own transcription feature in Aurelius and has been minimally edited, please excuse any typos or weirdness 😀 )
Darren Hood, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me, Zach. I appreciate. Definitely, definitely. So we’ve chatted before various channels and otherwise excited to have you on.
I really appreciate you jumping on, taking the time. Yeah, I appreciate you folks having me. I always love to share as you know, love the product as know and other people rejoicing about you folks happy that you’re doing the podcast again and not feel the same way here. I love when good voices, good resources, people who have a heart for the discipline are sharing things that folks can trust in because it’s a trying time in Ux today. So very happy for that.
Yeah, that’s true. I think there’s a lot of signs, things looking up. Obviously appreciate the compliments. Means the world anytime. Folks like you, other UX leaders recently, I think you’re probably referencing sort of that unsolicited praise.
Really awesome to hear. And yeah, makes me very happy to hear it’s not an accident. Awesome. Well, so here’s the thing. I feel like everybody ought to know who you are.
You share a lot of good stuff, right? But in case somebody doesn’t, they’re starting to listen to this particular episode just like we do every single one. Right? Yeah. I got to say, why don’t you give a little bit of background, the kind of work you do, sort of where you’re coming from so people get an idea of your perspective when we jump into the conversation.
Sure. Absolutely. So my name is Darren Hood. Okay, there’s the hard part. Everybody already knows.
Depending upon where will my generic introduction. I am what I like to jokingly refer to as an OG uxer because I’ve been doing Ux since before it was called ux. I worked on my first UX related project in 1995. I had no idea what I was doing. No, we didn’t call it Ux.
I didn’t use any of the terminology that we use today. But in retrospect, I remember things that I did. They are things that we do today. I didn’t know the phrase cognitive load. I didn’t know the phrase information architecture.
I didn’t know anything about usability. I didn’t know anything about heuristics. But I was using those things to work on a website project for a nonprofit and that turned into a freelance business. And then I started gradually doing ux more and more part time in my day job and then eventually made the plunge. I said I fell in love with it and I just dove in hook, line and sinker.
I was actually going to go and get a master’s in education and said, forget that. I love information architecture, which was what most of us were called at the time. And so I just opted in. And I’ve been in love with the discipline ever since. To the extent that, and this is where a lot of people might be familiar with me, I fight for the integrity of the discipline.
I spend a great deal of my time and my dime helping people to grow in the discipline, helping people to see the right direction that they need to go, helping people to understand what Ux truly is. A lot of people can’t define it. I’m there to help people to understand what UX is, understand what direction you need to take to get better, understand what UX is and what it is not. A lot of people will accuse people like me of being gatekeepers when in fact every other discipline in the world has gatekeepers, and that’s why they flourish, because they do. So I know that gatekeeping is about quality advocacy and not about stopping anybody from getting in.
Matter of fact, it’s the contrary. We’re showing you how to get in the discipline the right way. So if you want to do this work 15 years from now, if you embrace the types of things that me and other people like me present, you will have a long standing, viable, and accurate way to function within the discipline. The way that you apply the different methodologies, the tools, the things that we do, you will be a long standing and a solid practitioner if you do things the right way. Instead of panicking or going with the flow or grasping for straws by way of fads, which a lot of people do today.
That’s me in a nutshell. I teach at five universities. I speak at many others on a regular basis. I’m one of the authors in 97 things every UX practitioner should know. I have a podcast.
I am everywhere. I mentor people all over the world, actually about to start mentoring on Meander, so that’s about to take off. So I’m sort of kind of everywhere. And I’m glad people get to hear my voice because a lot of people, they haven’t heard my podcast. They read my post and they assume the voice and tone.
So you get to hear it today. If you hear anything that sounds, that’s passion. That’s all it is. I’m not mean at all. I’m a big teddy bears.
A lot of people will say, but I am passionate. And passionate is usually demonized in our culture. And no, we need to have passion, and we need more people with passion today, which, ironically is a strong suit. If you’re new to the discipline, your passion will take you a long way instead of indifferent and easily manipulated and things of that nature. So be passionate.
Yeah. So interesting. I mean, based on your introduction, doesn’t sound like you have a very strong point of view on anything.
Funny thing about that, I have very strong points of view, but I also have rules. You don’t know, don’t say it. I failed to mention I am a doctoral candidate and one of the things people don’t understand about phds is that no matter what somebody’s getting a PhD in, all phds revolve around trustworthiness and reliability of data. If you assume something and throw it before a review board, they are going to throw it back in your face with no concern whatsoever how you feel about it. And so we learn, and I’ve been like that for years anyway, from a standpoint of, okay, this is what I see, but is it viable?
Let’s go prove it. We start to think about. Makes you think about research. Sure. Of course.
Here’s something like that. Is this really true? Well, let’s go find out. I don’t say anything unless I know it to be accurate and will not say it until I know that it’s accurate. So people say have strong opinions, but there’s a difference between an opinion and an expert opinion.
And I have a closet full of a bank vault full of expert opinions, but they are all things that can be proven out. Sounds like you try to be very careful about what you say with passion, and that only happens if you have conviction in that. Backed up by. Exactly. Data.
Yeah, if it can’t be proven, then. Because really there’s another element behind the passion when it comes to sharing things with people, and it’s respect. I respect you, so I refuse to misinform you. I value your goals and your passions. So I’m going to make sure that I only give you a trip tick, if you will.
I’m only going to give you a map that’s going to help you in that journey. Respect is at the core of everything that I do, and I say things if I tell somebody I have a blog post that ux uncensored blog post on medium, and there’s a post called there’s a nail in your tire. And it’s really about how to take constructive criticism and to really ramp up with that thickness of skin as a UX professional, and a lot of people don’t want to tell you there’s a nail in your tire. I’m going to get a little bit raw, and that’s part of what I do. You ever been listening to somebody speak and there’s something in their nose or.
Something in their teeth or whatever on their face? It’s in the teeth bit. Some people won’t tell them that there’s something in their nose. They won’t tell them that there’s lint on their shoulder of their wonderful suit or dress, and they think they’re sharp. There’s people that won’t tell you if there’s spinach in your teeth.
I’m the person that’s going to tell you because I don’t want you to suffer anything because of that embarrassment, that potential embarrassment or things of that nature. So I’m the person that’s going to tell you. Cottling is at an all time high. I talk about this in my podcast, Cotling. One of the biases too.
I was looking at different biases even in getting ready for this. And there is a bias. It’s called courtesy bias. It’s giving an opinion that’s socially acceptable because they don’t want to ruffle feathers. I don’t have that.
I don’t have any politically correctness or political correctness. It’s not a part of being a good uxer. You can’t be a good uxer if you’re going to be politically correct, because we have to learn how to push back. We have to learn how to tell somebody diplomatically, professionally, to let them know that their baby is ugly. Not in those terms, of course, but we have to let them know for the good of the project, for the good of the users, for the good of the business, for the good of how we represent the discipline.
I’m going to be that person who’s going to let you know. You may not like it in the moment, but you’ll like it two weeks from now, especially when you see somebody else who wasn’t told and what they experienced because somebody decided to spare their feelings instead of telling what they really needed to hear to succeed. So, yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. Yeah. And I mean, cultural influences, that has a different impact in those things.
It actually reminds me of this story. You may have heard this, but they were analyzing a bunch of airplane crashes. There was this one korean airplane crash, and it was totally preventable. They were going to run out of fuel. And because of sort of like the social hierarchy and order in that culture, they were being almost exceedingly polite in the way that they were requesting sort of next up needs for Runway and stuff like that, and the airplane ended up crashing.
100% preventable. And then there was a bunch of training and stuff, cultural training, that needed to happen for people to sort of understand that. Because if it had it been, I want to say that it was a flight with a korean crew that was in maybe like a western culture, and they were not picking up the subtleties of the culture change in the way it was requested. And so it was basically teaching people to be a little bit more assertive. It’s just something that reminds me of that.
But what I got to say is, definitely got to respect somebody who stands by what they say, chooses to be very precise in what they say. You don’t always have to agree with that person, but a lot of respect for somebody who puts themselves through that kind of rigor in order to make that choice. Yes, absolutely. I always like to liken that. What people call it, tough love.
If you were driving with someone in a truck and they were about to go over the line, the context of the moment calls for a certain type of an approach. You can’t eat. Hey, you’re about to hit another oncoming vehicle. You can’t be all soft in that moment with certain things. Yeah, by the time you finish saying it, somebody’s dead.
So I don’t know. That’s sort of morbid, but it does help to illustrate the truth of it. So there’s ways to be tactful. We’re not advocating being mean to people, but there’s a time that we have to say something. And there’s a lot of instances in UX where this comes time, especially if you have time constraints, you have certain really strong willed stakeholders, things of that nature.
Yeah, there’s a lot of challenges because we can all do the easy part. We can all pat somebody on the back. That’s easy. So the other stuff, the better we are at that, the more we’ll be able to thrive. Especially when you consider the fact that a huge chunk, as much as 70% of the work done by a UX professional has nothing to do with the actual work.
I’ve said that a lot over the years. People are very focused on our craft, and there’s so much more that goes around that if you’re great at the craft but nobody cares, yes. You have a different problem on your hands that being a better designer, sort of like pixels on the page or whatever, better researcher, isn’t going to solve. You know what I mean? And back to the one thing that you said.
The thing that came to mind for me, and something I try to live by too, is being truthful. Doesn’t mean you have to be intentionally abrasive, right? Better not be right, because that’s different. In one case, you’re just trying to be a jerk. Yes.
Your intention is truth and helpfulness or whatever, and that’s firm. Sometimes it’s not. Depends on delivery. Context matters, just like most things. Yeah, right.
But all of this kind of comes up because one of the things you seem pretty passionate talking about is this idea of ux maturity. I think that some folks have talked about this, written about this, whatever. I guess the first place to really start is when we say ux maturity, what is that? What do we mean?
It’s a great question because there are circles where ux maturity comes up often, and it’s like it is with a lot of other concepts in Ux. You mention it, and then there’s ten different definitions, or there’s a whole wave of people that really don’t know. And then of those people, some of them are willing to tell you, hey, can you break that down for me? And then other ones, they insist on putting on a front like they know. And now that becomes destructive over time.
Ux maturity, basically, the way that I define it, and I talk about this a lot. I’ll be speaking at convey Ux about this very topic, by the way, in February in Seattle. Ux maturity, it really revolves around. And again, you may not hear this definition anywhere of the people, the listeners. It has to do with how grounded and how informed people are about the discipline.
Nice, simple, straightforward. Do you know what Ux is? Can you define it? Well, the way you define it will determine what your Ux maturity, it’s a contributing factor, the way you operate, the way you support. And I’ll back up because I’ll get into a whole bunch of not definitions, but traits, because I think that no one the traits has more value than a definition, which could be all over the place.
But one of the things that I talk about with ux maturity, because we historically have looked at Ux maturity as it pertains to an organization.
And you’ll see all these models and every model that has ever been published about Ux maturity, it’s always examining the Ux maturity of the organization. But one of the things that I have done, I spoke at University of Michigan earlier this year about the same thing. I basically tried to get everyone, I presented it from a theoretical perspective, if you will. I wanted everybody to consider this because you haven’t heard a lot about it, but when you hear it, you’ll go, you know what? That’s true.
So I presented it as a hypothesis and I said, hey, so you’ve got all of us. For years. Me too. Organization. You look at the Jacob Nielsen models and you look at the, there’s an envision model and I created a model that’s out there.
There’s models everywhere. What would you say if I told you that we’ve only tapped into 20% of what a UX maturity model really should be? There’s personal UX maturity. I did a master class on this for interaction design foundation recently and show people how you evaluate your personal UX maturity. So now we’ve already gone well past the organizational UX maturity, but once you’ve done that and you say, okay, our organization, we’re here.
Okay, well, what about the people? What about the people on the team? What about the stakeholders? I, for years, for about the last ten years or so close to the last ten years, I’ve been in the business of ascribing UX maturity levels to my stakeholders and my clients to help me understand how to best work with them. Nobody ever sees it but me.
Sure. But I know, okay, I rank these people here at this level, this particular level, on a scale of one to five, I rank them at a two, so to speak. Just off the top of my head here, another group, I’ll rank them. They are so sold out to ux. They’re so committed to doing things from a UCD way user center design.
For those of you that don’t know what that acronym means, that I know that when I’m working with them, I can work in a completely different way. And I don’t have to spend time when I’m presenting any reports, any research data, when I’m trying to dialogue with them to help find out what the requirements are for my design initiatives. When I’m working with a very mature group, this is something that’s going to be very streamlined, it’s going to be very fast, and I don’t have to spend any time educating them. But if their level is at a one or two or even a three, on that one to five example that I just provided, every meeting, every deliverable, everything you do all has to help be, it has to have this component in it that’s helping to drive you x maturity because, oh my goodness. And the people at the one level, those are the people who, we don’t need you here.
Why are we doing this? These are the people that are drowning in biases, they’re fighting against ux. They won’t cooperate. They’re trying to commandeer the designs. Those people are at a one.
I will drop one quick note, too. It’s revolving around the fact that Jacob Nielsen’s model changed roughly, I think, less than two years ago. And for those of you who were interested in doing a little engaging in a little adventure, I would challenge you to just go to images google.com and type in Jacob Nielsen UX maturity model. You’ll see the old one and you’ll see the new one. And it’s interesting that they removed the ones that are.
They’ve gone the way of courtesy bias in the new model because they used to talk about things like skunk works. They used to talk about things like people being hostile toward ux, and they removed them as if they don’t exist anymore. This is still happening today. So we need to be aware of these things, because as the UX professional, if those things exist and skunk works is more like, if I remember correctly, has to do with developer led UX. Sure.
That’s called skunkworks. So if you have a bunch of developers trying to commandeer the user experience, and they do, in some organizations, it does happen, you have to have a strategy to manage it. Because we are responsible for the UX maturity. The stakeholders are not responsible, the developers are not responsible. Nobody else is responsible but the UX people.
But at any rate, to make the rest of this quick, you’ve got 20% for organization, 20% for stakeholders. We’ll keep it simple today, say 25. 25. There’s a UX maturity that should exist in academia. Academic resources don’t spend any time paying attention to it.
Nor have they even considered. Okay, have they considered that at all? And then the other one I actually mentioned, it was the personal. So you’ve got four. There’s really five.
But for the sake of today’s discussion, we’ll just look at those four. The other three, beside organizational, don’t get any attention whatsoever. So these things are just out there and they have a life of their own. And you have a UX maturity level, whether you’re paying attention to it or not. Yeah.
So, I mean, a couple of things that you said in there stuck with me, and I was actually already ready to ask you, when you talk about UX maturity, if there is us as an organization and then also personal, and it sounds like you’ve already thought very deeply about that. And the short answer is yes. Right. So I can imagine that there are sort of sub definitions and a lot more detail behind each one. So that’s one thing.
The other thing that you mentioned there a couple of times, maybe not meant to directly or intentionally, but is riddled with biases, either situations and or people. And I’m wondering how much of that actually helps you determine UX maturity level even in each of those facets. Yeah. The higher the bias level, the lower the UX maturity level will be. I’m sorry.
Inverse proportion with that. Yeah. Because biases detrimentally impact maturity. Okay. If there’s a bandwagon effect, one such bias.
If there’s a bandwack, in fact there are, people are embracing things just because other people are doing it, then you have to strategize to manage that. If you, the UX professional, if you do not do things to manage that bias. And yes, we have to identify it first. We have to see that it’s operating. We have to understand who and where it’s coming from and have something in place to manage it.
If you do not, it will impact your work. But giving it a UX maturity score or rating, it just helps us to be aware. Okay, we’re at about a three. We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got more work to do than if they were at a five.
They were at a five. We’re just skating right along. We got no issues. And the funny thing about that is when you’re at a company, and one of the reasons I used to give scores to stakeholders, because one group of stakeholders might be a five and then three other groups of stakeholders are ones and twos. And I think it’s going to be that way.
At every company, you’re hard pressed to find high levels of ux maturity across. The board with everybody just involved. Yeah. I mean, it’s probably just not something inherently possible given the breadth of backgrounds and stuff that you’ll experience. The thing that comes to mind here, right, because I can imagine everybody sitting here listening to this, is probably saying, of course we want ux maturity levels to be high.
That equals good result. However you would personally define that good result.
I can also imagine people sitting here thinking, why should I care? I should be able to do my job, right? I mean, think about this, right? I’ll throw this up as a provocative statement or question. Okay?
And I’ve heard people say this, right? Developers don’t have to assess the maturity of their organization to do great work. They don’t have to sell why development or technology acumen matters, right? You see where I’m going with this. Yes, that statement would be absolutely correct.
But here’s the catch and here’s an example I use a lot. Let’s say we all go to a meeting to discuss a project and there’s 15 people in the room at the meeting say it’s a kickoff project. Kickoff. Woohoo. Project.
All right, we’re about to learn about this project. What are we going to do? All right. And 15 people in the meeting. Eight to ten disciplines are represented.
Of those eight, let’s just give it a flat number of eight. Eight disciplines are represented in the meeting. Seven of those disciplines are already understood. And truth be told, let’s say there is a maturity level associated with those and they’re all high. Everybody understands project management.
Everybody understands what the developers and the engineers do. Everybody understands what the QA people do. Everybody understands what the product owners and the project managers do. The only person, the only discipline, and you’re already laughing. The only one that other people want to democratize the work.
The only other one where people don’t understand. The only other one where you don’t see people coming in and trying to take charge of what the engineers and the developers are doing. You don’t see anybody coming in trying to take over from the QA people. It’s the UX people. We’ve been in the mainstream now for approximately 20 years.
A little bit more than 20, but I’ll just round it to the 20. And we’re the only one that comes in the room that have to realize that people are still forming opinions and gaining understanding about us. We’re the only one in the room. We’re the only one in the room where other people want to take our work and do it. We’re the only one in the room other people want to design other people.
I was in a meeting once. We were working on a project at one nameless company. Just as an example. I’ve been in corporate America now since until my age here a little bit. I’ve been in corporate America since 1982.
I have never seen what people do to UX folks meetings with regard to failing to let us do what we do. Nobody else ever has to convince anybody about the value of what they do. We have to face fact that the fact that we do have to do this, this might be going on for another ten to 20 years. And the fact that there was no misinformation in UX prior to 2011 simply means that we have to do it more. Because it was already rough.
We were already trying to build and manage the UX maturity. And now because of the great just onslaught, for lack of a better word, at the moment of UX misinformation, it has made our job even tougher because people are buying it. They’re drinking the Kool aid quite a bit. And so now we have to offset, I mean, three Ux people sitting in a room, one of them is sound and the other two are chock full of misinformation. The funny thing about the misinformation addicts is that they know who really has the good information.
So there’s a lot of volatility, okay. In the discipline as well. So we’re trying to represent the discipline, get our work done and then trying to manage. And it’s really sad, but it’s true, all this infighting that goes on between uxers. And so it’s tough, but yeah, it’s just the reality of it.
We have to keep managing these things. Going back to where you started answering that, it sounds like you’re suggesting ux maturity matters. Yes, because of the examples that you set forth where there isn’t this friction. Ux maturity matters in order to remove friction and do the best work. Yeah, sorry for going on that tangent like I did too, but ux maturity, we’re the only one.
People don’t understand us. So we have to explain, right? Have to not only say what we’re doing a lot of times, but we have to be ready to explain why? Why? Because in any instances where ux maturity is low, they don’t know.
We need to respect that. We need to understand. Hey, they don’t understand. Hey, you don’t understand. You don’t understand.
I’m here to help you. That’s part of my job. So let me help you understand. The value that we’re bringing. Our value proposition is not understood.
So where Ux maturity is higher, value proposition of UX operations is more understood. When it’s lower, it’s not. So that means that you have to go to work. So me, I need to know that that maturity level isn’t low so I can know. I have to bake into my strategy of my work.
How are you going to get the work done? What tools out of the Ux toolbox do I need to get this done? All of those things are tied in Ux maturity. If you don’t know, then you need to know you still have a Ux maturity level even when everybody is ignoring it. And all the realities tied to that knowledge or lack of knowledge, you’re still going to come face to face with them, whether you know it or not, whether you choose to examine or not.
You could say, darren, I don’t care what you’re talking about. I’m not paying attention. Ux material is still going to come and bite you in the. Because it’s. It’s real.
It’s real. We need to understand, and we need to face the fact that other disciplines don’t have to do that. Yeah, totally. Well, so then it sounds like taking away sort of rephrasing how I’m interpreting what you’re saying. Ux maturity matters and understanding Ux maturity matters in all these facets because it helps you pick your approach to the work and the tools and techniques you use to do the best work, because it’s all going to be situational.
Something else that you said, I just want to make a quick comment, because you’ve said this a couple of times. It does make me wonder why I’ve never seen anybody come into a development meeting saying, hey, I threw together this quick code prototype to show you. Exactly. Dev team. Hey, this project planning meeting, I just want to let you know I took a crack at this project plan.
The timeline never has happened, ever. Never happened and never will. What’s causing that? Is it the approachability to the work? Everybody, they understand it.
They understand what the developers are doing. They trust their expertise. There is no question. Here’s a developer, here’s an engineer. What does he do?
Ask ten people, what do they do? Oh, they do all the programming. Everybody will have. The understanding is there and they know they can’t do it. Building on top of the fact that they understand and respect the engineers.
Nobody else wants to leave their work to come and try to do this work. But for some reason, the story I was about to tell and I sort of went a different way. I came into a meeting and a developer came into that meeting. You’re going to love this. We were already halfway down the road on the project.
They came into the meeting with designs that he did in Microsoft. Paint. Paint. That’s a joke. That’s an absolute joke.
Paint. Are you kidding me?
We were already doing this. The design, I was already handling it. We were meeting daily. We were having daily scrum. And you decided, you laid at home, decided that you were going to do something with the design.
It brought no value. And this is the type of stuff that a lot of uxers go through. And it was a reflection of the way I took it. It’s a reflection of the Ux maturity. So now, here’s something else.
On top of the work I got to do, I have to try to do something to offset this and try to keep it from disrupting the progress that the team is making. That’s why it tickles me when I want to get into Ux. Do you know what you’re really getting into? Yeah, we are the baby in the room, and our diaper still needs to be changed. If you’re coming into Ux, be ready to change some diapers.
All of this is kind of rolled up into a couple of know. You’re saying the reason for that is because we’re misunderstood. I agree with that, but I don’t think it’s only that and you kind of touched on. It’s not part of what I would add to that already, which is where I was starting to go in terms of the approachability to the work. So you mentioned Ms Paint because there’s people drawing parallels between creating something in Ms paint and doing UX design.
I’m not here to say somebody’s right, wrong, or indifferent, to draw a parallel between those two and say I’m doing the same thing, because, of course, that’s not the case. But that’s not even what’s relevant is it feels more approachable. Right. And that’s what makes me wonder whether or not that’s what’s causing this so much. Some of the instances where I’ve talked to people and observed people are intrigued by UX work.
Some people think that what we’re doing, they see what we produce, and they think that’s all we do. They don’t realize all the work that goes into the interface that they see. Right. Realize all the psychological components. They don’t realize the understanding of the mental models.
They don’t realize the examining and measuring the cognitive load. They don’t understand the risk and error mitigation that by the time somebody like me shows you something, I’ve gone through no fewer than 50 to 100 scenarios to optimize what I have presented to you, and not even to mention the hordes and hordes of heuristics that I was trying to make sure I was in alignment with. They just sat down and threw something together in five minutes and thought that they had done something that was the equivalent. And I encouraged that person. Hey, if you have some ideas, come talk to me.
Let’s collaborate. But he was willing to, and a lot of times, they just want to knock you out of the way as if you weren’t even there. They are willing to displace and I’ve literally heard people not in those terms, but say and do the same exact things. That’s how a lot of people have oversimplified Ux. And a lot of the oversimplification of Ux is really our fault because we don’t educate people.
And that ties back to Ux maturity. Another caveat with Ux maturity that I didn’t mention. I saw you inhaled. I know you got something. I want to throw this other thing in here for people to understand the understanding of the reach of ux maturity.
Ux hiring is no mystery. Ux hiring is an absolute joke. It is a mega dysfunctional arena a lot of times because of a few key contributing factors, the hiring managers don’t understand Ux. A lot of companies hire people who don’t know or value or understand Ux to run their UX teams. So that’s going to hurt hiring the HR people.
The recruiters don’t understand, and a lot of times, and a lot of us have experienced it, you talk to somebody about a UX job and you start asking certain questions and they can’t answer any of them because they don’t know. These are things. If Ux maturity is where it needs to be, all those potholes in the hiring process gets smoothed out.
I really appreciate the fact that you’ve given such thorough thought to what Ux maturity means. When I asked you that question, I thought you were just going to give a definition, you know what I mean? And then we were going to have further discussion on that. No, I really do appreciate the fact that you’ve thought a lot about all these facets, because that’s one of those things that’s definitely going to have a trickle down effect. If the person responsible for hiring the UX talent in that organization has a low maturity understanding of that, by whatever definition, that will permeate the remainder of the organization.
Without question, yes, it’s going to impact the way that UX is represented to the decision makers in the organization is going to represent. A lot of us have worked at companies like why do we always only get in on the projects at the last minute? A reflection of UX maturity? And again, it might happen on three projects, but not all. But the question is, what have we communicated to the organization so that everybody has the proper expectations of how to engage with and benefit from the UX operation and a lot of companies, that discussion never takes place.
So when you have some art director or creative director or somebody else who was chasing a check get thrown into this high level UX position that they knew that they weren’t qualified for, but they weren’t going to turn it down because they got this huge pay increase. They’re not going to turn it down. Nobody turns those types of things down. But I talk to people. They’re getting them everywhere.
And then ironically, just to throw this one in there, when those people come across somebody like me, not just me, I know a lot of people in the same boat. When they try to get a job at that company, they get blocked. People talk about the new uxers getting blocked. Seniors are being blocked. Real seniors are being blocked across the discipline.
And a lot of them end up consulting because they reach a point that they can’t get hired because I’ve had people, they just make excuses, oh, he doesn’t know anything about ecommerce. But they didn’t even ask, what’s the famous one? We decided to go with other people whose qualifications are more closely aligned. I don’t know who came up with that, but they need to be flogged. That’s like ridiculous.
No, you didn’t, you didn’t come up with anybody more aligned. But a lot of these unqualified UX leaders, quote, unquote, they don’t want real uxers because they’re offended. They’re threatened. Oh, that person can do my job. I’m not hiring them.
It’s amazing. But what happens is, so that happens in these little buckets, but we’re all connected. That’s the other thing. That’s the fifth one that I didn’t mention that I was leaving out, but I’ll bring it in here. There is a discipline wide ux maturity, too.
Sure. How are we doing? That’s the fifth one. That’s when I said 20% when I decided to leave out there. How are we doing as a discipline?
Well, we’re struggling. And even though some people say, hey, things are getting better, but this war against seniors has not dissipated. We’re not going to get better until that gets resolved. When I came on board, when I came into the discipline and I got a Jesse James Garrett book and I got a Nathan Shetroth book and I got a Susan Weinshank book, I wasn’t sitting. They’re gatekeeping.
I’m not listening to them. I wasn’t doing that. I was trying to learn as much as I could. I kept my mouth shut. I was quiet for 17 years before anybody knew I existed in social media.
I mean, social media came across, came around later, but I didn’t say anything until I saw what I saw starting to form in the discipline. That’s when I started trying to defend the discipline because, hey, I saw the same thing happen when I was an instructional designer. I don’t want to see the same thing happen over here. So I got loud, and I’ve been loud ever since. But until we can not be offended by people who know more than us, until we can embrace and see that extra skilled person, I would love to work with that person.
They’ll help me grow. Until people see us as an asset instead of a threat or somebody to compete with, we’re not going to get there. We didn’t fight against Alan Cooper, who wanted to read his books. I hope he comes out with another book. I want to hear him talk.
We didn’t fight against him. But today I saw a person on medium just yesterday who wrote an article saying that we’ve got some issues we need to be concerned about in Ux. I’ve been in Ux ten years, so I’ve been here since the beginning and I went, what? You’ve been here since when? The age of misinformation in UX started in 2011.
You’ve been here since the age of misinformation began.
But they’re telling people that they’ve been in this thing since the beginning. How many people? And a lot of us. There’s something I call baby bird syndrome, where people just, they just close their eyes and open up their mouth and trust whatever anybody’s going to drop in there, and that’s what they do. You haven’t been in there since the beginning.
You barely got your feet wet. So here’s the thing. I got to be respectful of your time, and I’m going to ask you this huge question before we start wrapping up, okay, how do we fix ux maturity? I’m going to ask you that. With a few minutes left, I got a simple answer for it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this thing that I created. It’s called the UX cycle of excellence. It starts out by seven steps, of which, once you get the first two down pat, you repeat the last five for the rest of your career. There are people who have skipped over the first two steps, and I’m going to bring this up to make sure that I don’t miss anything. You start out by doing, ironically, the thing that people don’t do properly define the discipline.
That’s step one. You properly define the discipline. How many times a day do we hear people saying, well, there’s no definition. We can’t even agree. We don’t agree because there’s a bunch of people who refuse to accept the things that our forefathers and the discipline taught us.
If we embrace what Jacob Nielsen was talking about back in the day, go and read his usability engineering book, the things that Alan Cooper talked about when Nathan Chetrov wrote his book on experience design. It’s still out there. Go get it. And great UX content has a very long shelf life. This stuff is still solid.
Read Jesse James Garrett book. I believe it was updated once, but go read it. Information architecture, which was all but abandoned between 2012 and 2023. And it sparked a bunch of goofy things which I won’t get into, and a bunch of fake positions that don’t even exist. But as long as people get paid, they don’t care.
If we go back and properly define the discipline, that’s step one. So anybody who’s been doing I don’t care if you’ve been doing UX 510 15 years, and there are people who meet those descriptions. If you properly define the discipline, that’s a start. Step two, embrace UX’s foundational tenets. I personally call them the four pillars, usability and heuristics.
Information architecture, UX research, of which there are, according to the folks who created the universal design book, there’s 125 methods, methodologies, techniques and deliverables. It’s not just go and create a survey and you’re on your way. It’s not, let me just go and do usability testing. Some people, they think that’s all UX research is, is usability testing. They don’t know that.
There’s a whole slew of techniques that we can use, and we need to identify the technique to use based on what our goals are. So broaden your perspective, understand what UX research really is. And then the last one, which is the funny one, it is user interface design and interaction design, because you can’t create an interface without interaction design principles of which tognazini and some others created some wonderful tenets to help us to design. Schneiderman is the one that comes to mind. First and foremost.
They came up with tons of guidelines to help us optimize those things. These are the foundational tenets of the discipline. And a lot of people getting in UX, they’re not learning them. The educational venues that they’re learning about UX are not teaching them. I’ve talked to people who’ve gone to boot camps that say that they barely talked about information architecture at all.
They got on it. They got off of it. But every experience is about findability, and that’s what IA produces, findability based on the nomenclatures and the taxonomies and the information sense and cues that they produce. How are you going to do ux work? And you don’t know how to do information architecture, but folks don’t.
So if we do those two things and then come back, constantly evaluate your current state, identify knowledge and skill gaps that you have, always build toward excellence, commit to personal maintenance of your status within the discipline, that commitment to lifelong learning, and then step seven, which I think is funny, be patient. Yeah, man, talk about a punchline. Be patient. I mean, for everything. I’m guilty of it.
I’m guilty of it. Wanted to change today. Want you to understand right now. Want to have the impact yesterday. Totally.
That is an awesome punchline to that. In every part of those. Each, by the way. Right. Not just in whole or in some, but for each one of those.
Yeah, that’s really good. I really appreciate that. I got to say, everything we’ve talked about just doesn’t sound like you have a very strong perspective on this stuff. So I think what we’ll do, Darren, is probably be respectful of your time and wrap it up. Of course I’m joking.
Really appreciate you. Really appreciate you jumping on and taking the time to share this. I mean, I’m very, very sure we could spend half a day looking into all this easily. So here’s the thing I like to do at the end of every show, right, is I ask the guests, I say, if I got temporary amnesia, somebody comes up and says, hey, you were on that podcast. What was that all about?
How would you summarize what we discussed today? Let’s see. This is a call to what I like to call pure ux. That’s what we talked about today. We talked about some of the challenges facing ux today and what we can do to overcome them, to vault this discipline forward.
It’s a fantastic discipline, but if we don’t treat it right, if we let it have a life of its own, we’re in trouble. This is about pure ux, right? Succinctly said so, because there’s so much more to discuss here, and I know that you’re always happy to do it and you share a lot of your thoughts and stuff already. Somebody wants to continue the conversation with you. Maybe they want to yell at you.
Maybe they want to disagree with you, whatever the case may be. Where can they find you more of your work? Get in touch, ask questions, continue the conversation. Most people engage with me on LinkedIn. Asterisk any trolls.
I dismiss trolls immediately because that’s just a waste of everybody’s time. It’s a waste of the trolls time. It’s a waste of my time. It’s a waste of other people’s time. So if somebody comes after me to argue, I don’t argue.
There’s nothing to argue. The sky is blue. We need to breathe. Your car needs gas. Unless it’s a hybrid, there’s a lot of things that are absolute.
So I don’t argue. So if anybody comes to me from that perspective, know that I’m going to dismiss you about as fast as you showed up. But most people connect with me on LinkedIn. I have what’s called I host the UX chitchat hour, which is a monthly meetup for people all over the world to come together, coffee house style conversation. We just talk about Ux like this.
We just talk for a couple of hours about any and everything. And sometime, especially when we get around holidays, it’s extended, so we’ll talk for like three and 4 hours. And people stay at these things. It is free of charge and people can come anytime. You got the podcast the world of Ux with Darren Hood, which you can find anywhere.
And wow, the UX uncensored channel on YouTube and the UX uncensored blog at uxuncensored medium. So I’m sort of any and everywhere. I’m on Twitter. I just invaded blue sky and pebble and Instagram. I’m everywhere.
Facebook, yeah, I’m everywhere. Well, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do is we’re going to put links to all those things in the blog post of the show, notes for this, where you’ll find the transcript and all that stuff as well. Darren Hood, really appreciate you taking the time, sharing your perspective and years of experience in this. Absolutely. Chatting with me today.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I always appreciate the opportunity to share. Absolutely. We’ll see you next time.
All right, man. Thank you.