UX in all the Odd Places

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  • I had a bit of a crisis last fall. My pal Andrew Mayfield asked me to keynote UX New Zealand. Of course I was dying to go to New Zealand. But they wanted me to give a new talk, and the very thought makes me sweat. What new things might I have to say about UX? Do I even do UX anymore?

    After all, these days I spend my time putting out books and putting on conferences. Web sites and apps? Not so much. I’m not even sure I know the difference between a breakpoint and a touchpoint. So who am I to talk to UX practitioners about UX? 25+ years in the field, yet here I was, suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.

    Many false starts, meltdowns, and 4am Keynote sessions later, I finally had a breakthrough. It’s not that I don’t do UX anymore. It’s that UX applies to way more than apps and web sites. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade doing extensive UX work on traditional products, like books, and physical experiences, like conferences. So that’s exactly what I covered in my UXNZ keynote. Books and conferences are experiential, so yep: the work still counts as UX.

    D’uh. I guess it’s one of those oh-so-obvious observations that aren’t so obvious when they pertain to you.

    But it is a liberating feeling. And it’s renewed my excitement about UX, because:where doesn’t UX apply?

    Conferences offer almost unlimited opportunities to UX the hell out of stuff. With our last virtual conference—Product Management + User Experience—we found that basing our program on user research was immensely valuable, helping us select both speakers and topics. And many of you agreed; there was a strong correlation between your participation in program planning and your desire to actually attend the event.

    So we’re doing it again with our next virtual conference—Design Research for Everyone, which is slated for some time this fall. Here’s our question: What do people who aren’t UX practitioners need to learn about design research?

    Please help us do our user research by letting us know who should speak and on which topics—and sharing this with others who might be interested.

    What odd contexts are you finding ripe for UX? Please comment below; I’d love to hear your stories of UX in non-traditional places.

    4 Responses to “UX in all the Odd Places”

    1. Hi! I’m a content strategist & Certified Usability & User Experience Analyst (CUA, CXA). I created a blog to educate consumers and companies about UX, CX, usability, and content strategy: UseABull.org.

      Like you, I revel in applying UX thinking to every area of my life. I’ve written about the UX of everything from Facebook privacy violations to candy signs at Walgreen’s.

      I’m about to release a series of articles on the UX of the job applicant process and Careers sites. Companies save their worst UX for job applicants and vendors. That’s not omnichannel thinking, yet job applicants may also be customers.

      Some job applicants report advanced interviews without ever receiving so much as an automated email to let them know they weren’t selected for the position. People are left hanging without closure.

      I’d welcome a chance to collaborate with you!


    2. Louis Rosenfeld

      Lisanne, I feel your pain! For example, as a publisher, we have huge headaches dealing with Amazon–as good as the customer-facing experience is, the publisher-facing one is pretty terrible.

      And job applicants? I feel their pain. We make a point of getting back to every applicant about the status of their applications. I’m not sure how employers got in the habit of treating people in this context like crap, but I know that it creates an opportunity for us: even when we say ‘no’ to applicants, many are genuinely grateful that we kept them in the loop. And I have to think that many will think highly of us in the future.

      You never know when good karma will strike, after all…


    3. I do love your candid writing style Louis.

      I missed your keynote in NZ, and while you were in my country speaking, I was in NY and SF speaking at US audiences about visualising design research, using a hospital in-patient experience project as an example.

      I too have taken UX principles away from the digital and into the world of physical products, environments and experiences, in fact, 6-7 years ago after waking up to the truism ‘you get more of the type of work you talk about’, I stopped talking about my design research projects which were squarely digital.

      …Since then I’ve worked on Hospital wards, Home brew equipment maybe even some others beginning with H.

      Recently, I worked in corrections facilities interviewing offenders. I wrote about the experience:


      Good luck for your next virtual conference. It’s such a great initiative and I hope to join if the timings line up.



    4. What about the experience of citizen, building common(s) good ?
      the experience of a student, growing his skill set with pairs ?
      the experience migrants, building their marker in a new land ?
      the experience of farmers, far from public services ?

      UX is everywhere, and the new fields are now open without borders. Well, there are some fences.
      How do people trusted you when your job consists on designing values, when you challenge other experts, when you transform people habits ?


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