How to keep UX design from becoming a commodity exercise

A couple of interesting perspectives on user experience (UX) design recently emerged across the industry blogosphere, coming to different conclusions. One UX design advocate suggests UX design capabilities make the difference in the competitive marketplace. At the same time, another advocate suggests the time has passed when design was embraced for design’s sake, and that it needs to start showing its value to the business.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

In a recent post, Kolby McElvain suggests that a “designer needs to be your first hire.” Her remarks are directed at startups, but her points make sense across organizations of all sizes and ages. “Having a designer by your side as soon as possible will increase your business’s chances for success and make a profound impact across your brand and culture, presentation of ideas, and product experience.”

At the same time, Jonathan Courtney penned an article suggesting the “golden age of UX is over.” He says this golden age lasted between 2010 and 2017 — “we were the UX designers and we alone understood the user,” he says. Now, he adds, “high-quality UX and UI design are commodities. An easy-to-use, delightful product experience isn’t just something users want, it’s what they expect.”

For her part, McElvain suggests superior UX design still makes for competitive differentiation for enterprises, based on the following points:

UX design affects brand and culture. “Design thinking and research can help you craft your company’s story by using methods that take a 30,000-foot view of everything and allow you to align project work with the company mission and drive company culture,” says McElvain. “A designer can play a critical role in the planning of your strategic decisions and culture building while also helping to execute on the higher-level work.”

UX design shapes the presentation of ideas.“You may not be the only company out there doing what you do, so allow design to elevate your company ideas and catch your potential client’s attention. Design can help by taking a holistic, human-centered approach to understanding to the customer journey and how the information is presented to them.”

UX design affects the product experience. “People want user-devoted, frictionless experiences in their interactions with technology, and design plays a huge role in making sure your…

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