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Fall in Love with UX: The trajectory, maturity, and a little bit of criticism of our field

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Tina Ličková Tina Ličková
•  27.09.2023
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Darren Hood is a highly accomplished UX design expert with nearly three decades of experience and a deep commitment to excellence in user experience and design operations.

Episode highlights

00:01:22 From 28.8 Baud Modems to UX
00:12:14 The Impact of Misinformation
00:24:11 The Consequences of Layoffs on the UX Landscape
00:31:50 Educational Institutions and UX Maturity
00:46:06 Influence of UX on Business Outcomes
00:54:12 Stay Informed on Darren Hood’s Insights

About our guest Darren Hood

Darren Hood is a highly experienced UX design professional with nearly three decades of expertise. He has optimized operations and advanced UX maturity for Fortune 50 companies and boasts proficiency in usability, UX research, information architecture, and more. Darren mentors and educates through adjunct professor roles at esteemed institutions, hosts “The World of UX” podcast, and contributed to “97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know” (O’Reilly). With 27+ years in human-computer interaction, he excels in research, interface design, and lean/agile methodologies. Darren’s commitment to excellence is evident in his contributions to over 100 websites, mobile apps, and software applications. For more information about his work, please visit his LinkedIn profile or explore his personal website.

Podcast transcript

[00:00:00] Tina Ličková: 

Welcome to UX Research Geeks, where we geek out with researchers from all around the world on topics they are passionate about. 

I’m your host Tina Ličková, a researcher and a strategist, and this podcast is brought to you by UXtweak, an all-in-one UX research tool.

This is the 15th episode of Geeks, speaking to Darren, who is a longtime UX practitioner. An experienced design manager, professor, educator, PhD candidate, conference speaker, podcaster, and an author was simply a blast. I highly value Darren’s reflection on our field, looking at it as not something static, but from a dynamic perspective.

His insights on where we are, where we are heading and how mature our discipline is. Also show how he loves UX and what he does. So tune in and fall, maybe back in love with user experience as a graph and as a calling.

Hello, Darren.

[00:01:14] Darren Hood: Hey, hey, Tina. How are you? Thanks for having me.

[00:01:17] Tina Ličková: How are you?

[00:01:18] Darren Hood: Fantastic. Fantastic. Excited to be here.

[00:01:22] Tina Ličková: Oh, thank you. I’m happy to be here. We talked that you have multiple versions of introducing yourself there. And who are you? What do you do? How do you do it? Tell us. All right, here we go.

Here’s the full fledged introduction to Darren Hood. So everybody knows my name. I am what a lot of people like to refer to as an OG when it comes to UX. I have been doing related work, various design. Since 1995, that’s as far back as I go back with my credit. My professional experience actually extends well beyond that.

A little older than I look, nobody knows how old I am, but I only give credit to doing experience design related work back to 95 because that’s when I was doing some, there was a nonprofit that needed some help, everybody was running to the internet. About 1995. And I thought I was always a techie guy.

And I thought that I knew enough to help this nonprofit establish a presence on the internet. I had a 28. 8 baud modem. I had a 25 megabyte hard drive. I can help out. That was a big deal in 1995. But I dove in and here’s the part that I did not use to give myself credit. For having experience back to that time, I always look back at my full time UX work, which only dates back to 2005, 10 years later.

But I was, when I started working on this website, I went out and I interviewed people. I did all the things that we do today. I did some research to come up with how to best structure the navigation. I, I did guerrilla testing to make sure that findability was optimized and that the interface was going to be intuitive.

I didn’t call it anything that I called it today, but I just went out and did the work. And I was an instructional designer about that time. Actually, I was a desktop support person or I’m sorry, instructional designer. In 1995, during the day, I was actually working as a customer service person. I was working in customer service.

I was doing a little bit of web design. At work, which is one of the reasons why I thought I could do it for the nonprofit. But it was, I just fell in love what I was doing and it sort of lit a fire under me, but I didn’t know that it was possible to do this type of thing during the day. So I just stuck around with my customer service work and everything seemed to be fine.

And then fast forward a couple of years, I moved into instructional design or training, which really became my first love. So to speak, even though I was doing a little bit of UX work and yes, that work that I did for that nonprofit did turn into a freelance web design business. I started doing that in the evenings, but during the day in 97, it became instructional design training, things of that nature, you fast forward a little bit from there in the evening, I’m still doing all this web design and what I now know to be UX work, but instructional design was taking up my time during the day.

And I thought that was the direction I was going to go. After doing more and more UX related work during my day job, just not doing it full-time and reassessing who I was, I said, you know what? I think this is what I’m gonna, what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna forego getting my master’s from Boise State in instructional design, which was my plan round about 2005 or so.

’cause I was just about to wrap up my bachelor’s in IT actually about that time. But I’m thinking, I love this. I love all of this. Information architecture, which by then I knew what that was. I love all of this research that I’m doing. I love all the interaction design that I’m doing. And I think I’m going to forget, forget the instructional design.

I’m going to mortgage my future and I’m going to go in this direction. And I applied for a job. My first full time job I applied for in information architecture, didn’t get the job, but it made me think how well did I market myself? What did I, where did I fall short? What did I, where did I hit the nail on the head?

Where did I fail to represent myself properly and show them that I could bring value. And it was with a creative agency. It was with a very large creative agency in Detroit that was doing work on for Ford Motor Company. But when I went back and I looked at what I could do to better represent myself, I applied for another job and I got it.

So the second full time UX related job that I applied for with a major bank. In metropolitan Detroit. I got it. And I’m like, yeah, I did the work. I started doing the work. I fell in love even more. And so long story short, from an introduction perspective, I ended up getting, I got that bachelor’s in IT. I ended up getting two UX related master’s degrees, personally, because I love education, probably because I was being stupid.

I still kick myself for having done that. Every time I see my student loan balance, it reminds me. But I ended up just two degrees, one from Syracuse, one from Kent State University, where I now serve as a, as an adjunct professor, one of the five universities that I teach at. Actually, now I just fell in love.

I loved it. I still love it today, which is why I do the things that I do on social media, which is why I do the things I do hosting the UX chitchat hour, which is why I, of my own expense, produce my podcast, which from what I understand of what I’m told still, I have the number one or number two ranked podcasts in the Michigan State University, a CXFM radio network and half of my listenership is outside of the country. I am the only person in the network that, that has that claim. So for me, I love doing UX. I’ve got 27 years going on 28 years of experience now to UX related master’s degrees, I’m currently a doctoral candidate getting my PhD in educational leadership.

And I teach at Kent state. I teach, I have taught for Harrisburg university. I no longer teach there. I teach at UCLA. I’m about to start teaching at Trine university. I teach at Lawrence tech university. I’m on tap to become a professor in the masters of CX program at Michigan state university. And it’s not about.

Do you get paid for those things? Yeah, but it’s not that about that. I’d lead a workshop, UX related workshops for a grand circus in Detroit and grand Rapids, Michigan. But I do these things because of my passion for it. I have a, a following on LinkedIn of over 20, 000 people. And I have, according to an app, an application called metrical, I have a social media reach through second level connections.

In addition to my own, a social media reach of 15 to 16 million. And I, I don’t do these things to be an influencer. I do these things to help. I don’t do these things to make a name for myself. I do these things to help other people make a name for themselves within the discipline so that they can build a career.

It’s not about me. It’s about the discipline UX is greater. And that’s where my focus is. So that’s my. Long winded introduction.

First of all, it sounds like a busy man. Yes.

[00:08:39] Darren Hood: Then I am.

[00:08:40] Tina Ličková: Second of all, I’m really interested because it’s, yes, you do something out of your passion, but you also help people in the UX field, which place is it coming from in you to help and to

[00:08:55] Darren Hood: educate.

You know, that’s a great question. And I have had somebody asked me that before the, the answer may be a little bit shocking to some or unexpected. I just been like this my entire life. I was always the kid. I was the one I’m of African American descent. I’m actually part Sioux and part Cherokee as well.

But I was part indigenous and it was heavy on my, on both sides, my, my mom and my dad’s side of the family. But I was always the person who supplied. So when I grew up behind Olympia Stadium in Detroit, which is where the Red Wings played and I was a safety boy. And so they would all the safety patrol to be who helped the kids cross the street when they’re going to school.

I was part of that was part of it. I learned to serve. I’ve been reading since I was two. My mother tried to teach me four or five languages. I didn’t pan out. But, but she’s always trying to motivate me to learn, but for some reason, it was always about doing for and helping others. It was always that way for me.

So whether it was being a safety patrol boy, they would take us to the Red Wing games reason I brought that up. And so I got into hockey when I was like eight years old, eight, nine years old. I fell in love with hockey. My mother had a checklist of hockey and boyfriend. He saw to it that I loved hockey.

And so the kids on the street would play. People would actually line the streets. Sometimes when they were going, they would park on our street to avoid parking, paying the parking at Olympia stadium. And you see all, it was a Marvel anomaly to see a bunch of young black kids in the seventies playing hockey in the street.

But I supplied all the equipment. I had the pumps, I had the nets and we would bring the nets into the street and we’d play a car and you pick it up the net and you run it and you leave and you come back. Okay. Put it back down. Car. You moved it and you come and you play. And they were just amazed. We would play on roller skates or we would run.

And I think it was just, I never, nobody ever brought this up again. I know that we were a novelty, but it was just help, help, always help this all the way through from the time that I was a little guy all the way up until now. So it’s always been, I’ve always had a heart. I just always wanted to help further people along and further causes.

Along and that was just it. So again, it’s never been about me. It wasn’t about me then. And it’s not about me now. Never has been, never will be. I think that

[00:11:19] Tina Ličková: word serving, what do you mention also having a customer service job, which people probably don’t get the link, but I think it’s very related. And remember my student jobs were in restaurants where I was learning about customers, how we serve things, not only food, urban experience.

So I get that a lot.

We are in the beginning of the year and you were also mentioning that you were going through some state of research reports, you were mentioning it pretty nicely as a, or naming it as a trajectory of UX. I like the term trajectory because. Yeah, as the dynamic in it, bringing motion into the discipline, where are we going in your

[00:12:14] Darren Hood: opinion?

Yeah. UX in 2011, I had stated that, and this is now me working in UX full time for six years by that time. And mind you, I didn’t speak and I wasn’t on anybody’s radar prior to 2012. I was quiet, completely quiet, silent and, but I’d been observing the discipline. Observing how the UX positions used to be for the most part resided within the creative agency world.

And so back then UX maturity levels, you didn’t have to have a, nobody was paying attention to UX for the most part was paying attention to UX maturity levels inside of corporations. And when you look back, I look back on it sitting here. Now, there were some agencies, some creative agencies where UX struggle because people would fight with them.

The standard kind of thing that you see a lot now, but in most agencies. Everybody would, if you were at an agency, everybody stayed in their lane. The UXers were here, the developers were here, the, the creative directors and the people doing all the visual design were here, the QA people. Everybody had their lane and everybody respected their lane.

They respected each other’s lane and it was great. And so it really caused the work to come together. In a very strong, efficient and beneficial way in 2011, after Forbes and other places started producing these articles, talking about how UX is the place to be. It’s an up and coming discipline and here’s the salary reports.

And this is what they make. And yeah, you got to do this. And on top of that research and IBM and NASA did about the ROI of UX for every dollar you invest, you get X in return, the corporations started to get wind of that and they wanted their piece of that ROI pie. Okay. What they didn’t do was get educated about UX.

So all of the things that I just mentioned, the creative agencies used to run the show, but now that the corporations want to get involved. So they want to start hiring people. They want to stop depending on the agencies and start bringing some of this work in house, but they didn’t get educated at the same time.

So now we have this explosion, something that some of us refer to as the UX gold rush. Where now you have this, these massive numbers of people who want to be in UX. They don’t understand UX either. They just know how much money they can make. So they want to be in it, but they don’t understand it. The organizations don’t understand it, but you’ve got.

More positions than you have qualified people enter the bootcamps, the UX bootcamps, they launched in 2011, 2012, because a lot of people didn’t want to get a degree and then there weren’t very many degree programs anyway. So how do we get into UX? They say there’s a lot of positions. How do we get into UX?

Nobody really had concrete answers. So you have this boom. And that’s when I started saying UX is under siege. And the reason I said that is because I started to see the same things I saw in instructional design, which is part of the reason I decided to leave and go into UX was that, excuse me, was that in instructional design, there became all of a sudden, organizations didn’t understand instructional design.

They didn’t understand the science of building a learning experience. They didn’t understand that. They just knew they had trainers. Eventually skilled instructional designers got displaced by people who would just create a PowerPoint and read it. And they didn’t, and that was, they call it that training.

And so to keep that part more condensed, there were, you started to notice this a lot. Real instructional designers got pushed out and then long story short, instructional design became, to this day, instructional design has become a shell of its former self. But I saw a lot of these dynamics, I watched it happen.

I wasn’t invested. I didn’t think I had the ability to stand up for what I saw happening and speak against it and try to point everybody to the North star of instructional design. I didn’t feel like I was in a place to do that. I didn’t have a degree. I didn’t have enough experience. I didn’t have any of those things.

When I came into UX and I started witnessing the same dynamics starting to take shape. Inexperienced people coming in, taking over the jobs, chasing after the money companies, not wanting to pay people what they were paying the more skilled UX people, trying to come up with ways to circumvent and short circuit the salary structures and these different types of things are going on.

I started seeing all these things. And I’m going, we’re under siege. People are starting to, the bootcamp grads started coming in. They went for six months and they come in, they don’t really know anything. They’re not really qualified. The bootcamps aren’t telling people that you’re not really qualified because if they do, then they don’t have a value prop.

They’re not going to make money. All they want to do is go home and make snow angels in the living room with all the checks they got from everybody. They don’t really care. About whether or not somebody is really qualified. So you have this massive number of people. Oh, I forgot one people who wanted a UX job so bad, they were willing to falsify their credentials and their qualifications to get a UX job.

That was part of the siege because I, and I used to, as a manager, I started seeing these people, a stack of 300 resumes and only five people are qualified. Literally, I was starting to experience these things firsthand. So the trajectory, all of those things, we went from the gold rust to the wild west of UX, where now UX is not what it was in 2007.

It’s being misrepresented. Misinformation. There was no misinformation prior to 2011. Now it’s everywhere. And so our trajectory, which used to be on an upward trajectory where we were getting stronger, we were getting better, we were becoming more stable. Now you, you can bring together 10 people who say that they do UX at a company to sit and have a conversation, and you have absolutely no idea what direction that conversation is gonna go because these 10 people, one says they’re a senior, but when you look at their LinkedIn profile, they only have two years of experience.

You see another person who’s the head of UX and then, but they were transitioned in from another department. I know about, I tell a story about one company who actually, a big company who used to be what some of us call UX Evan brought in an actual architect to head up their UX team, not an information architect, not a UX architect, a building architect.

To held up their UX team and their UX suffered. And I didn’t know that it happened. I just know that I start all of a sudden start hating using their products. And it was because this unqualified person was overseeing. The wellbeing of the user experience, the UX maturity in that organization. And it went, they backslid, they went into what some of us call it.

And what one of my former professors called UX backsliding. So here’s our trajectory. We’re in a whirlwind. We’re in a, we’re in a whirlpool now, instead of being on an upward trajectory where we’re getting better, stronger, more stable, we’re really on shaky ground. I frequently have referred to UX as being currently in a downward spiral.

Is it recoverable? Yes. Is it going to take all of us? Actually, no. It’s going to take most of us. And if we will start defining UX accurately, which we currently, as a people, as a group, as a discipline, we’re not. If we will start understanding that gatekeeping is actually good, and that is why other disciplines are at the point of maturity.

And whatever discipline that is, and no matter how great or small it is, it’s not until you embrace gatekeeping that you have standards to measure yourself by until we do that. And if we do start doing that, it could, we could, it could indeed happen. It could be another 10 or 15 years though, before the dust settles.

And I’m just mentioning a few of the things that we need to do. We can’t fight against when I came into the discipline and I learned about Susan Weinshank, when I learned about Jesse James Garrett, when I learned about Alan Cooper. When I learned about Kelly Goto, somebody, a lot of people don’t even know about Kelly Goto, Nathan Shedroff.

I said, these people know a lot. They bring a lot to the table. I’m going to sit here, shut up and listen today. Somebody has literally has three weeks of experience. It doesn’t even qualify as experience. Truth be told, we’re being nice when we call it experience. They’re on out producing, presenting themselves and selling themselves as mentors.

Is that a mentor?

[00:20:49] Tina Ličková: Looking at the advertising or any digital business, I would say it’s the Z that you see in a lot of fields. Yeah. People are selling themselves as seniors and they don’t. They might have some professional experience or craft experience. They are not mature.

[00:21:08] Darren Hood: They’re not. And the reason why that’s such a big problem to us, it’s a problem to any discipline.

The reason why it’s so critical and why I’m so loud about it is because this is a discipline that is roughly 20 years old. Roughly. It wasn’t until the late 90s that then was information architecture. Interaction design began to get broad acceptance. Whether it was in an creative agency or somebody who was willing to pay for somebody to do things and famously Rosenfeld Moorville the work that they did for Amazon in the late 80s Or I’m sorry the late 90s the work that they did right around the time that the dot com bust happened That’s why Amazon is here and borders and Barnes and Noble are like a memory It was borders Amazon and Barnes and Noble and you could go to any one of them and buy books Well, what did Amazon do?

They made sure that findability on their site was optimal. Haven’t really changed much since then. Truth be told either is go to the search engine, search for some, buy it, sell it, shows up at your door. You’re happy. They’re happy. They’re rich. We’ve got what we wanted, but what happened to borders? What happened to Barnes and Noble?

They didn’t have the vision, so it was partially due to business vision. But at the core of that was their commitment to information architecture. At the core of that was their investment. In UX, when I say 20 years, approximately 20 years, that’s when things started. It’s really more like 25 years when it started to come to the mainstream.

But we are so young still as a discipline, we can’t afford shysters. We can’t afford snake oil salespeople because that’s why misinformation has such tremendous, tremendously detrimental impact on the discipline because of our youth. Because we haven’t been around that long. If somebody start at matter of fact, because gatekeeping is, and some people don’t like it when you bring up examples like accounting, because of accounting has been around a lot.

County hasn’t been around as long as people think, not in a way that people think, because it wasn’t until the early 1900s in the United States. That accounting became more commonplace and the CPA practice. It was late 1800s, early 1900s that I can’t remember. I talked about it on my podcast where accounting practices were the gatekeeping was instituted that helped ensure that the people who come into your job know what they’re doing.

And if you hired a person that didn’t know what they were doing with accounting, your business was going to pay the price. And even though that’s accounting, doesn’t that sound familiar? If you hire unqualified UX people, people who don’t know what they’re doing, people who are faking it till you make it, which is popular in UX today, uh, people who are more interested in claiming that they’re imposters, that they have imposter syndrome.

Instead of laboring to make themselves, this is where we are. We can’t afford this.

[00:24:11] Tina Ličková: I don’t want to be negative, but I hear a lot about the imposter syndrome, especially in our field. And I feel, yeah, a lot of people are actually not self reflected enough. It might not be your surroundings, but maybe you have to change also something.

What is really interesting for me, if you’re mentioning also the short history, the trajectory, now we are heading into a year which economically is not going to be the best one. We know already about it. We just know how bad is it going to be. Where do you think we are when it comes to. Trajectory right now, people are scared.

Also, people are losing jobs. So I get it really capitalistic view will be like, yeah, it will clean up the market a little bit. But those are also humans. So I’m like, yeah. Where would you say, is it heading in the next year or two?

[00:25:03] Darren Hood: This is something I’ve talked to my students a lot about. I actually, before the layoffs started in a lot of UX circles, there was one company, nameless company.

That had a UX team of over 900 people. As soon as I heard they had 900 people, I just started shaking my head. You don’t need 900 UX people. And that is to me, taking my, what I’ve seen observed, not just my 20 some odd years in UX, but my 40 plus years in corporate America. I know that something’s wrong and that eventually, and I told my students once I said, you can mark my words in the not too distant future.

You’re going to start to see them start to cut. They’re going to start to make a headcount because somebody is going to find out. We didn’t need all these people. Somebody is going to find out our hiring process processes were dysfunctional and we’re paying the price in the tunes of tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly on salaries that we shouldn’t even be paying, especially when you look at what we’re getting out of it from a work perspective, it was Tina, it was two weeks, two weeks after, two weeks after I made that statement.

That company cut a third of their UX team, a third. So when I say that in answering your question, there’s layoffs and downsizing and reorgs, that’s just business. It’s going to happen. It’s always going to be a thing. We hate it when it happens to us. We hate it when it happens to somebody we know, that’s just life.

What we, where we need to be, cause we can only control one thing and that’s how we respond to it and how we prepare for it. And we have to make sure that we’re qualified. We have to make sure that we bring value. We have to make sure that tapping back into a metaphor that I mentioned earlier about surfing.

I use that a bit and it’s that it’s, it’s that wave that you can’t control, but you can ride with it. And that’s what we need to do. And we do that by being qualified. We do it by keeping our head up, not being toxic, toxically positive. But by making sure to focus in a way that we choose to be in control as much as we can of the things we can control.

And so when we make sure we’re qualified, we put ourselves in a good position. I also encourage people, don’t be, when the time comes to finding a job, don’t be so enamored with the company. Don’t have on the rose colored glasses to the point where. You ignore things you should be paying attention to if they’re now, if the company is showing you signs that they don’t know how to hire, you need to remember that when you’re going through the interview process, they have an inordinately high number of people on their team.

You don’t want to become a victim. When you go into a company that has a poor UX maturity level that has poor UX leadership, the chances of that happening to you are higher. And frankly, without mentioning any company names, a lot of the companies who have been said that they’re laying off ’cause people are doing tech layoffs everywhere.

But specifically when it comes to ux, the companies that laid off UX teams, their UX maturity levels, two things were very low. Which means that hiring is bad. Contrary to popular belief, UX material level affects more than the work. It affects hiring. It affects team camaraderie. It affects a whole lot of things.

And a lot, the second thing is a lot of companies like to make everybody think that they got it together, but it comes to UX and they don’t. And you can’t know that until you get your own personal UX material level up high enough to see it. Because a lot of the big name companies, they are not what they claim to be.

That was a big company that laid off a third of their UX team. They have a big podcast. They try to, they have a design system. Oh, they’re great. I would love to work with them. You hear their name and you just go, Oh, so you mentioned the company’s name. They lose all sense of reality. And actually they’re terrible when it comes to UX, take, think of any companies, any big name company that you deal with and look at the user experience you have, and that tells you something and people don’t want to face this because one of the, Oh, maybe I can get hired there.

I mentioned that I will throw their name out there that they have a name. Oh, proverb says they have the name that they’re living, but they’re dead when it comes to UX. Do you have a bad user experience when you use Facebook? Yeah, you do. I don’t even have to, I only have to do any research on that. It’s a terrible user experience.

How in the world did Instagram just decide that you might want to upload some photos or some content from a desktop? They just did that last year. After all of these years, you have to go around the system to use a third party product to upload via your, or what I would do what I was doing. Cause I have three accounts on Instagram.

I have to go into my browser, turn on inspect mode. So that my browser would behave like a mobile phone and then I could access those features. That’s how I got around it. But now you can today.

[00:30:35] Tina Ličková: How you gave me a reason why I left social media.

[00:30:40] Darren Hood: So it’s a nightmare. It can be, I’ve been out there. I’ve been on social media since 2007.

That’s when I first joined it. And that’s one of the reasons that I have so many people that I’m connected to and such, and why my reach is so broad. But these companies, the user experiences that they are producing, tell you how much the company is buying in, how high their UX maturity actually is. It’s telling you about the skill levels, either the skill levels and, or how well those skill levels are respected, which gets back to UX maturity level.

Because if a company doesn’t respect their UX professionals, then that means that the UX maturity level is lower. It’s not just about the skill. It’s about the way that they’re able to operate.

[00:31:26] Tina Ličková: Let’s hold there because one of the point was what I find super interesting, and that’s maybe a message also for the more junior people listening to us that there are UX department, which are big, which are great, maybe also doing good work, but they might be also self absorbed by themselves.

[00:31:49] Darren Hood: Yes.

[00:31:50] Tina Ličková: What I hear you saying and rings a bell light bulb is just going on in my head because yes. They’re have all the fancy stuff, but they are not, and this brings me to the beginning of our discussion. They’re not really serving the business. But what I really like, because you probably have the same need for structuring things.

I don’t want to say OCD because that’s a real thing, but you pointed out four important facets in our kickoff when it comes to UX maturity. And this, because we were now speaking about UX maturity. On a broader business level of the field, but those four facets, if I understand right, you put into like more on a company perspective, and if you could enlighten me about that, because I found it super interesting.

[00:32:39] Darren Hood: Yes, there is, of course, the company UX maturity, you have your corporate UX maturity. And really when you see the Nielsen Norman Group UX maturity, when you see all the different models out there, that’s all we’re speaking to. And that is one of the reasons why on top of the fact that it is ignored, UX maturity is usually ignored unless they have a quick conversation and it’s forgotten as quick as the conversation came up, it has to be managed.

If nobody is consciously and deliberately taking efforts to manage an organization’s UX maturity level, it is managing itself. And that can only take you, but we’re back to trajectories again, because there’s global UX trajectory, then it pairs down to what we’re, of the things we’re about to mention. So you have corporation, organization, or corporation slash organizational.

Then there’s the other three personal UX maturity. There’s a UX maturity that each one of us has. Look at any UX maturity model, and it should be broken down the same at a personal level. And that doesn’t, that does not just apply to the individual practitioner, it applies to everyone. When I was managing, I was responsible for managing UX maturity at Bosch, at the division that I worked for.

I assigned UX maturity levels to projects. Well, to the organization, our division, I should say to our division, I couldn’t control the other. So our division to prod individual projects, I even assigned it to individual stakeholders. I assigned a UX material level because that helped me understand how to interact.

With those individuals, how did I have to engage with them? What type of, what did I have to do to make sure that any artifacts I produced for them would be optimized? Cause we don’t, a lot of you actually don’t even think that your deliverables have to have a good UX. Your deliverables will have a good UX.

Isn’t that ironic when it doesn’t, how contradicting is that? So I broke it down that way. So that’s where you have the personal UX maturity level, me as a practitioner, but then it also extends outside of that. There is also, we never think about how UX maturity applies to institutions outside of the one that you work in, or one that might be maybe a competitor.

And it has to do, one of the four that I like to specify has to do with. The world of education, there is an UX maturity levels at every institution of learning, whether it’s higher learning or otherwise. So it’s not limited to universities, any learning institution has, it has a responsibility to be aware of and managed or UX maturity level.

If they do, they’ll roll out useful, beneficial and desirable learning experiences are going to be an asset to the discipline at large. If they take it for granted, if they don’t realize this, and most, I would venture to say, if I did a survey, I would venture to say that less than 2 percent of institutions that offer learning experiences associated with UX, whether it’s HCI, interaction design, users, UCD, whatever it is.

Less than 2 percent really are aware of how they impact the discipline at large. And I was going to say, most of them, the ones I talked to, they don’t even care about at all. Okay. Which is why a lot of educational programs. Do not provide what people need. I have seen one, just to mention an example of one, that doesn’t get it.

There’s one institution, also I will leave nameless, if you go to their page and look at their masters, their UX masters program, and of course every institution tries to sell you on their site why you should consider their program. And they should do that, but you can actually see examples of how the UX maturity level is non existent because in this one institution, they said that, and this is literally, this is a paraphrase quote from their site.

If you want to succeed in UX, you must be a unicorn. They literally said that this is for a masters of UX in the United States. You’re telling people that they need to be a unicorn or else. And of course they have the solution where you can become the unicorn if you come to their program, but that’s not even remotely true.

So that’s pretty sad. But when you have the institutions will not Excel, if they don’t have people who know about UX working in their programs to help keep the ship straight and a lot of them don’t, a lot of the programs are headed up by academics who have never practiced in the field who don’t practice in the field.

Who don’t have an interest in practicing in the field. And so because of that, because they don’t have, these are academics. They know that the only way to optimize what you’re doing with any topic is to bring in subject matter experts to help drive the work. And then when it comes to UX, they’re not doing it.

So there’s no way that they’re going to be able to achieve it. And when you have shrinking numbers of UX programs and higher learning in particular, that makes matters even worse. So we’re again, we’re roughly a 20 to 25 year old. Discipline that has continued to have educational problems throughout that entire 25 years.

And you still find very few. There are, I actually looked it up once. You can do a search on the internet and look for higher learning, specifically higher, how many higher institutions of higher learning have programs that are UX related and the count came in at less than 150, I seried. We always say we Google something.

I seried the number of universities in the United States and the number from, oh, see a series already thought I was talking to it, but it said something in the vicinity of 6 500, approximately 6 500 institutions. In the country.

[00:38:55] Tina Ličková: Listening to this from Europe, where in some parts or the parts where I come from, I don’t think my, my hometown university has a human interaction.

I think there is one.

[00:39:09] Darren Hood: And that’s something less than 150 of those 6 500 in 2023.

[00:39:16] Tina Ličková: That’s not the best ratio.

[00:39:19] Darren Hood: That is terrible, which leads me to number four. Number four, there is, and nobody talks about this, and this is something that we can only talk about. And it’ll vary from person to reception will vary from person to person, but there is a discipline wide explanatory level, which gets back to trajectory.

Again, what are we all doing? And that’s why I tell people all the time, whether we know each other or not, just talk for the first time recently, whether we know each other or not personally, whether we’ve encountered each other or not, we all impact one and when people misrepresent UX. In their organizations, it affects us all and it can manifest itself is something as simple as a person who someone who I’m connected to a person walked in a leader walked in one day they thought when they left for work on Tuesday or so everything was wonderful when they walked in on Wednesday, they were all set home.

A leader who hated UX came in and canned the entire UX operation in one fell swoop in one day, and he hates UX. Now, nobody who understands UX can hate it. So that lets you know that somebody somewhere got to this guy and they planted a seed that UX is a complete waste. And he drank that Kool Aid and then it festered and it festered and it festered.

And so. Some impression that somebody made somewhere. It could be because they had a person at their company that was thinking it till they made it. It could be because somebody was trying to sell design thinking and design thinking has 50 different flavors too. So that’s not helping anybody. There didn’t some design thinking is actually UX.

That somebody just decided to call design thinking, isn’t that weird? We don’t need another name. Just do the work. But that person came in and asked the entire, and this is not a small company. They asked their entire UX operation. I was told because the guy hated UX and that because somebody didn’t represent the discipline the right way and nobody ever countered it or caused things to go in the opposite direction.

Does that, that’s. Discipline, why UX maturity, how are, and we all impact it. I’m trying to do my part and, but everybody’s pulling in a different direction pretty much, or we’re pulling in multiple directions, not necessarily different directions, but we’re all pulling in multiple directions and the accounting discipline did it.

The legal discipline did it. The car wash world did it for God’s sake. The every discipline recognizes what constitutes best practice. And if they want, if they survive, it’s because they got things right. Now, the laser disc people never accomplished that. If you get my drift, some people don’t even know what a laser disc is, but they never, they never reached a level where gatekeeping.

Was an acceptable laser disc. It was like, we have CDs, like we have CDs and people still have CD players, but a CD, think of a laser disc as a, something that preceded CDs by about 30 years, but it was just for movies. And it preceded the DVD laser disc proceed, literally preceded the DVD DVDs became, but not now.

Cause everybody’s streaming everything, but there was a day where laser disc, they were big as an album as a big old. And then, later on, they came back with the DVDs were the same size as a CD, and then we accepted it for a few years for about 10, 12, 15 years or so, and DVDs didn’t have an acceptability.

They didn’t have adoption until certain things were streamlined. And so it’s the same concept. It’s the same concept. And we are pulling in multiple directions right now. I don’t think UX is gonna die, but I do think that UX will continue to suffer because of things like there was a person on Medium, a Medium article I saw a week ago, and they said, don’t buy into the hype of being a UX generalist.

And I just laughed because everybody was a generalist prior to 2011. Specializations didn’t come around until 2011, 2012, about the same time that history I gave earlier. That’s what happened. So all this crazy stuff happened between 2011, 2014. None of it was good for the discipline and the launch of some person have this grand idea that specializations will be good for the discipline.

But the truth is that you have to hire five people to do what I can do by myself. And that’s how these UX teams end up having over 900 people because you need, I can’t, I can’t do that because I’m doing research. So now I got to bring a designer and a researcher, but a generalist used to, we used to do both.

We did all the things though. Then again, UX writers, UX writing came up because people began ignoring information architecture and content strategy in that same time period. Actually, even after that, but I was doing what these people call UX writing. I was doing that in 1997. I was taught to do that as an instructional designer.

So I would check for the grade level of the copy that’s on the website to make sure that it matches what our target audience is and things of that nature. But there’s not enough UX writing work for anybody to do for 40 hours. And the same for a lot of other specializations, but you can wrap that all up into a generalist.

Especially with the UX writing, I would allow myself to disagree, but I would say it’s a person that is a content writer who should be generous enough to write UX. And

they get more value. Think about it. I can do content strategy, information, architecture, research, and mind you research, that’s 20 different research methods, methodologies, and things all wrapped up into that one.

I can do that. I can do interaction design. I can do heuristic analysis. I can do all the things. And because I can do all the things I’m saving you 500, 000 a year, because you don’t have to hire all these other people. And so I’m trying to sell people. You want to have more value, have more that you can do at the table.

You have two vehicles, but one can do more than the other. And the vehicle that can do more, as long as it’s affordable, is the target vehicle. And the same applies to us. I find it amazing that people want to, they want to come to UX and they want to do the absolute minimum amount of work, but they want the maximum amount of value.

And that’s just not. Logical. And we’re headed back there. There’s already reports about how companies are looking for more generalists. So the pendulum has already started to swing. The question is, will people rise to the challenge? Cause a lot, frankly, a lot of lazy people coming to UX and they don’t want to do anything.

[00:46:06] Tina Ličková: The points you are bringing. Yeah, I have to sign that. I’m thinking about that. The typical T shape, the old gold t shirt of be generalist, maybe specialize in one thing that you’re really good in, for example, for researchers. But I see that in UX research, like we became this specific and I do just this and I do just this.

We forget it. We are delivering insights to make business better, not to reach out. Although the show is called geek out. So it’s. I’m going a little bit against myself here because I know why it’s so fascinating and so much fun. It has to go back and I think this is going to be a big reality check in 2023 or 2024.

It is. I know you’re planning to write a book about UX maturity in the coming years. Why should anybody bother with UX maturity? I hope that the last hour or cut of it out of it is going to convince people, but why should anybody bother with UX maturity?

[00:47:11] Darren Hood: There’s a few reasons. One of them is a barometer.

It’s when you pay attention to UX maturity, it helps you to identify your status, and it gives you cues as to what you need to do in order to improve on that status or maintain your current status. When people don’t know, they’re just doing the work. They just come in, they work, they punch the clock, they go home, they do whatever, they come back the next day, and then it becomes this vicious cycle of just, you’re just going in circles.

With no goal, no, if you don’t, the danger is, is another benefit. When you understand and focus on UX maturity, you will have an understanding of the potential value that you bring, which puts you in a position to be able to communicate that, which you’re going to need to do, especially when you’re interacting with business leaders, stakeholders, and clients who don’t understand.

So UX maturity puts a person in a position to better manage who they are, what they are. And to be able to navigate the direction of where they’re going. But it also puts us in a really viable position of strength from a standpoint of communication, because whether we like it or not, I know some people don’t like the concept of evangelizing UX.

We still have to do it. It’s embedded in every in all the work that we do. Every project we worked on is an opportunity for education. There’s always somebody who could stand to learn more or something about UX. And so UX maturity demands that. If somebody’s not paying attention to UX maturity, I’m just going to do the work.

You need me to do it, you’re working on one. What are you doing? What do you design? Okay. Here you are. I brought some value. Have a nice day. Completely ignoring it and completely oblivious to all the missed opportunities they had for UX maturity. And here’s another reason to do it. When you are paying attention to UX maturity, we talk about layoffs earlier.

When you pay attention, you are putting yourself in a position to always be able to illustrate and again, communicate the value that your team brings. Cause when you don’t. The places where the layoffs took place guarantee you UX maturity was not at the top of the food chain and people would they would argue that with me and as I always do because I have a rule if you don’t know don’t say Microsoft is about the layoff that was in the news big layoffs coming to Microsoft.

We think that people think that Microsoft has a great UX maturity level because they write all these great user centered guidelines, things of that nature. Have you used teams recently? Microsoft is the land of MVP and somebody forgot what V stands for. Because it’s not as mature as you think it is.

And again, all you have to do is learn it and use their product to find out. Now, all those 10, 000 people or so, whatever the number was, they’re not all UX people, but it just goes to illustrate being a position. You don’t know your pulse. If you’re not managing or staying abreast of what your UX maturity is, whether it’s personal organizational, whatever it is, project, whatever it is.

You don’t know. And if you don’t know where you are, flying in the dark and we must know who we are. So UX maturity demands it, and you can control your own Talk about trajectory. Trajectory is managed through the awareness of UX maturity. If you’re going down, go up.

[00:50:29] Tina Ličková: When you’re speaking. I have the meme in front of my eyes.

From J Lo when she was at the Voice of America, the Preach one. Preach, because there were many important things said, but if I summarize for myself, and I’m summarizing because I want you, of course, to have also your adding to it. That we impact each other and we have to be careful what kind of stuff we are spreading.

Yeah. What kind of myths. Then you have to fight a client or somebody internally telling you people don’t scroll. You know that they scroll. That’s one really stupid example. With that goes the evangelizing, which I think, yeah, we still have to do it. We haven’t yet. Must. UX is not there. Yep. And I really love also the idea that sometimes we forget what the V in MVP means.

[00:51:24] Darren Hood: That we do. Yeah. That we do.

[00:51:27] Tina Ličková: Is there anything you would like to leave us with? Don’t forget or do this recommendation, suggestion, anything.

[00:51:35] Darren Hood: I’m going to make one statement and it takes everything that I just said and brings it together. Let’s take the discipline forward. Let’s take UX. Celebritism must end.

People are trying to become celebrities. It’s about discipline. Like I said, people want to, they want to do the, they want the job, but they don’t want to do the work. And the people who bring the most to the table when it comes to UX are the people that love it. So I can’t encourage people enough to fall in love with the discipline.

Find a way to find a way to fall in love with it so much that you’re doing it when you’re not at work.

[00:52:05] Tina Ličková: I think we are going to call this episode: fall in love with UX.

[00:52:09] Darren Hood: That’s it. That’s it. We got to, I’m the guy that can’t order sometimes. Cause I’m busy studying the menu. I’m the guy who’s at the end of the movie. I’m looking at the way that the closing credits are laid out and identifying the fonts.

I’m the guy who’s nerding out on a well designed wayfinding in a parking structure at an airport. Because you can’t stop. When you love it, you live it. If you don’t love it, when you leave, you check out and you’re done with it. And if that’s you, it’s not that you can’t fall in love with it. But if that’s you, when you check out at the end of the day, and you want nothing to do with UX, You don’t love the discipline yet.

If you don’t care about the trajectory, you don’t love the discipline yet. If you don’t care about people being immersed in misinformation about the discipline, you don’t love the discipline yet. If you see a speaking engagement or an event, and you see them talking about how we’re presenting to you leaders in UX, and you come to find out that the people that they just said are leaders in UX don’t have any experience and that doesn’t bother you.

You don’t love the discipline yet, because these are the things, these are the things we’re dealing with today that the C suite people see it and they come back and they hate UX, right, they lie about that, that’s not right, and then you don’t say anything about it and now they’re looking at you cross eyed too because you like that same crazy thing that they saw somewhere, that’s how that kind of stuff happens, I’ve seen it, I’ve been subjected to it, just the story I told, I’ve seen it, and when we love the discipline, if we, collectively, the more we love the discipline, The higher the discipline Y UX material level will ascend.

And we struggle today because we don’t.

[00:53:54] Tina Ličková: Where can people follow you and your wisdom?

[00:53:57] Darren Hood: Let’s see the place where most people connect with me is on LinkedIn. I actually have to take the weekends off. So if anybody ever reaches out to me on the weekend and I don’t respond, because I’m trying to stay away.

Because I get inundated all the time.

[00:54:08] Tina Ličková: Was it trouble at home, like spending too much time on social media?

[00:54:12] Darren Hood: Nah. My wife knows. She knows she’s good. She understands it. She chimes in. Sometimes you’ll see her, you’ll see Angela Hood pop in here and there. UX Uncensored. The YouTube channel has been expanding because of the podcast, and of course there’s the world of UX with Darren Hood podcast.

It automatically publishes to YouTube. So if you wanna listen on YouTube, you can do that. If you wanna connect on the world o ux.com webpage. You can connect with me there uncensored. medium. com is where my blog posts are. I’m available there. I’m Darren Hood on Twitter. There’s also the world of UX on Twitter, but that just, it just shares when an episode comes out world of UX and UX uncensored are both on Instagram.

So I’m pretty much everywhere. You are out there. Pretty much everywhere. And I do engage with people as long as they’re not trolls. I am not like people, a lot of people who do, who are familiar with me, I am completely 1 billion percent intolerant to trolls. So when people want to argue for the sake of arguing, I don’t do that.

I don’t argue at all. My wife and I’ve been married for what now? 27 years and I do not argue at all. We’ve never had an argument and I don’t argue it either. It’s true or it isn’t you want it or you don’t. And truth is preeminent and that’s all I want. So I’m committed to it.

[00:55:32] Tina Ličková: Thank you for speaking to us.

[00:55:35] Darren Hood: My pleasure.

[00:55:41] Tina Ličková: 

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