The centre of the world

2 minute read

Out of all the reading, watching, listening I’ve done to people in the design industry over the last year, this Paul Adams talk from UX London has been the one that’s altered my perspective the most.

You should watch it or read the summary on the Intercom blog, here.

Here are the three key things I’ve taken from it.

There’s no such thing as UX design

It’s clear someone read Sapiens. The main point here is that everything we know as ‘UX’ is something someone made up at some point because it gave some kind of value. We should constantly reflect on what we are doing and question whether we are doing things for the right reasons.

We too often get carried away following strict processes just because it’s what we know or because it ‘seems like’ the right thing to do. Or we worry about what our job titles are. What we should be doing is focussing on the best way to define and solve real problems for our customers, whatever that means.

UX is not at the centre of the world

It’s natural that we see our own discipline as the centre of the world – as it could well be the centre of our world. However, from a business perspective it’s important to remember how the parts all play together. UX or design is just one part of a massive machine.

“Your perspective of something and your understanding of it are deeply interlinked” – Paul Adams

This quote reflects on the fact that if we see UX as the centre of the world, all of our behaviours will follow that – we could over-prioritise our own discipline to the detriment of the business.

Or just think we are more important than everyone else.

Customers prefer the things that exist

Paul reflects on how his views have changed as he’s moved from design focussed roles into a product role. Probably the most controversial of the points that were raised in my opinion, I do agree with the underlying sentiment here.

We have a tendency as designers to want to build things through a proper process and justifiably so. However, if something is going to take say, six months to make well, that’s six months where a customer has no viable alternative.

Would it really be better to have to wait six months for something that’s great or would we better releasing something of less quality, sooner?

This one is always a balance and each case has to be taken on merit, but it’s interesting to hear how Paul’s views had changed quite radically as he’s moved into the product space.

That’s my take! Have a listen and see if there’s anything else that you can get from it. Having read Sapiens relatively recently I felt there was a lot of crossover in this talk.

For those who enjoy it, I’d also strongly recommend reading Dave Gray’s Liminal Thinking where he explores the topic of seeing the world from other people’s perspectives, it aligns quite well with the second point above.