You don't need "UX" in your title

Bear with me while I get a little woo.

This letter began as a primer on what user-experience design looks like deep in the stack, and it devolved into therapy. If you find it a little woo, I rounded-up some things worth your time below.

What I wrote:

  1. You don’t need “UX” in your title.

  2. Sensemaking (a roundup): GPT-3, “Samwising,” and Linguistic Relativity

  3. Metric: first-contact resolution rate.


You don’t need “UX” in your title.

In January I got a title change. It wasn’t from an internal application to a new position, or by otherwise jumping to a ship coasting in the direction of some different shore, but the gradual culmination of something like tides eroding a shore. Given enough time, you look up and see the landscape’s changed. What I was called no longer reflected what I was doing.

I was the Lead of UX Development, but then became the Director of Engineering.

Since high school I’ve taken fancy to the Sapir-Whorf hypoethsis that the structure of language affects its speakers’ worldview. It has - ah - been discredited, at least the hardcore version purporting that language determines thought. That languages make their speakers slightly more inclined to think in certain ways, however? True - or trueish.

If it wasn’t clear since I started beating this wardrum in 2015, I care about vocabulary we use performing UX work. Whether it’s that the user experience is a metric, or that customer-experience design is a subset of user-experience design, or that when we talk about products we’re more properly describing services, I enjoy looking for meaning in this bullshit.

So, what symbolically happened in January was the acceptance that the trajectory of my career leads away from UX - or, rather, UX titles. To me, this matters. Do I imagine I am taken less seriously among UX folks because it is perceived I no longer belong? Probably. Do I have less to write you about because of the change? Definitely.

I am looking at a draft I started last year — and I don’t write long posts, so you know it’s just been sitting around with no good reason to be posted already — called “Redefining the UX Developer,” in which I discard the current prevailing definition of a user-research infused coder and cast it more literally: the responsibility of a UX developer is to develop the practices, workflow, thinking, and culture required of effective user-experience design in an organization.

If that indeed was the result of my tenure as the Lead of UX Development, then my transition was less a pivot and more of an evolution. I developed the organization’s UXD until it had its own inertia, when I could focus my attention on something else.

I remind myself that, like we’ve been saying here, the UX is a metric. As such, user-experience design is the cumulative effort of the organization. You and I are in the business of user experience - because the user experience is often the chief differentiator. Price design is user experience design. Customer service design is user experience design. Content strategy is user experience design. Engineering is user experience design.

Jared Spool often tweets something along the lines of “we are all UXers.” I roll my eyes, but he ain’t wrong.

Sensemaking

When Sharif Shameem tweeted that hey just build a React app by describing it to a language model called GPT-3, some non-trivial number of web developers saw their lives flash before their eyes. It’s cool, but an important lesson we take from it is that we have selection bias toward good examples.


The quaranphenomena called doomscrolling is fascinating. It describes scrolling through news or social media feeds seeing nothing but bad-news after bad-news, and both the danger of that vicious cycle and the difficulty to escape from it are drawing a lot of attention. Weirdly, it makes me think of this thing Rebekah Monson and I have been throwing around about some rough formula for giving users cookies 🍪 after a certain number of interactions.

It’s about deliberately intervening in user grind — when your user is participating in some unpleasant process, like the filling-out of long forms, or writing an obituary — by providing encouragement (or, cookies!) to make the interaction cost bearable.

I wonder how we might detect doomscrolling and make that doom more bearable.

Perhaps we call it “Samwising.


Linguistic relativity is fascinating when you imagine how it might impact the reception of a service, like how the shape of the lens determines what’s perceived.

Metric

Your first-contact resolution rate measures how many questions, concerns, or requests are resolved with only a single exchange between you and your user. Can you meet someone at their point of need — on a call, over email, or in a chat — just once and still fulfill that need?

This is the

# incidents resolved at 1st contact / total # of incidents

And that’s it! What a ride.

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I write about design and philosophy in another newsletter called Stoic Designer. Read “Letter 76: Shirking Routine,” then subscribe.