Can We Drop the Term UX Design Already? And Other Rants

wrote this on in , . 98 reactions

In this blog post on the subject of ux design, we were blasted by a group of people suggesting that we were committing heresy by even suggesting the term doesn't mean anything. We've been steadfast in our view that user experience design isn't a discipline at all. I believe more people will start to see the problems with trying to form a career path based on the end result of successful design work. Heck, even Peter Merholz gave us validation, and he's been a practitioner of user experience for over a decade.

So why bring this up? A recent thread on UX clients services by Ryan Freitas had us chatting around the office. The question he raises:

How well has the UX client services model adapted to the way products are built today?"

Now if you don't actually believe UX design exists, it's a funny question to ask. But given that smart people are answering, including Peter, it's apparent that the conversation comes full circle to what successful product companies have been doing for decades. Such as:

  • Prototyping and building things — not documenting or "strategizing"
  • Rapid iteration — working through the problems with tangible products
  • Building strong teaching cultures — successful products requires design literacy
  • Project inspired, not project managed — great products happen in-spite of project managers or program managers
  • Loose contracts or specs — design thinking requires flexibility

The discipline of design is complex and a bit vague — but it's that openness that allows great product teams to make amazing things happen for people. It's both a noun and a verb, and can't be looked at as simply a result or a process. Product design does require creating tangible results, though, and those people who can influence the final result with good old fashion elbow grease will get an upper hand in shaping the vision of a product.

The user experience is a shared responsibility of all those who contribute and support a product. Modern product design has been around for centuries, and successful products have come in droves without the need of a person or group of designers responsible for the customer or user experience. It's a shared responsibility.

So can we just drop the term? That or I'm going to call our controller, UX controller. She does a great job collecting money.

chief instigator bryan z

Bryan Zmijewski

Leading the charge at ZURB since 1998

Our fearless leader has been driving progressive design at ZURB since 1998. That makes him quite the instigator around the offices, consistently challenging both the team and our customers to strive to always do better and better.
Learn more →

Follow him at

17 Web Design Trends That Will Take Over 2017
Container queries 2
Foundation & CSS Grid: Think Beyond the Page
Building blocks graphic
Foundation Building Blocks: Over 100 Components to Jump Start Your Projects