We're in a strange spot currently where the term user experience designer can be used to describe a novice or an expert. There are tons of novice designers who discover usability testing and prototyping, practice it for a bit, and start calling themselves UX designers. At the same time a lot of folks who have truly mastered most of the practices under the umbrella of UX still call themselves "web designers. As a result it's hard to distinguish between the two.
Andy Budd recently wrote a great article in which he sets up the problem of how people perceive user experience:
Some designers think that user experience is just a made up name and that we're all user experience designers really. Others think that User Experience is a term used by consultants to trick clients out of money and would prefer it we all just stuck to the title of web designer. Some feel that user experience is simply common sense design while others see it as a land grab to own the fun bit of the design process.
User experience isn't one thing, it's several things, it casts a wide net across many disciplines. It is really everyone's responsibility throughout an organization. A bad experience like the Blackberry is the result of an organization's lack of focus on exchanging value with their customer. Design process and methods are uniquely positioned to keep that focus tight while crafting the details that would save a product from mediocrity. Everyone in an organization should be empowered to use at least some of them.
For some aspects of product design companies should take a don't-try-this-at-home approach and hire a professional designer. As Andy goes on to point out, there are specific forms of craft involved here that are more specific than user experience:
Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability, Interface Design, Information Design. All of these practices go into designing good user experiences, so are part of the user experience cannon.
Experienced practitioners who have mastered many of these fields don't really see a distinction between these. For them web design or design make sense as a title. The problem arises when novice designers who have a fraction of the skills these experts have use the same title. In the early days when sites were very simple and did not require advanced skills this was fine. In today's day and age many large and complex sites require specialists with a single focus:
Experts in information categorisation, human computer interaction or interface design. They also need people who specialise in specific programming languages, databases, security, or application architecture. The history of all human progress can be counted by the increased specialisation of individuals amongst a group, and I see this as a good thing.
We agree with Andy, it's pretty useful for people to separate the skill sets and be able to tell experts from novices. Being able to define what you do and distinguish yourself from the rest is valuable for our whole industry. Just because the experts feel lazy and use the term "designer" it does not mean that those specific titles or practices do not exist.