UX Is Not Pretty

2017-05-30

My first modern smartphone was an HP Pre 3. It ran webOS, software of ingenious UX design. Unfortunately, what was once Palm had died, and took webOS with it.

HP Pre 3

Such great UX is yet to be seen again. Even stock Android is having a hard time replicating the success, and it’s led by the same guy – Matias Duarte.

Two main factors are to blame.

First, some products are blocked by their own history. Android is a prime example. Even though Ice Cream Sandwich and Lollipop were great advancements, the core principals of the OS serve as a glass ceiling to Matias. For great UX, it’s crucial to either have a blank slate or the courage to create one. This is also why you shouldn’t put your hopes in apps, which usually adhere to Google’s or Apple’s design guidelines.

So far so good. The second factor is the real problem:

People don’t realize that UX is not pretty.

Thankfully and gratefully, we do not lack programming work. We do, however, have a hard time acquiring UX gigs. “What, no design?” they ask. “Nope,” we answer. UX is not pretty. The result of UX work is a boring description (visual and textual) of the structure and behavior of different screens. That raw form has very little value to non-UX people.

Regardless, UX is tied tightly with aesthetics in people’s minds, and therefore when they hire someone to do it, they usually look for a design combo. Finding an exceptional designer is hard. Finding and exceptional UX designer is hard. Finding an exceptional all-in-one is almost impossible. Furthermore, judging the beauty of something is much easier, so usually it is the UX part that suffers.

“But wait!” you say. “Many designers also do HTML and CSS just fine!” That’s true, but writing HTML and CSS is very technical work, while design and UX design are arts as much as crafts.

Next time when you realize you need a UX person, remember: UX is not about looking good. UX is about behaving well. You get the best UX designer you can, and let the designer worry about pretty.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll see another webOS.