I have heard these words spoken many times throughout my career and I had thought that they had faded away with the adoption of Design Thinking. This ugly phrase recently rang out more than once and light a fire in my “Radically Collaborative Soul.”
Experiences cannot be created let alone owned. An experience is unique to a person shaped by their past, present, and expectations of the future. Many UX Designers think that they design experiences, it is their job title. Design creates an opportunity for an ideal experience.
Beyond my existential ideals of an experience, design cannot soley own the design of a product.
When I first start working with a product owner and developers/engineers who are new to user-driven development I use a three-leg stool metaphor. The three-legs are the business, technology, and design collaborating to support the needs of a market and users. The business is responsible for product viability, will the product sell; design is responsible for the desirability of a product, will users use the product; the technical team is responsible for determining technical feasibility, can we afford to build the product. With equal collaboration and representation, the user’s needs are supported. But when one leg/voice is stronger or weaker that leg breaks and the user falls to the floor, bruised and angry!
Many designers focus only on the needs of the user at the expense of understanding business and technical constraints. I have heard the frustration of many product owners insisting that the user is not the buyer! Without buyers, there is no user. To reduce the risk for the business and design build collaborative relationships with product owners. Listen to their challenges defining the market and quantifying the opportunity. Work with to create a business case and stand beside or behind them when they present to executives. Inform them of the user needs so that the product definition is a product that sales and users use. A product that solves only a buyers problem is sold once, or it is that tool we are all forced to use because it does a job for the buyer. The buyer doesn’t understand that that tool is frustrating and impacts employees perception of the company.
When design pushes their ownership of the experience into owning the product definition, vision, and roadmap things go completely off the rails. Vision is key to building products with an agile process, without vision the product becomes a set of features, with gaps between them. Vision should not be defined by designers who define their role as the team innovators and thus are the only ones that can define the future. We can only design or create what we know. Collaboration with people with other skills, experiences, and knowledge enables a team to define a vision that no individual or skill could have defined!
The designer that insists that their designs be implemented pixel perfect is deciding how developers invest their time, talent and energy. This spends the product teams money without understanding the level of effort and associated cost of building the design vision. I have seen developers and product owners buckle under this insistence turning over complete ownership of the product to design. When design takes on the responsibility of building a profitable product they too take on the risk!
Collaborate and negotiate with developers to finding the right level of effort that results in an experience that is useful, usable and desirable.
The goal of a product team is to quickly make money by making as little investment as possible while solving a problem. An experience is the outcome of the radical collaboration and constraints of business, design, and technology for the purpose of solving user problems.