Hiring UX people or have a team internally? Read on... If you are bringing usability resources into your organization, hiring the wrong job title can land you in hot water. Like with any role, job titles matter-- they indicate the intended function that role is expected to perform. Because user experience acts as an influencing force on design, marketing and engineering-- it is important that the political positioning of that person be right.
Confusion over User Experience titles and roles
This is a huge issue for many managers who are not intimately familiar with User Centered Design and Usability Engineering (the methodology and field where UX draws from). At the root of confusion is the question "What do UX people do?" (the short answer is they do User-Centered Design). If you need a refresher in User Centered Design, check out this UCD 101 webinar.
Below is a story I shared (UX Professionals group on LinkedIn) to the question "How do UX Designer and UX Architect titles differ?"; Are they all that different?
To hire a UX Designer or a UX Architect- does it matter?
From a Hiring perspective, naming and job title in the UX world are very important. We once helped a client hire a senior UX manager and the client used the job title UX Designer. The intent was to add designer to avoid someone just looking for a managment position. We ended up changing the title because we were attracting IA's and design or wireframe oriented experience. If you use the word "architect" to me that means more business requirements or technical focus (someone who comes from either of those worlds and converted to UX). If you use the word "designer" it means someone who can crank out wireframes and might come from a graphic design background as a benefit. Note: Those kind of people are hard to find.
The biggest issue with both of these roles and the hiring nuances (in addition what they convey inside the organization- which is equally as important) is that both roles tend to be more "X" than "U". In other words, many orgs pigeon hole their UX Designers or UX Architects into doing wireframing or steering technical (Agile/ Lean) teams. Many UX Designers and UX architects never or seldom get to work with users. That's a big problem.
To me anything with the words UX in it, means that the thing that defines a 'user experience' are present in job functions: interviewing users. UX Designers and UX architects can support other teams and other UX roles- as they do in enterprise environments, but the role should be managed with care and consideration. I've seen many orgs not getting value (read ROI) on UX efforts because they co-opted a designer into being their "UX Designer". That person is expected to generate fake empathy for users and their UX contributions loose credibility. Empathy is only gained by making contact with users. Jared Spool, web usability guru, said a few years ago at a conference keynote: 'The quality of your software is directly proportional to how much contact you make with your users'.
Summary: Job titles in UX have political and functional implications and they matter. But orgs should not lose sight of the reason we're UXing: to improve user experiences for real users (who you need to let your team get access to, not occasionally but regularly).
Frank Spillers, MS
p.s. Need help hiring and interviewing a UX person for your team? We can help!