“Most Important Person for a Startup is a Great Product/UX Person” – @cdixon

April 20th, 2011 § 0 comments

I stumbled on the quote in the title of this post on Twitter a couple of months ago. I believe the original tweet was by @davetisch, and he was quoting something Chris Dixon (@cdixon) must have said/written. I don’t really have time to fully trackdown the sources, timing, context, etc. Hopefully the above credits are enough. Also, I will be using the abbreviation “UX” to refer to Product/UX as a competency in general. If you don’t like it, go have a debate on a mailing list somewhere. I’m tired of the bullsh*t arguments.

Being a Product/UX person, this got me thinking.

Quotes like the above are amazing things, especially when they come from people who know what they’re talking about. I read them and I can’t help but be grateful someone out there appreciates the potential a solid Product/UX person brings to the table. That said, I think there are some points I’d like to add.

First off, if you think that hiring a great Product/UX person is going to solve your problems or make people want your product, you’re nuts. While it’s possible that they can make your product better, it always takes a team. The scenario I recommend is making UX a company priority to the point of integrating it into your company’s culture. This means that everyone on your team should be thinking about UX, not just the product team, visual designers, and interaction designers, but the developers, QA team, BD, accounting, customer service team, etc. If you’re not having hot debates about creating the best experiences for your customers and business involving team members with different perspectives, you’re not doing it right. As a product grows, it’s easy to lose focus on UX, but when you create a culture where everyone can ask questions like:

“How will people use this?”

“Is this the optimal experience to meet our business objectives?”

“Does this experience properly communicate and functionally deliver the desired result?”

“Will people like it?”

and etc…

You make it much more difficult for the focus on experience that made your startup successful to disappear as it succeeds.

Second, even though some UX work is better than none, you absolutely to need to incorporate it as early as possible. The reason is simple. It’s like writing a book. Editing is critical, but an editor can’t turn a cheesy romance novel into James Joyce’s Ulysses. Bringing in UX late in the game only allows for editing, while having it early in the process allows it to be the center of the creative process. Oh and getting the UX focus working early on allows for tactical input from developers, designers, etc. before anyone is invested time in code or photoshop – result is saved money and less frustration.

Third, I love the concept behind UX but hate the word “user”. It’s right up there on my sh*tlist with “GUI designer”, “frontend/backend”, “UI”, and “skin” and all of those terms that work to drive wedges between people, companies, and team members. As companies grow, labor specialization is required, but there’s really no need for us to add additional unnecessary labels that further separate our products, team members, and customers from common goals. So, if you want to create a better UX, please stop telling your designers to “just skin” the existing site. It’s obnoxious, cheap, and never results in the best UX. If you are obnoxious, cheap, and don’t care about your team or your product, please keep using those terms so the rest of us know you who you are. Rant over. Thanks.

If you want to create products for people, call them people or call them by name. It helps create empathy between your team members and your customers. Having a little empathy can go a long way when it comes to getting people to like your product.

Last, if you want your product to succeed, listen to but don’t bow to your customer’s whims. The number one feature request EVER is that a product be free. Product is about finding that awesome place where demand for a feature/product intersects with some business goal. User Experience is about understanding people, understanding business goals, and creating experiences that drive people to that awesome place where they intersect. Basically it’s about getting people to do things they might not normally do in order to (hopefully) receive a benefit. Don’t bow to their whims because your customers only see half the picture, while your job is to make sure your team sees both sides.

OK got off topic a bit, but I don’t really care. I blog so infrequently, you should just be happy there’s a post at all. Enjoy.


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