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Whenever I try to introduce someone to usability/ux, I always find myself having to explain the following:

  1. The definition of usability/ux.
  2. The fact that I make web site easier and more pleasant to use.
  3. Give some examples of how this is accomplished.
  4. Maybe mention some unusable site so they can relate to what I'm saying.
  5. Explain some of the benefits of investing in usability.

And although I end up clarifying all of these stuff, it takes a lot of time (about 5-10 minutes on average), especially point 3.

Do you think there's a way to sum up all of these points in a quick 30-seconds elevator pitch?

I also need this for my usability/ux blog to quickly explain what it's all about to new users.

Appreciate your input :)

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about being a Usability designer. –  ChrisF Nov 12 '13 at 14:46
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11 Answers

Stories are usually the best way to explain things in a memorable way. Like if you said, "Let me give you an example, 'Once there was this guy.." Here is an alternate explanation I gave at a party last week.

  • He asked, "What is User Experience Design?"
  • Me: "What is a product or service that you just love and tell people about all the time?"
  • [He explained why he loves it.]
  • "Ok, so they have competitors that aren't as good, right?"
  • [He answered.]
  • "The one you love has someone making sure the experience is great. The other ones aren't doing that or just not as well. I do that job for [area of expertise]. I make sure people love the product and tell all their friends about it."
  • "How do you do that?"
  • "Decisions get made every day by lots of people. One of my responsibilities is to communicate a unified experience to all the team members. Sometimes I sketch it out. Sometimes it's just an email. I win some battles and lose some. Bad experiences happen when don't have someone focusing on this." It's not about having more features or prettier packaging. It's about the entire ecosystem from the moment you hear about it to the moment you suggest it to a friend."

How's this?

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Sounds great, thanks! however, I'm afraid this probably won't work when I'm introducing myself to someone else (e.g: "hi, I do this and that"), nor as an introduction on my site since it's a conversation setup. –  Mashhoor Dec 15 '09 at 12:27
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+1, i like the way you relate it to something they are currently involved in. It keeps away the technical details. Then if they are interested, more can be said. Thanks! –  JeroenEijkhof May 11 '10 at 5:12
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I like this,you get them to relate at a personal level and you just have to add clarifications and respond at the technical level they are comfortable at –  Mervin Johnsingh Dec 9 '11 at 21:32
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I like to keep it as simple as possible:

"I help design websites and products so that they're easy to use. Have you ever come across a website that drives you crazy?"

[allow for inevitable emphatic head nodding from listener]

"Well I help figure out what's needed and how it should be provided to help avoid that from happening"

[typical response at this point is "Ahhhh", a smile, and a list of websites or products that I should offer my services to ;) ]


Jan 19/10 update: Some additional resources that may provide you with ideas:

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Usually I explain it by saying that I make websites easy for people to use, by designing the site to work the way people want it to, rather than trying to get people to work the way the site wants them to.

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I don't agree that UX is restricted to websites. UX is used in software in general and in so many other fields which are absolutely not related to Internet or even computer science. –  Alconis Dec 7 '11 at 20:37
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There is one highly essential element missing in the descriptions above.

It's 'business value'.

People outside of our field usually DO NOT CARE if something is easy to use or not. They are not paid because what they do is easy to use or 'human'. That's a hygiene factor to them. Or it is something that they ignore because they don't (yet) understand it.

We need to remember that generally speaking the reason we are able to do this profession is because we are trying to create a better experience for users which in turn generates either a. more money for the organisation, or b. less cost. Simple as that. There are other benefits but they pale into insignificance compared to those two (in a commercial environment at least).

Our job is to bring the process of how we create this value, and why, to life for people so that they can understand and start getting to grips with it.

My fave example is (of course) the tale of Apple & the iPod. How could a company down on it's luck in 2000/2001 - about to go out of business some thought - bring to market a product that was

a. more expensive than competitors

b. not as good sound quality

c. less storage capacity

and have the audacity to go on to absolutely clear up in an established industry, to the extent that I think ITMS is the #1 retailer of music in the US, and getting to be that way in the UK too.

The answer is - the user experience! If you look at Apple's share price over the past 10 years you can see how this has added value. For more detail on this see: http://www.uie.com/events/uiconf/2006/articles/innovation_from_experience_design/

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Jakob Nielson said something like "it's more fun to fail on an Apple than succeed on a PC." –  tajmo Jan 3 '12 at 19:19
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The best approach I have found is to avoid jargon that someone outside of the field won't be able to relate to. I also tend to avoid acronym soup by not mentioning 'UX' or 'UCD'.

I keep it to the basics by explaining that I analyze and design things from a user's perspective. If 'analyze' is too nebulous, then I talk about how I interview users of that product/service to discover where the problems lie. (Again, I avoid any mention of terms like 'ethnography', 'diary study' and so on...)

To help keep it simple, imagine you are explaining it to someone perhaps not so familiar with a computer, say your parents or even grandparents.

I perfected my elevator pitch quite by accident, just doing everyday things. For instance, I've been at the bank and when asked about my occupation (while they fumble with their cumbersome software application) I supplied the ambiguous title but added an explanation that my job would be to make the system they're struggling with easier to use.

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I'm an in-house designer so I have two answers depending on the audience.

1) Friends and Family - I help design software and try to make it as immediately obvious how to use it as possible.

2) Coworkers and internal employees - Similar to how a business analyst takes into consideration all the business rules and processes; I look at the same problem from the point of view of the user and their processes and needs. This helps us design tools that offer a great balance of what the business expects and what the user needs to complete their tasks with as little frustration as possible to both.

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I'm still working on refining my pitch ... I learned a lot during Global Entrepreneurs Week a month ago when I had to introduce myself to a dozen people in one day :)

One of the important things I try to communicate is what "design" actually is. Many people think of it as graphic design, which is not what I do. I found the "architect" and "blueprints" analogy worked a little in drawing that distinction between end product and the floor plans, however few people have respect for architects ... mainly because there are so many examples of bad or bland architecture.

Whilst I do mention psychology and social sciences I feel a bit silly doing so because I have no formal qualifications so I'm still looking for a good way to wrap up that side of it in a word that doesn't imply I'm actually claiming to be a trained and qualified psychologist.

The abstract on my online bio reads:

Designing high-quality websites and applications optimised for utility and efficiency guided by consultation, users, research and best practice

The consultation with users is a very important point to get across. Things like "research", "analysis", "consultation" etc help convey the analysis and the UCD aspect of the role.

Hope that helps.

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I tend to say that "I design medium to large scale websites and web-based applications that are useful, easy to use and human."

Btw, there was a similar thread on the IXDA list: Interaction Designers: What is your elevator pitch?

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If you have a paper and pen handy, then I would give them the Veen Diagram:

http://www.jjg.net/ia/files/other/veen_diagram.jpg

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I'm not sure that's going to reassure people... ;) –  Alex Feinman Jan 6 '11 at 18:04
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"I make websites more profitable by making them easier to use. It's all about putting users needs before those of the organisation."

Replace Website with whatever it is you're working on.

Public sector: replace "more profitable" with "more successful" and "users" with "Citizens"

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I usally explain - to non-techies - that "I'm a translator: I translate computer to human and human to computer. So both understand each needs"

To bosses I show a powerpoint with just 4 slides - first: a picture of a airbus cockpit, second a picture of car dashboard (usability and infodesign), third: a pic of a gombeen-man's store, fourth a picture of a bank branch (trust and money). You cannot look inside of things - how it works, how reliable it is, how trustworthy, so humans have to deflect from the outer. Thats the value of UX.

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