About 2 years ago, I asked about a good usability/UX elevator pitch, so I can quickly explain what UX is whenever I need.

But, to this date, I still can't get over one little issue: lots of people I've met still think that UX work can be done by any experienced web user (or by a web designer), and that whatever I say is subjective. On the other hand, developers for example tend to not get this treatment because people assume that they're the experts, and that they must know what they're talking about, whatever it is they say.

This is especially true when I'm trying to advise a team or an individual in a setting where I have no time to back-up what I say with data.

So, from your experience, how do you get this idea over to others?


5 Answers 5


The basics of UX work can be done by almost anyone willing to spend some time and effort learning how. Steve Krug's "Rocket Surgery Made Easy" shows that well. However that doesn't mean that everyone is a UX expert.

Think of UX like painting a picture. Anyone can paint, and almost everyone can paint something decent with a little time and effort put into learning how to paint. Much fewer people however will ever be able to paint a masterpiece though.

Encouraging as many people as possible to spend some time and effort learning to understand the basics of UX will make the world a much better place.

  • +1 I like your analogy. Not everyone is a Rembrandt... Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 7:27
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    As a side effect, I think helping as many people as possible spend some time learning the basics of UX will help them understand how complicated it really is and that not just everyone can do it so easily.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Oct 16, 2011 at 20:14
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    Also: the fact the basics are now (more or less) well-known by developers help us ux experts (whatever that means) to strive for something more exquisite. Rembrandt only stood out because painting was a well-known art.
    – giraff
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 8:07
  • This, and the question, seem to be somewhat elitest and designed to sustain one's somewhat overinflated impression of himself as an "artiste". Unless UX principles can be disseminated in a logical manner, the whole movement seems to me doomed. Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 15:43

Two suggestions.

The first is to point out the complexity - traditional design for print or web is limited to two dimensions. Design for the "real world" is limited to 3 dimensions. User interaction design is inherently 4 dimensional - taking into account the passage of time as well.

The second is to agree (with your colleagues) that anyone can do UX design in just the same way that anyone can write code. I'm pretty sure I could teach anyone the basics of programming in just a few hours - but does that equip them to maintain the 750kloc codebase for a multitier application that's business critical? By no means.


I believe the advantage of UX professionals is that we can give reasons for our decisions.

Everybody has an opinion, a gut feeling or past experience they can draw from.

UX professionals also have the backing of proven UI patterns, tons of great literature describing state-of-the-art approaches and why they work, and international standards such as ISO 9241 for guidance. We shouldn't be afraid to use those resources to motivate our decisions towards our customers and the team.

Essentially, everything that steers the discussion away from simple gut feelings and emotional arguments, and towards rational decision-making, will improve our standing and help us get the work done.


Steve Krug's "Rocket Surgery Made Easy" describes a simple, inexpensive, quick process for doing qualitative usability tests. Conduct one round of tests, record them using a microphone and some screen recording software, and show the recordings (or even just clips of the recordings) to your team. You will have all the hard evidence you need about whether your interface is good enough.


Using positive examples of spectacularly good design can help. Everybody knows that the iPhone succeeded mainly because of amazing UX, and not any particular set of features. Even lay people will get this.

The problem with UX is the X. Experience is a subjective thing, and it's hard to argue in front of people that their personal experience and impressions are not indicative of what end-users will experience and feel. PHBs have taste, too. It might be poor taste, but that's something that's a lot harder to argue against than, say, generally accepted software development wisdom.

  • I've used (abused?) the iPhone/Apple example alot. They get that UX is important, but many assume it's part of "design", the traditional design they know, not UX design. Sure UX is definitely subjective, but what I meant is that they think is subjective to the point that anyone with web experience can do this kind of work.
    – Mashhoor
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 20:09
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    Anyone with web design experience CAN do UX work, see? With UX: twitter.com Without UX: yvettesbridalformal.com Completely the same!
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 21:21
  • iPhone did NOT succeed because of amazing UX. According to Aza Raskin, lead Firefox usability designer, iPhone succeeded because of clever marketing. It was NOT natural to swipe to get to the next screen. It was NOT natural to pinch to zoom. Because of good marketing, nearly everyone has seen commercials or online videos of other people using the iPhone. Because they've seen other people use it, they've learned how to use it. Familiarity with a design is completely different was natural usability.
    – JoJo
    Commented Oct 16, 2011 at 21:45
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    Alas, Aza is wrong.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 4:15
  • Give me a reason why Aza is wrong.
    – JoJo
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 18:03

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