Deficiency in Customary UX Trade Practices

Interaction Design and User Experience is a well recognized field. The Business of Interaction Design and User Experience have formalized over time. Yet often UX Consultants and Interaction Designers witness awkward business expectations from the Clients.

There are many noticeable challenges in the UX Ecosystem. One of them is missing on monetary opportunity by the UX & Design industry due to inadequate pricing of latent UX consultation activities. These challenges are faced by freelancers, independent consultants, employees and contractors of small & medium enterprises that are part of the utility market. The frequency of these problems are comparatively lesser in process oriented luxury markets like Fortune 50 companies because the scholars & experts are referred by personal network and sometimes indirectly marketed by studies published online by them.

A common challenge is regarding the lack of standard etiquette of coffee table consultation between an UX Consultant and Client. Say, we visit a Doctor for consultation in our neighborhood local clinic. We will walk into the clinic with the customary knowledge to pay the consultation charges of the Doctor, post visit. We will pay the Doctor’s visiting charges for evaluation, even though the doctor doesn’t suggest any medicine or lab test. Another example of customary knowledge is hiring a cab. Before Uber was launched, a person would usually wave his hand toward the passing yellow cabs. The driver will identify the person as a prospective passenger and stop the cab beside her. On arriving at the destination, the passenger will pay by the meter reading to the driver. Similarly, it is important to set an ecosystem level customary understanding for monetary transactions between the clients and UX consultant.

Often clients don’t identify coffee table consultation as a service, whereas Business Coaches and Life Coaches are paid huge amounts for coffee table consultation. Similarly, it is with UX Discovery, preliminary heuristic evaluation, white board exercise, focus group scenario narrations that are part of abductive, inductive and deductive research exploration. UX consultants don’t charge for simply Design. Design is the final outcome. UX consultants charge for all the things that lead to Design outcome like writing stories, observation notes, essay, user journey. All these are ‘UX Doing’. Screenwriters are paid for collecting abstracts, essays and stories. UX Consultants could borrow best practices from traditional consulting fields of Doctor Consultant, Advocate Consultant and Accounting Consultant. UX Consultants should stop underselling services unintentionally. They should identify these activities that would earn returns for their corporation. It is important to propagate customary understanding among clients about everything that the UX is saying or doing is a type of service and every service is priced. UX activities may look effortless when carried out by a seasoned UX professional but behind every bit of thinking and doing, there is years of monetary investment in learning and practicing UX.

The second challenge that causes friction in monetary transactions is lack of Price Anchoring structure in the UX Ecosystem. People may argue that price can’t be systematized for UX consultation services, although in every consulting sector luxury customization differential pricing is decided in reference to utility segment’s standard pricing. In the absence of a standard structure, I have witnessed that the clients find it difficult to correlate (anchoring) the demands (people, time, money) made by the UX Consultant to execute the project. Due to which the clients often consider any type of demand as an exuberant demand, be it whatsoever.

Communicating the Value of each service by UX Evangelist through awareness drive is one side of the coin, the other side of the coin is academia. In the last few years Design schools opened up like mushrooms that are costly and persuasive to the gullible design aspirants and their parents. These designers learn the vocational skills and basic processes from design schools, online video, articles, personal mentors and seminars. All they lack is the ‘Business of UX’ knowledge & uniform customary trade practice awareness among clients to start working independently. In lack of standard structure, the volume of skilled Junior UX passing out from Design Schools and Senior UX are the victim of exploitation. One such exploitation is fake hiring assignments to collect ideas because there exist all types of clients in the marketplace. The falling assurance of earning a living after acquiring Design education due to lack of standard structure will defame the field of Design eventually.

The third challenge that I have noticed is the lack of basic regulatory education. This gap can only be filled by academia, fresher training programs and conclaves. The designer lacks the capability to differentiate between ethical and lawful decision making due to the absence of formal education on regulations and ethics in the current state (2020–2021) of the unorganized UX education sector in India. The lack of regulatory knowledge among designers has been taken advantage of, by the competitive system on the floor of the companies that goes around the saying, ‘Better apologize than ask permission’. A lot of times, the system full of dev, engineers and cunning management folks, conspires to find a scapegoat in the lone designer. Designers and usability testers are pressured to pass product features, only to be held accountable later, subject to audits. Such manipulative practices contribute to the rising imposter syndrome and PTSD. So, it is important to formally educate designers in design compliances and due diligence to identify, express and escalate timely.

UX Veterans must step in to uphold the credibility of the UX domain with soft authority by promoting guidelines for standard consultation practices.

Further, I’ve been procrastinating about anchoring in UX consultation and came up with a couple of ideas.

We may arrange the IT firms like Hospitals and hopefully everything will fall in place. Doctor Consultation (UX Consultation / Solution Consultation) in one corner. If Doctors need some testing done, then they will forward it to the testing lab. Testing by a Test Specialist (Usability Specialist) in another corner. Pharmacy (necessary services to keep the client afloat) in the main entrance. Operation Theater (Strategist / Data Scientist) in 2nd Floor. Emergency ward (DevOps) in a separate building. Well nurses, what do they do? They work as per Doctor’s instruction so yup they are the developers. But everyone must understand the Doctor’s Handwriting!
Don’t implement it right away, else HIPAA may have a newfound interest in you!!!

I think UX Consultant could follow Doctor Consultant, Advocate Consultant and Accounting Consultant’s approach. These are traditional fields of consultation, thus we may decide to follow the same approach. UX practitioners may charge their clients for the first sitting (like a Doctor, Advocate & Business Coach). They explain about their problem. Then the UX practitioner will break down the problem in systematic UX syllabus heuristically. The UX practitioner will share stories of similar cases from the industry with the client that they may recollect from the past. This approach is exactly like an advocate and doctor consultation. Further the Clients may decide to invite the UX practitioner for the Discovery Phase. The UX practitioner will suggest to them the type of research & testing required to progress & direct them to visit the specialized research & testing lab like a Doctor. This approach will help UX practitioners to get paid for time spent consulting, manage cost, channel the effort in specialized research and be approached by serious clientele. It overall improves UX practitioner’s productivity and efficiency.

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Ratul Aich

UX related posts. My blog writing style is sometimes disruptive. Read them with a new Outlook!