Brad Feld wrote a great post on UX philosophy over the weekend. His question was not who contributed to it but instead who owns it.
I’ve been in three board meetings in the last month where it was painfully apparent that there wasn’t a person in the company who owned the UX philosophy of the product. I’m explicitly saying “UX” (user experience) rather than “UI” (user interface) as each company had an excellent designer and the application looked great. But the UX broke down quickly, especially as you went from novice first time user to experienced user.
In my experience, many small companies are 1) running for their lives and 2) consensus driven. Both of these kill good UX. For one, running fast means not taking the time to contemplate how we’d expect to interact with an application and also means no time spent thinking about the implications of design, features and experience across platforms. Some things just take time and this is one of them. In order to plan for consistent interaction the UX “owner” must have both a deep understanding of ways of interacting and vast experience across platforms, not to mention a deep understanding of the product’s intent. Acquiring those skills takes time.
As to the second point, when there are only a couple of employees it is really easy to go with the opinion of the room. This doesn’t work at all for UX. UX is a dictator’s game, for anal retentive ones at that. Someone has to have the iron fist that says this goes here and that goes there and I expect this other thing to work like this. The group can contribute, provide feedback and better be willing to challenge the dictator, but one person must take responsibility for consistently enforcing the philosophy. Everyone else, then, must follow or get out of the way.