Don’t Hire UX If You Don’t Want Or Need UX

Posted By Debbie on June 21, 2013

I’ve just ended another short relationship with a web design company because they didn’t understand or need what I do, and that only created frustration, confusion, and disappointment for everybody.

I was hired to make wireframe templates for a website they were redoing. Templates because the site would have a lot of pages, and I’d just be coming up with the general layouts that would be used over and over.

I would have no contact with the client. I’m just a hired gun in the background. That’s OK.

We started with a sitemap. I created one. After the client saw it, they completely changed it. That’s what the client wants, that’s what they’ll get, even if I didn’t like some or all of those changes. Hmmm, not sure they really needed UX here.

I created the first wireframe based on the website they told me to rip off. I did my best to organise things since the client’s sitemap wasn’t that much like the sitemap on the inspiration site. I was then given changes the client asked for to that first wireframe. Nobody pushed against them and suggested that their ideas might not be best for the user.

The #1 thing I thought website visitors would want want removed by the client. They decided they didn’t want to offer that. I was startled. I was sure based on their target audience that this would be a really key page… and they were killing it. The small web design company pushed back a bit because I asked them to. Client didn’t want that page. It’s gone. OK, what am I doing here again?

The web design company guy then sent me his artist’s take on my home page wireframe, and asked me what I thought of the design. This was one of the worst “designs” I had ever seen in the last 5 years. Too many colours. No real understanding of what on the page are priorities. The artist took my “quick links” at the very top (which the client and I both wanted to be dominant) and made them green on green. Literally. It really looked very amateurish. So I told the web design guy the artist doesn’t understand a lot of things, and this doesn’t seem to be good work. I listed why.

The web design guy then asked me to do some more page wireframes, and he picked out 5. I started doing one and sent it to him to make sure it was going in the right direction. No, he said everything was wrong. It was “not what the client was expecting.” The client is expecting something before a UX person has worked on it? So much so that every element on the page has to be laid out exactly where you’re saying it has to go?

Then why hire an interaction designer? Why hire someone with expertise in the architecture of a page and a process flow? If you just want things you’ve already decided comped, get that artist to throw it together. And I don’t read minds. If you and the client decided how this lays out, just tell me. Don’t have me make the best layout I can only for it to get completely overlooked because it wasn’t what you had in mind but didn’t tell me.

More bizarre than that, he seemed upset that I had Lorem Ipsum text everywhere. Why didn’t I put in the real text! The client is expecting real text! The first time they are seeing a medium fidelity wireframe they are expecting their real text? That doesn’t sound like interaction design. Sounds like making comps. It also sounds like the web design company isn’t doing a good job managing this client or their expectations.

I tried to end the relationship there knowing he really didn’t want or need me. In fact, he was overpaying me for the comps he wanted. No, he wanted me to see it through. Ugh here we go.

I told him if he already knows how these pages should look, then tell me exactly what he wants where, and I’ll just put it there. He told me. I put it there. Put this headline here. Make this say this. Put this list here. All real text. I put it where he said. I submitted it and told him that he should then replace me since I’m probably done.

Days later, he gets back to me with a LONG email of wording changes on the page. Only wording changes. Not UX or layout changes. Make this headline say this. This link should say this. This list should include these two things.

And remember, these were supposed to be page templates. Templates.

I told him I was not making any of those changes as they are not UX changes. They are content changes. If they client has UX or layout changes, I’ll handle those gladly. But if he’s just going to come to me over and over to change wording on these pages because the client (who is clearly managing everything in this project) wants this wording now, then that’s not really my work. And these are templates. We don’t need final text in medium fidelity wireframe templates.

He wrote back saying he was tired of me lecturing him and we’re done. THANK THE LORD OF YOUR CHOICE. I KNEW this had to end days ago, and tried to end it. People should trust me… I know when a relationship or project is dead or no longer needs me. He wrote saying how unprofessional I was to not do the UX work he needed.

I wrote back apologising that he doesn’t know what UX work is.

So really tiny agencies and smaller web design shops. Get to know what UX and interaction design are. Do NOT give us grunt work dropping things into wireframes that you already laid out with the client (and especially that wasn’t tested or validated). If you really need that done, you can find people for $5/hr on Elance.

When you have a project requiring UX expertise and interaction design, get a UX person. If you really need comps, get just about anybody else to make up your comps. I can’t start to list what “a good UX person” would do on your project. It’s a lot. Many projects need it. Projects where the client is basically running the project and laying things out probably won’t have room for what a UX person will want to do.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of all UX people everywhere to tiny agencies and web design shops who don’t totally understand what we do. Please don’t hire us if you don’t want what we do! 🙂