Threshold Guradians

Originally posted on the interactionarchitects group on Yahoo!

Nah. Let’s be Threshold Guardians.

My problem with these threads continues to be the idea that we need to “rebrand,” “restate,” or “remarket” ourselves. Let’s say we do this. Create an organization that serves as a figurehead, single-point-of-contact, whatever, that has the sole purpose of uniting “us” and making “everyone” take us more seriously (and probably pay us more, yeah that sounds right).

I imagine this corps of people who fill in the entire UCD spectrum, ready to leap into battle to save the company and please the customer. And then I imagine Donald Sutherland’s character in The Dirty Dozen, pretending to review the troops and saying, “They’re very pretty, but can they fight.”

This has been said before, you can create an organization that sells UCD, and lifts us all up to new heights, but none of us knows who is being lifted. There’s no way to define if someone is good at any of this. There is no guarantee that the person who joins this ideal organization (or any of the existing ones) is good enough to represent the rest of us (or we them of course).

I have seen this before with Tech Writing. An area at my work decided to get rid of Tech Writers, and just have Communication Analysts (CA) and Help Developers (HD). It was the same people, just with new names and each a new focus. But then the work piled up and new people were hired because they were tech writers. But the weren’t really tech writers. They may have written a brochure once, or maybe even a 60 page manual. But they had no idea about UCD and what it meant to understand your audience’s needs. So the CAs and HDs now have a really bad name at work (and no one wants to work with them) because a role was made and populated with people who didn’t know what they were doing. The only people trusted are the ones who were in the original role, and there’s only one of them left.

And I am afraid that’s what will happen here. I don’t know who you all are, and you don’t know me. Is belonging to the same organization enough to make that a no issue? Probably not.

If we want to be taken more seriously, we need to make all the CxO’s understand the value we bring. Now, if all the current organization want to get together and do a conference for CxO’s on how cool UCD is, and show off all the ROI, and case studies and “Dontcha wanna be like Amazon?” that might be worthwhile. Because if part of the goal is to be taken more seriously, then the people who employ the people who hire us need to start saying, first thing, “You go someone with UCD ability on this project?”

When that happens, all of us will be taken more seriously (and paid more:). And those of “us” who can’t walk the walk will be exposed quickly. Then the current organizations will extend a helping hand to bring them up to speed on what they should be doing.

It’s not perfect. There’s still no way to accurately assess the ability of a UCDer (even though HFI would have you think there was). But I think there has been plenty of success had by the current organizations, and those who are members. Let’s build on that success, but don’t expect to change the world overnight. Besides, why would we want to do that. That’s like doing a complete redesign of a site and not preparing the users when you change the old way of doing things.

Bleh. Didn’t mean to ramble on this. I am still in thinking mode. Criticize at will.


  1. [Set Mode=BITTER]

    It’s like re-branding North Dakota so it will attract more tourists to the state: “People avoid North Dakota because the name makes it sound so cold.”

    Ahem: People avoid North Dakota because it’s North Dakota. Call it what you will, there’s still nothing to do there.

    If you’re in a place that doesn’t respect UX, HF, HCI, Usability, etc., it doesn’t matter what you’re called, you’re still going to be where you are, working for who you work for, in a culture that reflects whatever values it reflects. And the bottom line is that you can do everything you want to try to change things — training, education, enrichment, propaganda, management of expectations, and (gasp) proving your worth through your actions and deliverables — but you’re still who you are, working where you are.

    So, Tog, when all else fails, move to an organization more open and embracing of your values. Unless you like to fight uphill battles. And think up clever names for yourself…

    [Set Mode=Grumpy_as_usual]

  2. It seems terribly ironic that a web page devoted to usability would select a background color so dark that most users cannot read the text…

    Perhaps you previewed this page on some platform other than Wintel? Take a look at what IE V6 displays: Faint hen scratches on dark brown mud. :-(

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