standardizing semantics: the UXD blind spot

Lately I’ve found myself heavily considering the true value having a shared understanding of the UX practice will bring to an organization. When all your team members are working from a well understood center, towards clearly defined and concerted goals, the outcome of your user centered design activities can be quite extraordinary.

As user experience activities have become more and more mainstream the migration from specialized UX discipline terminology to marginalized hipster buzzword has taken a hefty toll. Misinterpretations, discrepancies and seemingly endless variations of meaning have caused no end of chaos and confusion. For organizations struggling to integrate the much-need principals of user centered design thinking, uncertainty in the UX practice can become a serious roadblock for adoption.

Unfortunately I am encountering, with increasing regularity, wildly inaccurate interpretations of the meanings of some of the most important UX terms. The noise generated via these buzzword linguists confuses foundational terms such as ‘Information Architecture’, ‘Usability’ and ‘Design’, rendering many core UX terms nearly unintelligible at this point.  What’s truly alarming is that these misinterpretations frequently originate from UX practitioners themselves.

One of the more detrimental aspects of this trend has been the impact on the stakeholder’s confidence in the underlying science of user experience strategy and design.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
– Inigo Montoya, the Princess Bride

There have been countless occasions where I have found myself quoting one of my favorite fictional characters, Inigo Montoya. I do not think that word means what you think it means. In fact, I know it doesn’t.

As a UX practitioner, it will generally fall to me to weigh in and add stability to these conversations. I have found that tangible references and resources go a long way towards creating stability and opportunity for shared understanding. There are various resources available to help define these critical terms when confusion presents itself.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Adopting and sharing a common glossary is one of the first steps in creating a cohesive UX discipline within your organization. Only when everyone is on the same page will the true potential of your UX practice be recognized.

Good Luck!


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