Developers still reign on the tech world, but new players are getting their superpowers upgraded. UX, UI and Product Designers are the XXI Century updated version of the old Graphic Designers, and have arrived to promote collaboration and shared responsibility.
In the last decade no other role in technology has suffered more changes than the Designer role. Digital Designers used to be simple pixel pushers, but are now becoming one of the most valuable assets in any tech company.
For many people, Digital Design used to mean something pretty, shinny and polished. Today, what we call design is much more. We no longer design only pixels but rather a full set of processes that convey on cohesive (or not) experiences.
The decision making process
Back in the days, product decisions were made without talking to designers or users, without getting their feedback and understanding the needs and desires around problems. What would make the difference between a good and bad product was the amount of features and the technology behind it, the performance, the complexity and the logic that was itself far too complex for designers to understand. We were the ones that only had to care about making things look pretty. Product features and capabilities were the game changers, and we were left out of those decisions in most companies.
Thankfully, through the course of the last decade the market has changed a lot. As Technology became accessible to more and more people, competition started growing fast, and because of that the game has changed. There are new rules, new players, new strategies.
The User joined the game
Today, technology continues to be extremely valuable and important, but new needs and values have been emerging.
The user has gained a space that used to only belong to stakeholders and developers. These same users are today what make or break any digital product. If your product has a lot of happy users, probably it means you have a good product.
And with that came the need to satisfy the users, to put them in a higher step, and to think and mind them when building the new era of digital products.
Breaking the silos, for good
Because the user is now more valuable than ever, designers took ownership over all user related processes. But we did it in a different way. Good Designers are, by nature, big fans of teamwork. Working alone or in tiny closed environments creates Silos that easily become blockers for evolution. We know that. As long as we are aware that we’re not the center of the universe, and it’s not all about Design, we’re in the right track.
We believe that it takes a good team to achieve a great result. Together we are better. Teamwork, cooperation and collaboration are tools available to help us provide better digital products… for the users. And ultimately, what sets a product apart from another, nowadays, is the experience it provides to it’s users. Supported with great features and powered by awesome technology. But far, far away from silos, for good.
Design wording everywhere
User Experience is a mix of emotions, visual design, psychology, technology, data and content. It’s the essence behind HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).
So Designers became UX and UI Professionals. And if we mix that with the need to deliver product improvements we get Product Designers.
The modern Product Designer has many responsibilities:
- UX Research
- Data Analysis
- Information Architecture
- Usability Testing
- UI Design
- A/B Testing
- Ship features
- Metrics evaluation
- (Occasionally) UI Development
We started getting so many concerns that we felt the need to define and document some processes in order to be able to share them with non-designers. A good example of that is Design Thinking which is basically a framework for problem solving, globally used across a vast number of tech companies worldwide.
These big companies started really believing design could be a differentiation factor and some people created other frameworks like Design Sprints to help teams improve productivity and solve problems in a more effective way, always with the user in mind.
But because designers were in the middle of the product people and dev people, we noticed we could use other tools to help both sides, at the same time we could save ourselves some headaches: Design Systems, a single source of truth to all UI related stuff.
And finally (AFAIK to date) we introduced so many processes, tools, responsibilities and concerns that we came up with a DesignOps concept that is pretty much a seal that embraces and combines all the above.
Wrapping up, in less that 10 years we went from being aesthetic freaks to being an important piece of the chessboard. We brought the Design related jargon into the game: UX Design, Lean UX, Design Thinking, Design Sprints, Design Systems, Design Ops, and promoted collaboration with Product and Development Teams.
So it’s not strange to see companies like Dropbox, Atlassian, Uber, IBM and others increase their Designer vs. Developer ratios around 2.5x in the last 5 years (average according to a TechCrunch article from 2017).
It’s not the only one — companies across Silicon Valley are recruiting far more designers than ever before.
The (current) future includes designers. More than ever before. But with these increased superpowers comes increased responsibilities. I believe Designers are ready for this challenge. And that this is the well deserved growth we have been working for. What about you? Are you ready?
Thanks for reading.