Picture yourself standing blindfolded, in a meeting with department heads, stakeholders, programmers, user interface engineers, quality assurance software testing engineers, project manager and you.
Someone is spinning you around and around, asking you questions about everything from information architecture, to user testing, to what the user habits of every 12th visitor to page 3, hub 5 will be. The stakeholder is demanding to meet his deadline and the department head will fire you if conversions don't meet 2nd quarter sales projections.
Your job title is ???.
You're important because of ????.
The only person who can possibly give you any sort of compassion is the company SEO/SEM, who meanwhile is handcuffed to their cubicle until Google ranks the site in the top position for 300 keywords and stays in that spot without budging. Ever. Or the SEO dies. Isn't it kind of odd to feel like the ass and bear such responsibility for the long-term success of a web site or software application, when it takes a team of people to put all the pieces together?
And wasn't the birth of the user-centered, usability industry founded in Human Factors - the study of human beings whose likes, dislikes, usage habits, interaction experiences, and favorite ice cream flavor changes all the time?
As do search engine algorithms and pay per click schemes?
So why are some things as basic as a web site usability evaluation or software functional testing left for last, or done once and never repeated again? Even SEO's get maintenace contracts to track their efforts.
I've been observing and reading, and noticing discontent and confusion in an industry that to me, is too vital to let themselves be part of someone's game of pin the tail on the donkey, or worse, let themselves be blinded by their title or area of expertise. User centered design didn't end when Alexander G. Bell invented the first telephone. Nor did he pull off the resulting telephone industry by himself.
I coughed up a story on it yesterday, called What The User Experience Community Thinks, after reading some interesting stuff about the state of the usability/user centered design field, or more likely, a small portion of it. It is, I've come to believe, a very vast industry spilling over with talent, innovation, and passion for building best, better, and perfect.
In 2005, search as we now know it is going to be blown away. Web sites will be competing more than ever. (The news of a publishing house selling their books directly to customers is already freaking out Barnes and Noble and Amazon.)
Do you know where your trusty visitor/customer/user/search engine searcher-centered staff is? See also:
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Web Design Forum Primer - fantastic resource, compiled by Sophie (Sanity) and worthy of a bookmark
What do you see in your crystal ball for 2005? - We just wouldn't be a forum without one of these, now would we?