Can UX Return Web Design to Its Artisanal Roots?
The artisan movement in the United States is bursting at the seams, thanks to scores of bakeries, coffee cuppers (people who are expert coffee drinkers and roasters—not people who waste our time worrying about Starbucks holiday cups), and backyard micro-breweries.
Handmade products support the narrative that has become such a huge part of marketing and sales in the past few years: A personal story sells better than a corporate mantra.
When I first got into web design, I liked that it reminded me of putting puzzles together, a favorite childhood pastime. Once I transitioned into being a UX designer as well, I had found a calling. UX + web design married the physical act of building sites with my analytical mind—the part that enjoys unearthing creative solutions from problems.
Creating the perfect website experience for a user is a labor of love. Much like refining a recipe for bread or tweaking the amount of hops, UX is a craft. The process is logic-driven and formulaic. It’s creative, yet organized. It’s about the quest for design that identifies the website’s unique voice. But it’s also about people—about their desires, their behaviors, their tendencies and goals.
Perhaps it’s my need for things to be organized, to make sense. As the UX designer evaluates and tweaks the ideal scheme for your website, as things start to make sense, as order emerges from what might be chaos (OK, I’m a little OCD), what might seem like a gridded, sketched, and annotated series of schematics is in fact the recipe for your site’s future success and for better satisfaction for your users.
In other words: You can hire a web designer or you can hire a UX + web designer, and you might get two very different final results from each experience.
UX designer Brian O’Neill answered the following question on Quora: “What would a conversation between a contemporary artist and a UX designer be like?”
One of these practices is very much about expressing your own ideas and opinions, and the other is about doing work that is, to me, about discovering a problem and finding a solution to it. It is work that is primarily subservient to the needs of others.
Unlike art (usually), UX design often involves many distinct individuals from different parts of an organization who may each contribute to the overall expression of a particular user experience. While your question is not about what the differences are between these two practices, I think this is an interesting point since the designer is not usually on the same pedestal than an artist may be.
An artisan coffee cupper, for example, will not only build a cupper network to share and refine their hand-roasting techniques; they will work closely with coffee growers in South America. Many cuppers do it to help the fair trade movement, but it also allows them to control the quality and locality of the beans that they buy. It takes teamwork and collaboration to make these connections happen.
People used to scoff at the pre-hipster Seattle coffee snob or the guy in his basement bottling his own brew, but now it’s a movement. Less a fad than a way to prove a craft’s sustainability and to bring love back to something that has been mass-produced and commercialized for far too long.
UX is the key to returning web development to its roots, to reawakening an art form from a mass-produced slumber perpetuated by companies like Squarespace and Wix, to stripping the corporate model out of something that is, just as much as so many other handicrafts, done with love.