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13 Common Misconceptions of What UX Designers Actually Do

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If you’re a UX designer you’ve probably encountered people who can’t really put a finger on what UX really is.

Personally, it’s tough explaining what UX is about. If I need to give a short pitch on UX I either default to digital transformation, product/service strategy or simple marketing (if trying to explain it to my mom).

No wonder people who have limited to none experience with UX mix the things up or attach the wrong labels to seemingly obvious things. We can’t easily explain it either!

While answering this question to one of peer designers I decided to pull up a list of common misconceptions about UX.

Here’s a handful:

UX = UI and graphic design. It’s the obvious pet peeve of every UX designer. Some of the outputs UXers do can be visual design, yet it’s not our bread and butter.

UX is a creative effort. Stems from the point above.
‘Business knows best’…‘UX will cover the rest’. There has been a shift in how the businesses operate. Nowadays firms tend to utilise UX (often) to its fullest. Yet we are still far from having a strong seat at the business strategy table.

UX is about systems thinking. I know a few UXers who’s daily job is making specs, user stories and diagrams. Depending on the organisation and problem at hand this might be a good idea, but it shouldn’t be assumed.

UX = User research only. I sometimes get this working with clients that don’t have the generalist UX as role. For example, GOV.UK have interaction designers, user researchers and content designers. But no specialists that would cover UX as a whole. This can lead to confusion and mixed expectations from both parties.

Applying UX to different scenarios and calling it a new discipline. For example, customer experience aka CX. It’s nothing more than a marketing term for user experience. Everyone knows it, but still uses it to differentiate from UX.

To contradict myself a little… UX as a clear cut discipline. For example, there’s a lot of outrage if UXer can develop (UX developers or designers who can code) or UXer who is a visual craftsman too (product designers). I think any UX pro can do as they please and as deemed necessary to make the project a success.

UX is easy to get into. To an extent this is true — it’s the easiest it has ever been to get started. Yet, it takes years to gain enough experience and soft skills to use UX to its full power. I would go as far as recommending to clock in 10k hours (even if this rule has been debunked) before you can call yourself a master UXer.

UX is too woo-woo. This usually comes from the curmudgeon-type business folk. More often than not they don’t have a full visibility of what UX is about, how much effort it requires or why it’s important. Just like the people who think that UX is all about creative thinking, they assume one comes up with new solution when the muse strikes. 

UX is impossible to manage. That’s another thing that comes out, especially in the agile projects. PM’s who are new to agile, Lean UX scenarios see UX as a hindrance. This one is usually easy to cover and solve. 

UX (especially the research) is all about the scientific method. I get this one a lot more than I would like to. I think people get the impression  because of UX laws and best practices we advocate for. Needless to say, behavioural research and change models doesn’t help this case either. Don’t get me wrong, it is scientific, but more often than not it all comes down to simple empathy.

One UX designer is enough for any project team. There has been a lot of hype about the ‘UX team of one’. In real life this is very hard to pull off and the results aren’t great. In these cases designers either miss out on important tasks or end up overworked. I do agree that there should be at least 3–5 devs for every designer though.

UX is too expensive. It is a robbery for sure, yet it yields big returns if: done right and is fully trusted by the business. Any specialist can practice the user-centred methods, but UX do it for a living. Then why not use them?

UX can solve anything. This is common among those who invest massive amounts to build UX teams to become the next unicorn. The ‘drunk on UX’ crowd was born from the mix of emerging tech, disruption, hi-tech culture, media and UXers with a God complex. Fact is, UX is just a piece of a bigger puzzle. It can solve a lot of things, but it can only account for experience design.


This is a slightly polished version of my answer on Quora.

If you have any questions of your own – feel free to reach our or ask the there.


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