In order to understand the makeup of the User Experience (UX) Director, we need to look back at the origins and evolution of the profession. In the not so distant past, in order to bring a product to market a company needed to hire a variety of designers and marketers, a product placement expert and a number of other people working diligently to put the product on the shelf of a brick and mortar entity. With the advent of online commerce a brand new set of professionals was called in, some with similar expertise in an online environment and some new ones. In many cases an entire online marketing team is the key to bringing your product to market and assure the success of your product.

15 years ago companies focused on creating an online presence and little thought was put into the organization of the information. We have come a long way since and entire businesses now operate exclusively online. What makes some of these businesses more successful than others is the quality of the experience.

Today the UX director does not only have a seat at the table but is a client partner and internal leader of one of these teams comprised of designers, strategists, information architects, usability experts and researchers. The UX director partners with a Creative Director, Tech lead, client team and anyone else whose role is key to the success of the project.

UX Directors have varied backgrounds but share a unique trait. When they are confronted with a challenge, they are able to:

  1. Step back and see the big picture;
  2. Evaluate all the inputs: client, customer/consumer and technical;
  3. Provide a clear assessment of the situation.

UX Directors tend to be analytical thinkers and formerly held the title of Information Architects (IA). It is less common to see UX Directors come from the design focus. The reality is that the UX Director must be able to assess a situation both logically and creatively, but does not need to be a trained designer even though UX is often lumped in with creative groups. It is a job requirement of the UX dir to keep his team of UXers on track with their activities. In fact recently there has even been a strong push to teach UX professionals to venture into coding, in some organizations it is in fact a requirement. However, while it is important for a UXer to understand what is possible to do with code, this expertise is best left to the team of coders that diligently work side by side with you. While broadening their horizons is often a good idea it may unfortunately dilute their ability to focus on the big picture, since they are so far in the weeds.

In order for the UX practice to succeed it must be is a standalone discipline with the freedom to operate independently from other groups, serving as a partner as opposed to another sub-group. A UX professional from the most junior to senior should be concerned with being an integral part of the team where everyone has a clear job and affinity to another of the required activities. Some UXers may lean towards code, some towards research and others towards design. But their number one priority should always be to enforce the delicate balance among business wants, user needs and technical feasibility.

It is probably the single most important mandate of the UX director within the organization to assemble a team that can function in that fashion and partner with others. Their second task is to weed out the members that are not able to conform to the established rules of engagement. The UX director may be experienced in one or more areas of focus but they must be experts in their field. They must be able to quickly absorb and disperse all information that a project requires. They must be able to guide and mentor. They must setup reasonable goals and constantly iterate.

A UX director must be able to analyze a situation, simplify the learnings, and provide a workable solution.

See all comments on LinkedIn