More case studies for UX, please

Today UX Magazine launched their new reviews section, offering a look at a social weather app called Weathermob. In his review, Sachendra Yadav runs through the basic functionality before getting into gritty UX details like navigation interface and sign-in. It’s a quick runthrough, enough to entice you to download and dig deeper, or just skim for quick takeaways. And it’s something we could use more of.

There’s a drought of case studies in the UX writing community, and the scarcity is underscored by the large amount of academic writing on the topic. The academic inclination to catalog and define is to be expected in a nascent discipline like user experience, which is still finding its core tenets and, in some companies, still fighting for recognition as an important part of web design. This approach can be helpful in breaking new research and codifying best practices that are coalescing around the industry.

But on the other side of academic writing is the pressure to publish, establish yourself as an authoritative source, sell some books, and get a keynote slot at a conference. It’s totally understandable (and hey, agency blogs like this one are promotional too), but the stream of punditry is cluttering my RSS reader with overly broad feats of mental gymnastics: categorizing “competence” or defining “vision.”

Which is why we need more case studies.

Show Your Work

Think about a conference talk you liked. Was it a PowerPoint with slides, something like “The 4 Rs of Empathetic Design”? No, it was probably a case study, with a speaker presenting a site they built and walking you through their process from problem to solution.

Graphic design blogs show their work all the time, from wonkier sites like Design Observer to more mainstream ones like The Fox Is Black, and the result is online discourse that leads to a vibrant, educated community. It attracts and inspires new people to think about design, if not become designers themselves. If UX practitioners want their craft to be recognized, we should soul-search less and share more of our work with the world.

Yes, graphic design has a tangible product, whereas UX is often invisible. But our product is process, which heightens the importance of clear, thorough documentation and explanation by the people who made it. (Could you imagine a BOOOOOOOM! for UX? It’d be esoteric, to say the least.) If we want a recognition as a field, a stronger community of ideas, and excited would-be UX designers lining up at the door, we need to bolster our philosophies with real-life examples.

So to the folks at UX Magazine, I say: keep the reviews coming!

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