Guest Blog: Brian Baker on UX, The Final Frontier

We're hosting BoulderUX Wednesday, May 22 with guest speaker Brian Baker of The First User, the recognized authority in User Experience for consumer electronics, as well as a thought-leader in the User Experience of mobile apps, websites, outdoor gear, and automotive experience. We asked him to provide us with a guest post hinting at what you'll hear when you attend the event. Register for the Meetup. Space is limited.

I’ve been calling User Experience (UX) the ‘final frontier’ of product development for some time now, and people often ask why I use that title.

I call it the final frontier because UX is the ONLY discipline that emphasizes customers through every stage of product development and at every touchpoint between the customer and your company.

Other methodologies cover only a portion of the processes used to create product, and the end result often falls short of user expectations. For example, most designers would say they practice ‘user-centered’ design, yet the world is full of product that is obviously NOT user-centered. This is a result of designs being altered in development, AFTER the designer has left the process. But the user needs to be considered throughout a product cycle, not in just one part of a cycle.

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Agile, Waterfall, Just-in-Time, Six Sigma and Kanban — all fail to account for the entire cycle of product development. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Agile and Kanban, but they only cover a portion of what it takes to create a successful product. Where is Agile in the design phase of a product? Where is Just-in-Time manufacturing with regards to customer service? They don’t cover that.

But UX does. When properly installed in development and throughout the culture of an organization, the practice of Great UX essentially puts the voice of the customer at every touchpoint between a company and its customers:

  • The ideation phase of a product is built on UX market studies.
  • The design stage integrates user testing to keep on track.
  • Software or hardware development is iterated through user feedback and prototyping.
  • Marketing uses the personas created during the UX market study to craft the right messaging at product launch.
  • Customer service and support baselines are built on the UX market study (what does the customer want?) and user testing (how does the customer use the product?).

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Great product is about more than just great design, software development, or manufacturing protocols — it’s about recognizing the customer throughout the entire product lifecycle and in every facet of your organization. The greatest product companies in the world adhere to this practice daily — think Apple, Disney, and Virgin; User Experience is simply the name of this practice. It’s repeatable, and it’s sustainable, and it works; and that’s why I refer to it as the final frontier.

Brian Baker was the founder of the leading Usability shop in San Francisco during the dot-com, and is now the Managing Partner of The First User in Boulder, CO. The First User is a top-tier User Experience (UX) firm with clients in mobile, venture-funded startups, web and outdoor gear.

Mr. Baker believes that UX is the final frontier of product development, and teaches his clients how to make truly user-centered product… product that is a joy to use and interact with.

Mr. Baker often speaks on the topic of UX, product development, and how Great UX can sharply increase ROI. He sits on three boards, has three current investments in CE and mobile, and motorcycles through the Rockies in his spare time.