Are we headed this way?

The direction of User Experience in New Zealand ?

With UX still taking shape in New Zealand I think we can learn a lot from what’s happening in other centres. Having just returned home to New Zealand from User Experience research contracts in London, I thought I’d share a few observations:

Everyone’s hiring, especially UX recruiters
There are now several recruitment companies who cover or are dedicated to filling UX roles. They seem to be overflowing with work, but there’s still a skills/experience shortage …anyone who’s good is booked.

Boom time for freelancers
UX Agencies are facing stiff competition from lone consultants, especially for Usability and UX research projects, where the short engagements really suit the freelance ‘gun for hire’. Clients are winning as they get all the insights without paying agency rates. My friend Harry elaborates.

Generalists are recognizing their strengths and doing what they do best. Most noticeable here is a split between designers and researchers, with ‘full service’ UX agencies having a pool of each, complementing each other on a typical project.

Some UX people or agencies specialise by content or industry (Social, Retail, Banking etc.) …some by environment (Mobile, Gaming, etc.) As an example, I met with a small team of consultants who run usability studies for IPTV and in-flight entertainment interfaces. … that’s getting really niche!

Financial sector is poaching top UX talent
Some of the strongest consultants have been pulled across into the world of finance and investment banking, specifically working on trading system interfaces where the smallest improvements in efficiency can result in big gains (or losses, depends which way you look at it).

Informed clients
Clients who are veterans of the User Centered approach now have a mature understanding of UX processes, when to use them, how to commission them, what to expect, and how much to pay.  The standard ‘5 user’ usability testing study has become relatively commoditised as a result.

UX stops at the screen
Multi-channel customer experience projects are (still) thin on the ground. I put this down to siloed teams client-side and that User Experience is still (arrogantly) ‘owned’ by digital, even within organisations. This has to change, and it might be the emerging Service Design agencies who pull it off.

7 thoughts on “Are we headed this way?

  1. Zef

    Thanks for the insights Nick. I think NZ is gradually heading this way too, although I don’t think we’re large enough to have specialist UX Recruiters.

  2. Matt Currie

    Thanks for sharing your observations. The questions this raised in my mind are: (as industry participants) do we want UX to go the way you’ve described? What might be the positives and negatives of such an evolution? How else might UX evolve here in NZ?

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  4. Matt

    This is a pretty accurate summary of the state of play here in the UK I think.
    Specialisation here is often a response to clients wanting proof of success in their field before they lay out a lot of money to hire a contractor, basically to manage the risk. But I think it’s to the detriment sometimes to practitioners and ultimately to the client because over specialisation can lead to poorer overall skills, which can have a bigger impact on a delivering a successful project than industry specific experience.

    I’ve done some UX work for the finance industry here for example and we have had better results from good designers with no finance experience than we have had with mediocre designers with finance experience. The hard part has been convincing the client of that face, but you only need to demonstrate it once.

  5. Nick

    Heya to the two Matts. .. thanks for leaving your two pence / cents worth.

    Yes, these do raise some questions, particularly around the old favourite ‘what the client wants v.s. what they need’.

    Many ex-agency UX practitioners have gone client-side to build UX teams or to instill a UCD process within those organisations. These individuals then become the client of the UX agency (Or freelancers as mentioned in the post above).

    I think this goes some way to explaining how clued-up and demanding some clients have become, which is only a good thing for the quality of work across the board.

    Talent and fresh eyes can be a great combination approaching a problem, but you’re right, clients do like to know they are in good hands. I.e Flow Interactive has more than it’s share of travel industry clients, and this good work converts into more clients from that sector.

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  7. Blake :-)

    Great analysis Nick and I think a fair reflection of what is starting to happen in NZ but as Zef mentions there isn’t quite the same model around recruitment here…does anyone know of a UX specific recruiter in NZ?

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