Early in my career I was always in doubt with my process. I thought there was a procedure, a recipe how everyone should design. Because my improvisation, surely, wasn’t the most optimal way.
I had no better idea where to look, but books, hoping I would learn how they design at Google or whatever company we were romanticizing at the time. But book after book, I consistently felt puzzled by abstract doctrines I’d had no idea what to do with.
Concepts such as Focus Groups, A/B Testing or Personas felt so distant from my daily job. Even after years and many different jobs, domains and teams – my understanding of design matured, but my feeling didn’t change.
At some point down the road I started wondering why is my experience so different from theirs and realized that most famous UX books come from (a) Academics trying to understand human behavior or (b) Practitioners working for big organizations on a scale too distant from my reality. Almost as if we were in a different profession.
Their perception and the context they operate in were dramatically different from mine. The tools and methods they describe are too often addressing the issues specific to a certain business and a certain scale. And even though many of the arguments sound compelling indeed, most of the time their advice feels like reading instructions for gala dinner when you just want to make pizza at home for friends.
In other words, what works well for a 1000 people enterprise organization, never applies flawlessly to a 10 people company, let alone the UX design generally.
Most software companies today count less than 50 people and usually only a handful of designers. In such a setting, a designer’s role is more general and work ships more liberally. We will rarely employ complex operations to validate every design decision but mostly operate in a trial and error routine. No one denies that, for example, A/B testing has its deserved place in our practice. But at the scale many of us work it’s often irrelevant. There are better, more impactful ways to spend your limited design capacity when you’re a small company.
Yet most of the time, the advice is coming from people with a different background. Making many specific practices, entire chapters from the books, feel out of touch with reality. It’s not that these books really suck or that their techniques are somehow broken, it’s just not how most of us do things every day.