Has UX become more about the deliverables than the delivery?

I’m relatively new to the world of UX (at least it’s methodologies), but since I made the conscious shift I’ve noticed a growing preoccupation with the deliverables that are produced by the UX Designer rather than the final result.

Don’t get me wrong I understand that a lot of what makes UX so strong are the deliverables that are created to support an argument and make it valid, but let’s be honest, how often is there really time and budget to go through the full process and put together all the documents, mockups, sitemaps, card sorting personas, prototypes etc.?

If it was as easy as that such concepts as Lean UX and Agile UX probably wouldn’t ever be needed. We would do everything nice and organised and have a nice folder with all the content for each project.

The real world isn’t that simple, even if we wish it was.

“Tell me the story”

This is the comment I see the most in UX job postings and it’s a good comment and the answer can ultimately give us great insight into he UX designer’s process and thoughts.

Sometimes the designer can spin an incredible tale of adventure with various interviews and meetings. The team workshops and interactions where incredible content was flowing out of every pen and paper. Personas that formed out of data with ease and mockups that can almost make you believe in magic. At the end of the adventure everyone looks back at boxes full of deliverables, a photo album of teamwork and an incredible product that delivers… everything!

Other times… we have the clock monkey on top of us and stakeholders telling us that we’re making budget cutbacks so no spending is allowed until the next quarter. Often these stories consist of a quick brief meeting, quick research/discovery process and the designer dishing out mockups or even going straight to working prototypes because the stakeholders can’t imagine what you’re on about until they see what it will actually be like. This means we are forced to jump many UX steps, or do a more mental version of them.

I’ve had projects where the deliverables are almost just 1 or 2 documents and the live version online.

“But UX without deliverables isn’t UX!”

Many UX professionals at this point might be climbing the walls and saying: “well then, you can’t call what you do UX” or “without the deliverables how could you ever hope to present your case?”

Before I go into that, let’s look at what UX at its core is. UX is about creating the best possible experience for the user with the idea that a happy user will keep coming back, feel fullfiled and ultimately invest more into what you’re selling, thus increasing revenue for the business.

So the minute I decide to move a button to the top of a page and revenue and visitors go up, haven’t I just done UX? Isn’t UX ultimately about getting the experience right?

“Without the data to back it up, you’re walking in the dark”

I agree with the above statement and believe that what UX methodologies have brought to the table is incredible, making it possible to can make a more educated guest than before.

But let’s remember that the data is there to support the final outcome and sometimes the data you’re going to have will be minimal. Sometimes you won’t need to interview as many people because you already know exactly what your stakeholders want. Other times the result of the changes can be seen long before you’ve normally had a chance to siv through analytics and feedback.

“So you’re saying I should just throw UX deliverables out the window?”

Far from it, but I do believe that the deliverables should take the back seat they were intended to take. Sometimes we won’t be able to do it all because of constraints.

What we as UX Designers do have to do is build up empathy and get to know the business and clients as soon as possible in order to not have to depend exclusively on the deliverables on each and every project. Accept that sometimes the story is quite short and that we have to show up at a second meeting after 24H with some kind of mockup or prototype.

Is it fair? No. Without a doubt, being able to use the complete spectrum of UX deliverables and methodologies probably gets you closer to the ultimate UX experience with less error.

Speaking from my own experience, stakeholders have come to trust my decisions and rationale to the point where just explaining it to them is enough and I don’t need to have dozens of deliverables to support it. Does this mean they trust me blindly? Far from it. I had to work to show them what I take into consideration and my levels of empathy and I often have to take deliverables to support many decisions… just not the whole range.

Ultimately aren’t results what’s important?

All I ask is that you put the results in first place and remember that the deliverables are there to support your decisions. The next time you work on a project consider whether you really need all of the deliverables you’ve put together.

Sure, they make your portfolio look great and if you’re presenting to a new client it makes you seem like you have everything well thought out, but do you really have the time to always do it well? Do you always have the budget to do as you please?

At the end of the day, all I’m trying to say is that the deliverables although helpful are not always the most important part of the project.

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