When I started Clearleft in 2005, we were arguably the first UX agency in the UK. Sure there were folks practicing various elements of User Centered Design; there were dedicated research agencies, dedicated IA agencies, tons of visual design agencies and even folks partnering on CX. However few if any had bought these threads together under the guise of “User Experience Design” as our friends at Adaptive Path in the US had done a few years earlier.
The Golden Age of UX
Clearleft spent the next 5 years plugging away at term UX-writing articles, speaking at conferences and starting our own UX London event-before the practice eventually took off. However, for the next 10 years, UX was big. I mean proper big. UX Designer became one of the hottest job titles in the industry, and you could add $$ to your salary simply by repositioning yourself as a UX Designer.
This was a time our industry saw much invention and re-invention. There were still plenty of traditional “bricks and mortar” businesses (as we called them back then) that had yet to take advantage of the digital revolution. They may have had a rudimentary website, but it was almost certainly clunky and difficult to use. As such, UX designers would set about rebuilding these sites from scratch.
The Practice of UX
UX Designers of the time would primarily concern themselves with the following activities…
- Talking to users (something businesses had surprisingly not done before in the context of their site) to understand what they wanted and needed, rather than what the company wanted to give.
- Running IA projects to catalog existing information (of which there was often a lot, much of which was poorly written) and then restructuring it based on the user’s understanding of the domain, rather than the company’s own internal structure.
- Running workshops to understand “the problem” (UX designers love a good workshop), and then creating concept models and diagrams to conceptually map out how the new digital experience would work.
- And most importantly, creating wireframes, paper prototypes or interactive prototypes which you could test with prospective users to…