If every company is a software company, then UX design is everyone's job

An insightful analysis​ of the work of more than 350,000 designers reveals a growing movement toward design-driven thinking, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

If every company is, on some level, a software company, that means delivering a great user experience (UX) isn't just a nicety with pretty graphics, it's a business necessity. That's why the time has come for everyone -- not just designers, but developers, architects and executives -- to become immersed in UX, and embrace UX design thinking as a top priority for their enterprises. 

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

In an insightful analysis of 2,411 links with 358,917 designers all around the world, Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga, both with @uxdesigncc, find there is a growing movement toward design-driven thinking, but there's still a lot of work to be done. It's time to embrace the inner designer in all of us. Among the key trends the co-authors tracked, the following have enterprise-scale implications for the way applications needs to be designed and presented to internal end-users as well as customers:

Fight the good fight against feature bloat: This is perhaps the most challenging task of all for development and design teams. "When facing issues on how to keep a product relevant over time, the first reaction is trying to course correct the product by... adding even more features," Teixeira and Braga point out. Feature bloat grows because users ask, business stakeholders demand more revenue streams, and "the performance of the product team is evaluated by the number of features it delivers as opposed to the relevance of those features for the end users." It's not easy to overcome this mindset, and Teixeira and Caio challenge design and development teams to focus on solving user needs, and not just trying to keep piling on complexity.

Embrace new superpowers: "It's time we stopped drawing lines around who is a designer and who is not," Teixeira and Braga write. "UX is a fast-growing discipline, and we need to enlist everyone's superpowers in order to deliver the experiences people really need. There is no new magic formula for the design process or universal standards as to what should be included in the job description of a designer. Rather than dwelling on questions such as whether designers should code, we should be welcoming new and much-needed skills to our fast-growing field."

Recognize UX design as a team sport; "As digital teams grow and projects become more complex, designers are being valued by collaboration and team enablement rather than only individual tasks." Teixeira and Braga recommend pushing for more user research and understanding and collaborating with developers to enhance the quality of software interactions. 

Think beyond the component library: "The first image that comes to mind when one thinks about design systems is that of a component library: a repository of UI patterns such as buttons, dropdowns, and cards that designers and developers can easily copy and paste to speed up their work," Teixeira and Braga state. "But that's only the tip of the iceberg: a design system has to take into consideration broader aspects of a company's operations, including tooling, governance, people, accessibility standards, technology stack, and workflow." A design system is about how people work together. "We should be spending less energy in creating new components for our design system, and focus our attention in understanding the systems behind the design."