Over the last few weeks, I have been wondering more and more why there is such a disconnect between what much of the business and digital world thinks is User Experience (UX) Design versus what I think it is, and what many UX practitioners think it is. I wonder now if the disconnect comes from the job title (or discipline title, if you prefer) itself.

First, let’s take a look at the misconceptions running rampant out there. Pull up any job board and do a search for UX Designer. Actually, I’ll do it for you. Here are samples from WeWorkRemotely, Product Hunt’s job board, and UX Design Jobs:

  • UX Designer: Requires experience in HTML, CSS, PHP, WordPress, Joomla, and Responsive Design. Really?
  • Sr UI/UX Designer: Requires having launched at least 5 products to market, expert proficiency in Photoshop, and fluency in JS, Python, or R. First of all, if you’re requiring this, should the UI part and the UX part be different disciplines? Second, you don’t need experience in any of this to be a UX Designer!
  • Senior UX Researcher & Designer: Requires understanding of and experience with SEO, and you need to be a UX Unicorn…I’ll leave that one alone.

It’s rare to see a UX job broken out by the actual discipline the company needs from the UX Designer. If your organization needs better user research, why not describe the type of research you need? If your organization needs usability studies, say that. If you’re looking for a UX person with experience in multiple different disciplines within the UX field, specify that. However, if you’re looking for a web designer, UI designer, or a front-end developer, you’re not actually looking for a UX Designer.

Buzzwords are good and bad at the same time. The buzz part is wonderful because it generates interest. However, the words part starts to lose meaning when people misapply the buzzword in question in order to generate interest or fill jobs in a disingenuous way.

As I was thinking about how often the confusion surrounding what a UX Designer is comes up, I stumbled across a thread on Reddit that hits on this exact topic. UX jobs are far too design focused in the traditional design sense. And maybe that’s the fault of all those practitioners who have allowed themselves to fall into the UX Design label trap. Or perhaps it’s the fault of all the businesses who want to capture the momentum of the current user-focused methodology trend (goodness, I hope it’s not actually a trend). Regardless, though, maybe it’s time for clarification.

If UX Designer, as a title, causes so much confusion, why not start calling those in the field something else. UX Analysts? UX Researchers? I’m not sure. The fact is, there is so much confusion among many, or purposeful misrepresentation of what a job or discipline is, that it is trickling down to educational courses that can have a significant impact on a person’s career path, development, and wallet. Take this, for example:

This is why so many people are confused about what #UX is. Not one mention of users in this “UX Design” Course pic.twitter.com/hxvExO8JeL
— Justin Hunter (@jehunter5811) April 2, 2015

User Experience Design is about solving problems for people. It’s not about branding. It’s not about pretty design. It can encompass those things, but to suggest that UX Designers are the same as UI Designers or brand designers or even need traditional design skills skews the purpose of the user experience role incorrectly.

To me, there’s not confusion with the title UX Designer. I understand that some UX designers can write HTML and CSS. I understand some can work in Photoshop and other design programs. I understand some can do both, and some can do neither. However, I understand these things because I’ve taken the time to understand them. To a large portion of the business world, if a job has design in the title, the person needs to have traditional design skills.

Many people equate design with the way things look, not solving problems. Until that changes, there will be improperly classified jobs on job boards and there will be confusion throughout the business world about what UX Designers do.

Should we change the title of the work user experience people do? No, but we do need to continue to educate. We need to help the rest of the world understand the importance of user experience, the importance of designing solutions for human beings, and the importance of accurately hiring for these positions.