A successful web presence takes teamwork. If you’re like many organizations, your website was first created by a small team of techies who answered to leadership. In the early days of the web, many organizations gave little thought to design or IA, and none at all to “user experience.”

Roles in User Experience didn’t even exist, in fact. In 1998 I began working as a “web content manager.” I sat with designers on one side, and coders on the other, and decided what words should appear on the pages. Clients, and users, expected little more than digital versions of print publications.

The web has become profoundly more sophisticated. In many cases, customers can engage with the full range of an organization’s services without entering a building or making a phone call. Many companies and organizations no longer simply represent themselves online; they exist online. And this has had a profound effect on the roles we – those who put those things online – play.

But are we sometimes caught in old workflows and expectations? As web content editors and managers, how often have we said…?

“Users say we need ________, but our IT staff is swamped for two years so there’s no point designing it.”
“We can’t make that update ourselves, so we’ll have to create a ticket. Could be months.” 
“Our developers won’t let us. [sigh]”

We know we have something to offer, but how do we insert ourselves into a game that has been played without us since the beginning of the digital age?

It’s like we are standing around the dusty playground, staring at our feet while the captains choose teams. Naturally, their lineup forms around the roles they’ve always had – pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, etc, and they pick the older, bigger kids that they’re used to playing with. Maybe they’re better hitters and fielders than we are, but dare we step in as a pitcher with a fancy new knuckle ball? Or possibly first base coach? Feels pretentious even to suggest it! 

Two of my uncles played foundational roles in the early decades of computer science technology, and I revere them – personally, but also for their work. Everything we do online now stands on their life’s work and that of the myriads of industry veterans like them. And deep as we are into the Digital Age, we Communications and User Experience folks can still feel like rookies sitting on the bench. 

The first, and most grueling, step is to position User Experience as a key player in the organization. We need to convince leadership by any means possible* that while the IT team’s perspective and skills are crucial, the game is changing. Increasing attention to UX will improve products and services, customer satisfaction, and the bottom line. And we are ready to play ball.

UX Research Tip: “By Any Means Possible?!” Convincing Your Boss of the Value of UX

I don’t suggest imprisonment and torture, but the occasional rant to the BOD or foot stomping might be necessary. Better yet, provide evidence! Below are a few of the many, many available resources to help explain what UX is, and why it’s important. (You can return to these yourself on shaky days when the forces of organizational habit weigh heavy and even you doubt UX matters.)

What is UX?

Why does UX matter?