Coming to Terms—Part 3
Finally, as we try to define what we do, it's equally important to define what we don't do. Both "IA" and "usability" (and probably other fields as well) have been guilty of defining almost anything related to a user-centered design process as being part of "what we do."

It's important to dismiss the argument (all too often made by usability people) that "usability" equals "efficiency" equals "satisfaction." To provide a simple example, when driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the most efficient route is Interstate 5-the shortest route with several hundred miles of straight-as-an-arrow highway through flat and dusty farmlands, dotted only by small functional clusters of gas stations and motels. In contrast, the more satisfying route is the coastal Highway 101, about an a hour longer, but a scenic drive through rolling countryside and ocean views, passing through or near several picturesque towns along the way. Usability is a goal, admittedly an important one, but only one of many goals that need to be balanced. A highly usable interface to a product that's irrelevant to user's needs, or too expensive for it's intended users, or can't turn a profit is just as much a failure as one that's impossible to use.

It's also important to note that being user-focused is an approach, not a job and not one limited to one field. One of the better books on journalism was titled "Writing for Your Readers," and newspapers have experimented with "reader-centric" coverage of political campaigns where they polled voters to find out what their issues were and relentless grilled political candidates about these issues before letting the candidate spout off on their issues. Likewise, at their best, marketing and branding focuses on listening to the customer.)

When we overreach in our turf battles, I think we again confuse clients and co-workers. They may not know exactly what we do, but they do know that some of the jargon and arguments we're using violates common sense.

And it gets worse when we start staking claims to other fields where we're not qualified-for example someone once argued that UXs should get involved with setting pricing on products, since after all that was part of the user experience… Feh. Yes, it's part of the "experience" in the broadest sense, but I for one aren't qualified to do product pricing and I doubt many other UXs are unless they've got an MBA. Talk like that undermines the credibility we're trying to establish.

Here's a starting list of some things we don't do as UXs (although we may be familiar with it, and may even be qualified to do some depending on our background—for example someone who was formerly a graphic designer is probably qualified to do visual design.)

Note: This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.