RJ Owen asks and attempts to answer the question What makes a "User Experience expert"? He lists the top 5 things that distinguishes "real" UX professionals, which sparked a great discussion in the comments. Some highlights...
What all UX practitioners agree to is the necessity of understanding
user needs. This is not always what users ask for, but rather what they
really need. It takes a lot of analysis to get tot he latent needs
inside of manifest statements, but it is this "fuzzy" area where UX
really does its magic and provides the greatest value.
I would disagree that UX is just another term for customer service. I
agree that you can't have a great UX if your organization has lousy
customer service, but I like to say that UX has a quality of totality
to it. You might have great customer service, but if your website
stinks that's going to bring down the whole experience. Or if your
store is poorly laid out and people can't find things easily - that's
going to impact on the UX. Every touchpoint needs to be a part of the
User-experience is only part of a solution. It works in concert with
other disciplines to help create the right solution that meets the
users' needs and supports the business' objectives. The iPod change the
user-experience of the day, but it also had good ID, packaging, and
marketing. Remember, though, the older MP3 players had good marketing,
ID, and packaging, too. But they lacked the user-experience that the
iPod provides. And guess who owns the market?
This isn't to say that a good user experience can save a bad product, but a bad UX can certainly kill a a good product.
I have some of the most successful designs out there, and they are
successful due, not to some self proposed design genius (that I most
certainly do not posses), but, to relying on good user research.
Einstein once said that if he had 20 days to solve a problem, he would
spend the first 19 defining it and the last day solving it. Good user
research defines the problem better than anything else. Don't rely on
the "existing" problem statement. I've worked on over 250 different
projects, and all, and I mean 100%, of them had a dramatically
incorrect problem statement.
As I am known to say, without good user research, the best you can hope to do is solve the wrong problem, very well.