Will There Be UX Professionals in the Future?

I’ve been pondering lately where there will even be formal UX roles in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time.

Certainly, I don’t think the concepts of caring about users and designing based on researching those users will go away. And I certainly hope I’m not jobless and starving in a few decades.

It feels like we’re in the middle of a race to see who can own UX the most. Everyone wants to talk about the user experience (to the point where that term has even displaced the more accurate “user interface” in a lot of cases). Developers build user experiences, quality assurance people assure the quality of the user experience, product managers want to swallow the UX skillset whole and incorporate it into their own jobs.

Meanwhile, there’s a constant drumbeat of “you don’t need UX specialists.” All you need to do is read this list of 5 tips on how to conduct interviews, and you’re instantly an expert on user research! What kind of fool worries about getting bad data from bad research? Any research is, after all, better than none. (Protip: No, it isn’t)

All that said, though, I do want everyone to think about how their work affects users. Disseminating these skills is going to make life better for everyone. And when we live in a world where practically everybody has had at least a class on UX and concerned with getting real data about users… what do we need specialists for?

I suppose we’d need specialists for highly specialized problems. In those cases, though, I can’t imagine we’d see the kind of “UX Unicorn” model, where we pretend that a UX expert can also be an expert at visual design and coding. High specialized problems will probably need people that can solve tricky research problems, or who spend all their time thinking about complex design problems. How many specialists could the world possibly need, though?

I’m less worried than curious. I suspect a lot of UX people will end up migrating to product management.