The first time I held a copy of Designing Web Usability in my hands, it was 2000.
I had launched spinme.com in 1997 as a daily newsletter with my best friend, and nobody had invented the word “blog” yet. At my day job, my radio colleagues had been tip-toeing into digital distribution through partnerships with outside agencies and with established publishers (like America Online). However, after one of those partnerships ended in disaster, my boss’ boss wanted to bring the operation in-house.
As the person already on staff who knew the most about “getting on the web,” I pestered him until he gave me the job. (It was a lot more dramatic than that, but that’s a story for another time.)
With a budget, a new team, and a production bullpen that someone decorated in Pepto Bismol pink, I got to work. And that’s when I first discovered that getting content online requires a lot more than some great stories. We needed to build navigation and wayfinding systems. We needed to create forms that encouraged donors to trust us with their credit cards. And we needed to show senior stakeholders that what we worked on wasn’t just a hunch.
In that book, Jakob Nielsen laid down the foundation for a common language and shared principles now used by tens of thousands of user experience practitioners. I wasn’t really thinking much about what the work was called at that point—I just needed to show my boss that I wasn’t making these things up out of thin air.
Since then, regardless of what it said on my business card at the time, I’ve been building websites. And, midway through 2019, I realized that even my content strategy projects involved me diving in to a client’s infrastructure to patch up anything that got in the way of the story.
As I rounded the corner into 2020, I realized that it was time for me to own up to the fact that I’ve been “doing UX” this whole time. To prove it to myself (and others), I enrolled in the Nielsen Norman Group’s User Experience certification program.
I’ve never been personally worried about “having the credentials” to do anything online, but it’s been super useful to tell our clients and their partners that there’s a “Certified UX Expert” in the room. It’s also been nice to focus my practice on serving clients with critical user experience problems, and coaching their existing developers and content teams through the rest of the process of “getting their stuff online.”