I recently heard of the demise of renowned MP Ranjan. Though I’ve never met him, my friends and colleagues who are in design, speak highly of him. It’s amazing how much design as a field of study and profession has progressed. And I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a lot of smart and talented designers over the past few years. This was not the situation when I started in the tech industry.
While at Zoho (then AdventNet, circa 2002), few of us came together and felt it was important to focus on design (it used to be called Usability then). And many teams had designers who used to be called Usability Engineers. We even went on to setup a usability lab where we had the ability to share the big CRT monitor, have a user try out our product (usually someone from SysAdmin, remember: AdventNet was building enterprise network management products then) and be able to see how a user used specific screens in the product. Most of my friends in other tech companies back then hadn’t heard of or were familiar with usability engineers or what they do. The common question used to be
Are these the people who fix the font colour and bold/italic? Isn’t that graphic design?
When I was interviewing with Yahoo in 2004, the recruiter who forwarded my resume to Yahoo, saw “User Experience” mentioned in the resume, and suggested “Why don’t you write some programming languages like Java in the resume so that they’ll consider this? Why do you want to write things like user experience? How does it help?“. As irony would have it, I ended up getting hired by Yahoo, and joined the same day as @rutasraju who led the UX teams at Yahoo for quite a while 🙂.
By this time, few more companies were beginning to talk of User Experience, Design and even hiring for those positions. And when I moved to InMobi (then mKhoj, circa 2008), we hired UX designers quite early on, and the company continues to build the UX/Design team. It was a much more accepted and serious profession to be included, if you were building products for any kind of human!
In more recent times, design is a mainstay in any company building products. This may be achieved by hiring in-house or by outsourcing/contracting, but the fact remains that it plays at a high level of consciousness for any team starting a company or building a product. At Credibase, when we think of what to do for users, the conversations always start with
What is the proposition for the user, and what is the experience the user will undergo?
I think this is due to a nice and virtuous cycle: See classy products -> Want classy products -> Build classy products. And I think this is great for the ecosystem. From being an afterthought (fix the text and colour on the screens) to being a mainstay, design in India has certainly come a long way, all in 1.5 decades!