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The second coming for IT?

Could the growing focus on user experience management, grounded in human centred design, be a harbinger of healthier and more sustainable growth for the IT industry?
Read time 3min 30sec

One of the more interesting mailing lists I`ve subscribed to in recent months is one catering to recruitment for the UK`s new media industry. As you can imagine, it covers a broad field of skills, and the jobs on offer vary from copywriting for the Web to blue chip business development and everything in between.

I find that it`s a fairly reliable way to get a snapshot of the skills requirements in the new media sector at any given time, and to extrapolate from that the direction in which that particular market seems to be going.

The only thing it costs me is time, and if I ever need more specific information regarding the development of an individual market segment or skills set, I have a pretty good idea of where to begin asking questions. All in all, the strategy has served me well.

Even in its pr'ecis version, the job ad makes me crave the opportunity to put the resultant product through its paces.

Basheera Khan, editor, ITWales.com

Lately, my interest has been piqued by the increasing number of jobs which combine both technical proficiency as well as softer skills which some might say fall under the category of emotional intelligence.

It seems that in addition to the usual jobs on offer - online media planning and sales, business-to-business mobile device managers and the like - there is an emerging skills niche, which as it is slowly populated, confirms the concepts of content being king, and inextricably linked to the user experience. It`s come to the point of having its own little buzzphrase - human centred design.

Take, for example, this job currently on offer for an experienced human centred design professional to join a customer experience team serving blue chip clientele, often on an international playing field.

In a nutshell, the company is looking for someone with excellent written and verbal communication skills, previous experience of working in an agency environment and preferably, experience in financial services, travel or automotive sectors.

The company is looking for someone with the ability to draw on strong theoretical knowledge and practical experience in observing and interviewing users and evaluating and designing software.

The job ad specifies the need for understanding of design principles recognised by the International Standards Organisation, and requires project management skills as well as those relating to human centred design activities in the software development lifecycle.

Finally, the ideal candidate will have a good understanding of visual design, brand analysis, technology (HTML, XML, etc), as well as systems analysis and engineering. All of these skills will be put to use in identifying and creating solutions that meet user requirements.

Even in its pr'ecis version, the job ad makes me crave the opportunity to put the resultant product through its paces.

Less complex but equally relevant are jobs in the 3G mobile arena, and mass audience participation TV. The former requires a user experience manager with expertise in mobile, instant and unified messaging, and with a psychology or human factors background and previous managerial experience.

The latter is a technical position for someone with experience in database design, application development, report generation and support, for a company whose products allow viewers to connect in real-time to TV programmes through the telephone, SMS, Web and interactive TV.

These are but a few of the signs which indicate that industry is beginning to seriously invest in forging the reality of what crystal ball-gazers have long since predicted; that customer capture and retention is based very much on the quality of experience a product or service can provide - and it`s enough of a business imperative to ensure that companies begin now to accord user experience as much importance as stockholder satisfaction. Could this be the second coming of the IT industry?

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