6 Big Ideas That Drove UX Conversations in 2012 (For Better or Worse)

Oh man, it’s the second half of December and that means it’s time for the “best of” and “end of year” lists. At BUX, we’re no different. We want look back and see what ideas and trends got all the attention this year in UX.

UX is such an umbrella term that just about anything digital can be described in terms of UX. But there were 6 Big Ideas so huge that if you were anywhere close to UX, you had conversations about them, whether you knew it or not. Let’s get started with…


The Cloud


The cloud became a big deal this year in UX because of the functionality that it gave online UX tools. There was a time not too long ago when buying an Apple laptop that eschewed the CD drive seemed risky. Now we’re annoyed when we have to break out a flash drive. Dropbox, gDrive, and the vast number of UX tools that allow us to upload, view, manipulate, and share with other members on my team are standard procedure.

On the user side, Cloud Computing is changing the way we interact with data and technology. In an ALWAYS ON environment, ownership isn’t as important as accessibility. Participation earns credibility and our data, long sequestered in our computers and offices is now liberated across a myriad of devices.

In 2012, cloud computing changed the way we worked and the way our users interacted with us.



Marketing attribution blew the f-bomb up in 2012. You know shit is real when there are primetime commercials for it.

The idea behind marketing attribution is as common sense as it is ludicrous:

You know you were thinking it.

You know you were thinking it.

Marketing attribution attempts to identify which marketing campaigns and channels are most heavily impacting sales.

On its face, everything is hunky-dory. Of course we want to know which marketing is driving the revenue! And I would argue that with conversion tracking we get that data. But attribution enthusiasts are quick to point out that doing that is really just “last-touch” attribution. Essentially, if Analytics says that organic search was what drove the sale – what’s it’s really saying is that the last thing the user did before buying was enter a search term into a website, find our listing and clicked on the link.

Attribution wants to know what else might have driven that decision. In essence, attribution seeks to know what caused the user to type in that search phrase?

Note, we are interested in this from a mathematical perspective and not from an actual one. We cannot say, using the current methods, why a specific touch point made a specific user buy. User behavior is so complicated, that it’s likely to be different for each individual. But when we look at the data in aggregate, now we start to see trends.

Attribution is such a big deal that you don’t have to go to Adobe to get it. Google Analytics even does attribution modeling now. Be on the lookout for a future article from us on the topic…


Marketing Automation


Marketing Automation, like Marketing Attribution is trying to deal with all of the data we can now access. Marketing Attribution seeks to understand which marketing channel/ad/touch point made the user buy. Marketing Automation seeks to influence the buying behavior directly. Just look at the chart above. To us in the marketing or UX field, this is just another one of those boring charts that describe the sales funnel. To a user it has to look downright stalker-ish.


BUT, just because it’s a little creepy doesn’t mean it won’t become more of a big deal in our lives than it already is. It solves too many problems and drives too many sales. Marketers really will become the overly attached girlfriend.



Word Cloud "Gamification"

Gamification is a real thing. Can you believe it? Take that Mom and Dad for saying that video games were a waste of time! It turns out, we grew up and added game elements to how we work. How ’bout them apples?

Gamification involves adding game elements and mechanics, centered around an action/reward mechanism that tries to raise user engagement and participation. It’s not so much about turning work into a type of video game (racing, shoot-em-up, puzzle, etc.) as it is about motivation. Games are excellent at getting users to play just a little bit more and for making people want to do boring stuff. Ask any gamer who has spent time grinding on a level or running around levels against the wall pressing the A button in search of a secret room if they’re willing to engage in boring behavior in a game and the answer will be an unanimous “hell yeah!”

So now, instead of standing in line at the DMV, we can level up our waiting badge or some shit like that.

See, it’s not waiting if you’re winning.

This is actually one of those trends I love. For example, I love how Codecademy makes learning programming fun by using points, badges, levels, and percent-complete bars. It’s driven me to complete several courses, pushing beyond what I reasonably wanted to do just because I knew I was only a few exercises away from gettingĀ  a new badge or completing a task.

Gamification is all about stickiness. And for that reason, it was on a lot of UXers minds in 2012.




Holy shit, the way that Mobile has become a thing, you’d think that we just invented a whole new Internet. Gone are the days where you could put up your website and go home for the evening. Now you have to be ready to be viewed on tablets and mobile phones. You have to think about users physically touching your site. And you’re going to have to answer the question “Do we do an app, create a website with responsive design, or just say ‘fuck it’?”

It’s all about accessibility now. And nothing says “can you see my site okay?” like having to view it on 25+ different mobile screens across web browsers you’re familiar with and some you’ve never heard of before.

And it’s not just screen size or touch. Mobile allows for new user experiences. It allows them to interact with your company/site/brand outside of the normal confines of a desk and a computer. This creates marvelous opportunities for creative minds to explore new avenues of engagement.

And it’s for all of these reasons that Mobile only got bigger in 2012.




Social marketing, in the Web 2.0 sense, turns 10 in 2013. So why is it on a list of current UX topics?

For one thing, it’s the most UX thing that UX people do – communicate directly with users.

We all like sharing stuff. That’s why social has never been bigger. Sharing, for most applications, is no longer optional. It’s a key component of how the digital product functions or how the marketing team spreads its message and brands itself.

From a UX perspective, Social can be seen from several different angles:

– It’s a way to let people login to your website
– It’s a word-of-mouth marketing platform
– It’s a relationship builder
– It’s an experience enhancer

Elements of Social affect both the marketer and the programmer, and now increasingly, the analyst.

In 2012, Adobe finally showed up and made its way into the Social sphere with the product creatively titled “Adobe Social”. What does it do? In a word: attribution. (Where have I heard that word before?)

Earlier I said that Adobe didn’t put their commercials online. And that’s true, except for this one. So they must be proud of it. In it, one white guy slaps another white guy into giving him the right answer. Like a really lame fight club, except instead of freeing you from your possessions it helps you understand which marketing message talked you into making your buying decision.

But oh-my-gawd if 2012 wasn’t the year that social went corporate. Not like corporations haven’t been using social media (or word-of-mouth marketing) forever, but this is the year that we got serious about tracking it to ROI. (See the above commercial.)

No self respecting UX conference was without a talk or panel on social.

In 2013, social will only grow more important. I contend that SEO is morphing into social marketing. For this reason and because marketing is increasingly about exploiting niches social will continue to be big in UX in 2013.

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