Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Specialists Versus Generalists: A False Dichotomy?

More on the ideal UX team ...

"In his recent blog post on UIE Brain Sparks, “Ideal UX Team Makeup: Specialists, Generalists, or Compartmentalists,” Jared Spool has revived his discussion of the merits of specialists versus generalists. He defines specialists and generalists as follows:

“Specialists are professionals who have the time, experience, and projects to allow them to go deep into a discipline such as information architecture or visual design.

“Because they can concentrate on the one discipline, they become very knowledgeable and experienced at solving the problems that crop up. Having a specialist on board is often very valuable, since they’ll know how to tackle the many subtleties that can make or break a project.

“Generalists are professionals whose time and projects demand they learn a broad variety of disciplines. It’s not unusual to find a generalist who daily switches between information architecture, usability research, interaction design, visual design, and even coding.

“Because they are constantly switching, they don’t have the advantage specialists have at gaining knowledge in a specific discipline. However, they do have the advantage that they often better understand the intersection between these disciplines. They are extremely valuable because they can see issues and details from multiple perspectives, bringing a broad view to the project.”—Jared Spool

While there are indeed some UX professionals who—by either personal inclination or circumstance—resemble the specialists and generalists Jared describes, in my opinion, the ideal employee to hire for your UX team is neither a specialist nor a generalist.

T-Shaped People

The ideal UX professional combines many of the best attributes of both specialists and generalists. At some point in his or her career, this person has specialized in one of the essential disciplines of user experience for an extended period of time and is an adept in that specialty. If this person has had a long career in user experience, he or she might even have focused on more than one UX specialty at different times. This ideal UX professional has also worked in contexts that required him or her to function as a generalist, so has broad knowledge of most UX disciplines and finely honed skills in many of them. Most importantly, this person can integrate diverse viewpoints and takes a holistic approach to solving problems."    (Continued via UXmatters, Pabini Gabriel-Petit)    [Usability Resources]

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