UX Roundup: GenAI Visual Shootout | Incremental Gains | Citation Analysis | A Real Recession
DALL-E 3 image quality comparison | Incremental change is a superior path to success | The UX citation landscape | Remembering the Great Recession: Much worse than today’s minor crisis | Back to the Future of UX | Quiz answers reveal the state of UX in 2023
UX News Roundup for October 9, 2023. Image by Ideogram.
Image Generation Quality: DALL-E 3 vs. Competitors
DALL-E 3 is coming. So far available in Bing Image Create and Bing Creative Mode, but soon also in ChatGPT.
Rory Flynn produced a fun slide show comparing DALL-E 3 and Midjourney on a variety of prompts. In general, I am not a big fan of slide carousels on the web: I would rather see all the images at once on a scrolling page than be restricted to a linear progression of seeing one image at a time. But the content is good and worth your click.
I made two comparisons myself. One of a normal image from DALL-E 3 and Midjourney, and one of a UX slogan typography from DALL-E 3 and Ideogram. (Midjourney can’t render typography yet, so it was out of the running for this prompt.)
DALL-E 3 generates less exciting images, but adheres more closely to the prompt, requiring fewer iterations to produce acceptable work.
“A hammer and a pile of nails” rendered by DALL-E 3 (left) and Midjourney (right). Midjourney’s image is more beautiful and creative, though the hammer looks more like Thor’s hammer than a carpenter’s hammer. DALL-E 3 has better prompt adherence.
Simple typography of “Less Is More” by DALL-E 3 (left) and Ideogram (right). DALL-E 3 wins again on prompt adherence by creating a simpler typography, whereas Ideogram wins on beauty.
Incremental Tweaks, Monumental Gains
Connor Grennan reminds us that minor incremental improvements add to immense business gains. His example is that the coffee chain Starbucks is spending $450 M to reduce the time to process each customer order by a few seconds. While this service design tweak seems small, it’s estimated to save the company $900 M annually, so the gain in just the first year will be twice the cost.
Iterative design and incremental improvements are often worth more, cumulatively than any one big breakthrough. The difference is that true revolutions are rare and often lower profits in the first several years until we discover (through iteration and incremental redesign) how to make the breakthrough idea work in real life for real users. In contrast, you can make small improvements to your design repeatedly. Rack up those gains, 0.1% more profit here, a hundred thousand dollars extra revenue there, and you have made the company a fortune at the end of the year through design tweaks.
As an independent influencer, I’m not up for tenure. Thus, my citation reach doesn’t matter, but I checked my citation index on Google Scholar for kicks. My citation stats as of October 8, 2023 are:
Total citations to my publications: 123,633
My most-cited work is my book Usability Engineering, with 26,193 citations
The latter two obscure metrics are essentially academic swagger stats.
For the h-index, 20 is supposed to correspond to fellows of the American Physical Society, 45 to members of the US National Academy of Sciences, and 126-191 are the scores for the world’s top 10 researchers in the life sciences. I’m not a top-10 scientist, though I might be up there since HCI is a narrower field than life sciences.
The i10-index is simply the number of publications an author has written that have received at least 10 citations.
Many graduate students have been reading and citing my work over the years. (“Student in library” by Midjourney.)
2009 vs. 2023: Scaling the UX Crisis
I recently wrote a piece called “The UX Angst of 2023,” analyzing the current problems in the UX profession. I concluded that we’re being hit by a natural market correction after the feeding frenzy of 2021-2022 when companies hired like there was no tomorrow. (But as I said, “Guess what, tomorrow arrived,” as it has a habit of doing.)
My main conclusion was UX has a bright future, and consequently, so do new people entering the UX field this year, even if they may not be getting the inflated salaries they had hoped for. (UX salaries are down by 11% for 2023 compared with 2022.)
I also pointed out that today’s setbacks are nothing compared with the real crises of the past. To oblige me, The Wall Street Journal published a retrospective of the beginnings of the “Great Recession” of 2009, which started germinating in the fall of 2008. I particularly like their reprints of the entire front page from the first week of panic. I’m just showing you a week’s worth of lead headlines here, but it’s worth going to the WSJ article (which may require a subscription) to read the whole thing.
(At the time, I ran a UX consulting company, and Lehman Brothers was one of our leading clients, as were Landsbanki and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which also crashed. I remember those weeks quite well...)
This is how a terrible crisis looks: Wall Street Journal headlines from the week that launched the Great Recession. Today’s troubles are genuinely minor in comparison.
Back to the Future of UX
The X-Interviews ran an uncommonly wide-ranging interview with me, covering topics from the birth of user experience to its current economic impact on the world.
Decoding 'UX Angst of 2023': The Quiz Verdict
Quiz answers (image by Wepik).
1) What is the article's stance on the future of UX as it relates to AI?
Correct answer C: AI will facilitate a UX renaissance. The article states that the future of UX is AI, suggesting a renaissance.
2) According to the article, what caused the 11% drop in UX earnings for 2023?
Correct answer C: Market correction. The article explains the drop as a market correction after an unsustainable salary blip in 2022.
3) What is the attitude recommended by Jakob Nielsen to handle the challenges in the UX field?
Correct answer C: Optimism. The author encourages a positive attitude, stating that "positive attitudes breed winners."
4) What is Saffo's Law, as mentioned in the article?
Correct answer A: Never mistake a clear view for a short distance. Saffo's Law advises caution in assuming how quickly changes in the UX field will occur.
5) What does the article suggest about the long-term UX salary trends?
Correct answer C: Salaries have remained stable after adjusting for inflation. The article mentions that long-term salary trends have been stable for 25 years when adjusted for inflation.
6) According to the article, what proportion of companies have reached a high level of UX maturity?
Correct answer C: 1% Only 1% of companies doing UX have reached a high level of maturity, according to the author.
7) What does Jakob Nielsen indicate about the UX world's size since he started his career?
Correct answer A: It's 3,000 times bigger. The author states that the UX world is now 3,000 times larger than when he began.
8) How does the article characterize the drop in UX research job openings from 2022 to 2023?
Correct answer D: As a misleading cherry-picked number relative to the trend across many years. The article considers the drop in job openings misleading, as the numbers are still 53% higher than in 2018.
9) What is Nielsen's Corollary to Saffo's Law?
Correct answer A: Don't assume a blurry view means a long distance. Nielsen's Corollary advises caution against assuming that uncertainty implies a distant future.
10) How does the article view UX professionals who started their careers in bootcamps compared to those with Ph.D.s?
Correct answer B: Both can bring value to the field. The author states that both bootcamp and Ph.D. professionals bring unique skills and perspectives to the field.
11) What is the main argument against the notion that UX is in a state of decline?
Correct answer C: UX maturity has improved every decade. The author argues that UX has matured and improved, with more companies adopting UX practices.
12) What does the article predict about the number of UX professionals worldwide by 2035?
Correct answer A: 10 million The article predicts the global UX workforce will reach 10 million professionals by 2035.
To read more about these points, check out my full article, “UX Angst of 2023.”
About the Author
Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., is a usability pioneer with 40 years experience in UX and co-founded Nielsen Norman Group. He founded the discount usability movement for fast and cheap iterative design, including heuristic evaluation and the 10 usability heuristics. He formulated the eponymous Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience. Named “the king of usability” by Internet Magazine, “the guru of Web page usability" by The New York Times, and “the next best thing to a true time machine” by USA Today. Before starting NN/g, Dr. Nielsen was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer and a Member of Research Staff at Bell Communications Research, the branch of Bell Labs owned by the Regional Bell Operating Companies. He is the author of 8 books, including the best-selling Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity (published in 22 languages), Usability Engineering (26,193 citations in Google Scholar), and the pioneering Hypertext and Hypermedia. Dr. Nielsen holds 79 United States patents, mainly on making the Internet easier to use. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Human–Computer Interaction Practice from ACM SIGCHI.