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Debbie Levitt

Debbie Levitt to teach us the woes of evangelizing for UX

Questions and answers with Debbie Levvit

Debbie Levitt
Debbie Levitt

Can you briefly tell me what your talk is about?

“Stop Evangelizing UX – And What To Do Instead”

My talk is about how there are so many us practitioners that, as part of their strategy, believe they must “evangelize UX.” This often comes in the form of lots of meetings, PowerPoints, and beating people over the head about how important we (as UX professionals) are. I learned more about that perception after giving multiple talks at developer and Agile conferences. This evangelizing is part of what our coworkers dislike about us. They feel we are not collaborating with them, we are not communicating with them, but then we show up to tell everybody how meaningful and important we are. When UX practitioners avoid collaborating and just take the ball and go home with it, we look like jerks! Then we want to hold another meeting about how great UX is. We need to stop those meetings, and improve and collaboration and communicating with our cross-functional teammates.

Why that topic?

I see UX evangelism as something, in many cases, that is hurting UX. We hold meetings to talk about how great we are as part of our UX strategy and believing it will level up UX maturity. We’re often not noticing that UX evangelism often works against our goals. I gave this talk back in March and a guy came up to me afterwards. He told me about being a “UX evangelist” at a Fortune 50 company, and that only after my talk did he see why he couldn’t get anything accomplished in 1.5 years of evangelism. It’s an important topic and still a little too controversial for most people to touch.

UX professionals feel like we need to do this. You are going against everything we’ve been taught to do.

It comes back to action and words not matching. UX is valuable and necessary. We want companies to give us time, budget, etc, for UX efforts. But there are a couple of reasons our current tactics work against us:

  1. Many companies were successful before they started hiring UX practitioners. They don’t understand what we do and have no idea why they need us. On top of that, they have no idea why these possibly-meaningless people are holding a parade for themselves.
  2. Granted I am playing in to stereotypes here, but many developers I meet at conferences have told me they see UX as a bunch of artsy-farsty, ego-head jerks. We are not helping that perception when we come off as aloof and disconnected.

While we act like we are external to and separate from engineers, they feel pretty separated from us… and evangelism doesn’t cure that. We don’t take time to understand how we are blocking our partners and making their jobs harder.
So in this talk, I will show how to naturally improve collaboration and shift that perception.

Why did you choose to speak at Big Design?

I’ve been applying to some selected UX conferences where my talk is a good fit. Lara (Becker) reached out to me and told me she was excited about my topic. It all came together very fast. I was beyond honored to be offered a keynote spot.

What are you looking forward to at Big Design, other than your talk of course?

It’s all new to me. It sounds like there are a lot of new people to meet. I always love meeting the attendees. I want to hear their horror stories and questions! I like to network with people who are not just speakers.

What is the best way that people get in touch with you?

Linkedin. This is a great way to connect with me and stay in touch.
Go to my company website Ptype (which is short for prototype) to learn more about our UX work and services.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about Big Design?

Bring your questions and your horror stories. I am always happy to answer questions and to chat about UX.

About Debbie

Debbie Levitt, CEO of Ptype UX & Product Design Agency, has been a UX strategist, designer, and trainer since the 1990s. As a “serial contractor” who lived in the Bay Area for most of this decade, Debbie has influenced interfaces at Sony, Wells Fargo, Constant Contact,, Oracle, and a variety of Silicon Valley startups. Clients have given her the nickname, “Mary Poppins,” because she flies in, improves everything she can, sings a few songs, and flies away to her next adventure.
Debbie is a speaker and trainer who has presented at conferences including eBay’s Developer Conference, PayPal’s Developer Conference, UXPA, and WeAreDevelopers. She is an O’Reilly published author and one of few instructors on the planet recommended by Axure. Her newest training program is DevOps ICU, which teaches non-UX roles how to measurably improve DevOps results by correctly integrating UX practitioners and processes.
Outside of UX work, and sometimes during UX work, Debbie enjoys singing symphonic prog goth metal, opera, and New Wave. She’s now a Digital Nomad splitting her time between the USA and rural Italy.

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