The following is my opinion on the term User Experience Designer. To be honest, I don't think it is a proper title for what these people actually do. What these people do is priceless, which cannot be understated, but the title given to them is entirely wrong in my opinion. You don't have to agree, but my reasoning behind this opinion is sound (in my mind anyways), and well thought out. So, if I've enticed you enough with this intro, please read why and what I mean.
We Need to Define Experience
In order to give any of my argument grounds to stand on, you must first understand my context. If you've been kind enough to read some of my previous posts, you'll see that my definition and understanding of the concept of an experience cannot possibly come from one process, and definitely not from one person. It consists of multiple processes that one person delegated to creating and architecting a project through extreme in-depth thought and rationalizations cannot attach to a yet inexistent atmosphere. A designed experience is the product of intellectual (cognitive) processes and atmospheric cues (lets stick to visual for the sake of conversation), but mainly how each user brings their own memories into a series of engagements and interactions that ultimately create the planned experience.
What I'm trying to say here is that how we define, in Cleveland, Ohio, as a User Experience Designer, someone who creates wireframes, site maps, and overall plans the architecture of a project, cannot possibly be solely responsible for the entirety of user's interactions all the way through an experience. What we refer to as user experience has more to do with usability rather than creating an experience.
This is the name that I would substitute for the term User Experience Designer. I find reason in this because User Experience Designers (UX) do not always create an aesthetic atmosphere that is required by my definition to create something complete that qualifies as an experience. What they actually do is mainly the heavy intellectual (cognitive) portions, as they plan out how users should interact – in some cases extremely well, if you're working with someone like Franke Chung, who I have the pleasure of working with at Recess Creative. While I have not had this conversation with Franke, or anyone for the matter, I must stress the importance of what designers like her do, and why I see them as Usability Designers rather than User Experience Designers. The bulk of their part in any project is mostly in the beginning stages, but evolves as the project develops an atmosphere from interaction and visual designers. The role of a UX designer is to ensure that the usability of a thing retains its intention as aesthetic decisions are made along the way. It becomes a collaboration if you're doing it right, and I feel that in any collaboration, no one has rights to say they are the creator of the entire experience.
Wireframes, site maps, and a plan for architecture is so so important to have when beginning any project. These are just plans with no context though, until you introduce an atmosphere to engage the memories of whomever is viewing/interacting/whatever with the project, and by my definition, memories are brought about through context, which is informed mainly by atmospheric cues. No one person can be responsible for the entire user experience, unless they are creating a plan and an atmosphere to house it in. This, in most cases, does not happen. A collection of Usability Designers, Interaction Designers, and Visual Designers all work together to create a pre-planned experience, and then they cross their fingers and hope it all goes to plan.
And that is why I feel that User Experience Designers are mislabeled; they are actually Usability Designers, and I think that is far more specialized and impressive than a lump sum definition of experience. Usability and experience are far from the same thing. It is tantamount to calling the wheel of a car the entire experience of driving. Yes, the wheel is what allows the user to control the physical vehicle they occupy, but that vehicle's path is truly dictated by the road that it rides on. They work together, they are inseparable, and are equally important in getting from point A to point B.
So I offer nothing but my opinion here, and a humble high five if you agree. You don't have to, and that is a wonderful thing if you have your own opinion on the matter. I'd sincerely love to hear it. Everything everybody does to create anything as a team is wonderful and just as important as anyone else's part. I'm just a nut for proper nomenclature.