In my entire process of self education it was very clear that the users must be a priority. To make it successful you have to involve them (usability test, ethnographic research, rapid testing, etc) or read information about them (paper on Mendeley, statistics, customer support, etc).
Today I am seeing a lot of designers observing trends, solving problems just based on client's feedback and their experience as a user, but in fact only a few genuine users are involved, and to be honest, that feels a bit wrong.
I know big companies here in Australia that have big UX pod and actually never did a usability test. The horrible things is that I have seen other designers taking inspiration from it. These companies are making money based on their design and designers build their portfolio with that, but deep inside it feels really strange. I am even tempted to push my reflexion by asking how good designers can be efficient when it comes to facilitate activities with real users if they actually didn't do much with users.
I remember David Travis saying something on that matter on Udemy, I am paraphrasing; “If you want to keep designers happy, get them involve with real people.” I reckon he is right, and I am pretty sure that creativity is also fuelled by that, even if you are the best designer, you should still be involve with users. Recently I found a very good article on the Smashing Magazine's website reflecting the situation in America, the author seems also intrigued by the state of our industry http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012...esign-process/
New ways have emerged, these ways are making the process more flexible and less costly (Lean UX, etc).
So yes I believe that there are still ways to involve users in our craft, even on the smallest job.
I was just wondering, what if your opinion about the industry in Australia?