Uncommon UX Specialties

I’m beginning to work on my first book-length UX writing project, and I’m looking for some help.

In the book, I’m planning on examining some less-discussed UX specialties, looking for research, experts, best practices, and practical considerations for each. I’d like each discipline to be it’s own chapter-length topic. My goal is to help build a knowledge base on some of these topics, and to give professionals an idea of some interesting niches they might want to get involved with.

Right now, I’m just beginning my research. I’ve nailed down these different types of UX for research so far:

  • Childhood
  • Senior (age 65+)
  • “Adult Content” sites
  • Accessibility
  • Intranet/Corporate Wikis/Blogs
  • Dark Patterns
  • 10 foot design
  • Interactive Digital Signage
  • Self-Driving Automotive UX
  • Virtual Reality (VR)
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Online Gambling
  • Gaming UX/Gamification of UX
  • Dark Web
  • Email
  • UX… In… SPAAAACE! (Space/Aviation UX)
  • Phyiscal UX
  • UX Strategy
  • Healthcare UX

Some questions I’m trying to get answered:

1.) Are there any specialties not listed that you’d like to see discussed?
2.) Are any of the listed specialties too “mainstream” to fit in a book about odd UX niches?
3.) Do you know of any good research or practitioners of any of the above specialties that might be helpful for my project?

Any help I could get would be greatly appreciated! I’m hoping to share my progress here as we go, and possibly start a podcast around the subject of UX niches.

Thanks everyone - y’all rock!

I’m editing this post as we go to include suggestions from the community below.


Nice on Doug. This looks super interesting. I’ll put out a call on Twitter for you.

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I don’t know is it relevant - “an ux audit on darknet websites”. Sounds crazy.
once I planned to do it, later dropped.

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That’s a really interesting idea, though I can see how it’s fraught with research difficulties. Nobody wants to be on a list, and most of the hidden service sites are the type that will get you put on lists (and also the type that I have no desire to visit.)

Still, the darknet has it more legitimate purposes, such as allowing users to circumvent government firewalls (looking at you, China), or by allowing drug users to get impartial advice from doctors they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Any study of the darknet would have have to be rooted in the implications of designing for user privacy first. Given the battle between security and personal liberties currently raging, there’s a lot that could be learned there.


Yes, you are right. Some time ago I read some parts of this book

And it sounds very interesting to me.

The main reason why I got interested in doing a research is - I heard someone mention a darknet drug website as “a better amazon run by cartels”. So I thought of checking it and see how they organize information, navigation, categories, search assistance, trust system and support. Because e-com is always a big deal and maybe will find something new.

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Thanks for the book tip, I will have to check it out!

I think you make a fair point, though there are some ethical questions there. Definitely something to think about though. I may ping you for some feedback as/if I go down that road, if it’s okay with you?

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After reading this I am curious about user testing for sex toys. Wonder what goes there :blush:


If AR and VR are in there, I would expect AI too.
I’d recommend reaching out to Jody Medich for VR and AR.
I would be interested in business design as well, but that may be too mainstream. :smile:
Great idea!


One thing you could do is look through UX conference presentations. For example, the UX Australia conference in Melbourne a week or two ago had talks focusing on UX for autistic people and conducting UX Research with child victims of crime. Just the talk topics will set you thinking, and sites like http://www.uxaustralia.com.au/ list their talks going back years, most of which have audio recordings and slides, and often easy ways to contact a speaker. Should be rich pickings for you.


@Sridhar Well, my thought was more about websites hosting adult content. It’s a tricky subject to address tactfully-- even here, speaking professionally, I’m not sure how much leeway I have on the site-- but it’s an important one. Somewhere between 4-15% of internet use centers around adult content (according to PsychologyToday.com). There are some interesting case studies about how several sites have changed their UX to cater to different demographics and target audiences, and I’ve seen some interesting studies on how adult sites craft and place advertisement to maximize advertising profit. Quite frankly, the world of adult content is awash in dark patterns, but it’s a topic that almost no one in the industry is willing to touch. I’d expect the chapter to revolve around the ethical practice of UX, using the subject matter to show how industries undeserved by the professional UX community risk falling into dark patterns that hurt the industry and users.

@jdebari - While I think AI is naturally suited to conversational interfaces, the way we interact with AI varies based on its use. I think it’ll be a good inclusion. Thank you!

@ronsman - Thanks for the tip! I had planned on getting into conferences presentations, but didn’t have any on my radar quite yet. I’ll pick these up and go browsing through UXAustralia.com.au as well. Ironically, it was a talk on accessibility at Smashing Conference 2017 in San Francisco that got me thinking about UX niches in the first place.

Hi Doug,

I would recommend looking into the growing commercial space industry. There are so many directions to go in such as asteroid mining or space tourism. I know there is a UX person for NASA out there, but I haven’t taken the time to research him. For asteroid mining, I’d recommend looking into a company called Planetary Resources. Rhae Adams (@rhaebies on twitter) is a Director. I follow him on twitter. Interesting guy.

That’s my suggestion! I’m a huge space fan. :hugs:

Best of luck on your project!

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Thanks, @marie_williams01! I share your fascination with all things space-oriented.

Aviation UX is one of those specialties that falls somewhere in the gray area-- certainly it takes some special skills to be successful in those industries. I’ve applied for positions with Jeppesen, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, and done some research on the subject as interview prep. It turns out that one of the biggest differences in the aviation field, at least in the US, is the government red tape you need to jump through to get designs vetted, approved, and implemented. With the safety of so many people at stake, along with a multi-million (or billion) dollar hunk o’ capital, designs for damn near anything get vetted by a multitude of teams before they are ever approved and implemented. This has the effect of both dispersing credit for success and blame for failure, along with slowing development time.

I’ll pop Space UX on the list and see what else I can find out. Thanks for the tip!


Ha! I love the UX in Space.

I’d like to follow your progress. Is this a book or an article you’ll publish? Or a blog?

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This is a full-on, book-length project, so purchasing a copy at the end is always an option :slight_smile:

However, I plan on writing about this on my blog, lostmegabites.com.

My specialty is in UX Strategy which is (as I define it - and I think I’m entitled to define it under the circs) proceeding to examine and redesign companies from the point of view that everyone is a user -internally and externally - and that responding to that means everything from changing the color scheme of a website to altering a process to make it more usable and thus more productive. Friends have described it as “UX meets Business Consulting” I’d like to point out that as true as that may be, in my world UX wins.


This is a really cool idea.

What type of physical-world UX are you including? Or combining offline + online UX?

The conference I attended last week had someone talking about their work in metaphors (Moira). Here is their Speaker list: http://betterbydesignconference.com/speakers/

The ones who resonated most with me:

  • Emileigh Barnes
  • Tobias Ahlin
  • David Gagnon
  • Meena Kothandaraman
  • Moira O’Neil

Karl Groves was an accessibility expert. He was more developer-y, but a very engaging speaker and knew his stuff.

I really liked Emileigh’s talk on inclusiveness and diversity, which may be a category worth adding.

Looking forward to hearing what you learn!

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@katie - UX strategy is certainly an interesting subject! I haven’t met many people that have been able to make a successful go of it on their own. What’s helped you be successful in your work?

@jober - I haven’t included any physical UX specialties, but it’s certainly something to consider. I’ll look over the presentations and see what I can dig my teeth into :slight_smile:

Part of it has been that I have billed myself as a UX Expert and don’t tell them that I know all about that other stuff until later, when I simply start making well based contributions without calling them out as not being what they think is UX. Most clients are pleasantly surprised by the breadth of my knowledge, although a couple have told me to bugger off.

Incidentally, I’m currently in the process of changing my branding to be more overt :wink: My belief is that everything has users who have experiences. I’m considering going to work for a business consulting firm that’s open to the possibility of UX as a foundational viewpoint. (so not one that boasts of its ability to apply some MS software package as the bandaid for Everything. So far I’ve only found McKinsey as a potential partner. Let me know if you can think of any others) I think of UX Strategy as being like what the Eames did for productivity by approaching it through a window of the human body working and at rest rather than what was best for the task. Similarly, I believe that we’re in the habit of doing everything in service of the technology’s “needs” and what we need to do is trace a path through divisions, processes, and methods that are easily traversed by a user toward completion of a single goal. There are many goals, but you only get to smoosh them together if that will be easier for the user. That often means radical changes in how the enterprise defines the inputs, and existence of any division but that’s life. I will tell you that when anyone tells me “But that’s how we’ve always done it” Hulk smash.

That’s undoubtedly more than you wanted to know and probably off point. But it’s today’s rant :wink:



I’ve focussed on Accessibility solidly for the past couple of years and snuck it into other projects before then. If you need any names to reach out to (or want a chat to me) then feel free to reach out. I’ve been working with non-verbal people for the past couple of years while building AAC apps to provide them with a voice.

If you want a niche within a niche, then combine Gaming UX and Accessibility, and talk to Ian Hamilton https://twitter.com/ianhamilton_


@katie That is some very good advice. I’m hoping to be able to start out on my own at some point. I’ll be sure to keep this all in mind!

@dean Great tips! I will undoubtedly come calling your way and will check out Ian Hamilton as well.

For what it’s worth, I’ll be hosting a UX Chat on the subject today over on Twitter with my friends over at WhatUsersDo. Just look for the #uxchat hashtag beginning at 4 PM UK time (11 AM EST).