The last time you used any website or application on your mobile or desktop device, you probably remember the content or the functionality easily however, the actual experience and navigating through the website or application probably didn’t stand out to you as much, and ideally, it really shouldn’t.
If you do remember the experience of a website or application it’s probably because you had a bad experience laden with difficulties in executing basic actions such as scrolling, selecting or being able to complete an action. A well-designed user experience blends into the background and it should stand out with the user consciously thinking “This is a joy to use”.
Technology makes thousands of tasks easier however, when creating websites, applications or any experience requiring interaction the competition is intense; three different apps may perform the same task however the one with the best user experience reigns supreme, and the responsibility to act as advocates for the user lies with the User Experience Designer.
What is User Experience (UX)?
User Experience (UX) is all about how easily an app allows a user to engage and execute actions they wish to undertake and enjoy doing it. UX is extremely important because it tries to fulfil the user’s needs. It aims to provide positive experiences that keep users loyal to the product or the brand. From a business perspective, a meaningful user experience enables you to define the customer journey on your website to ensure business success.
From booking an Uber, to getting Alexa to play your favourite song, User Experience design is everywhere in almost every single app, website or device that you use.
A couple of indicators of good or bad user experience include: Is it easy to use? Does it enable you to complete your desired tasks with minimum effort? Is it logical and efficient?
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs
The concept of UX is not new. It’s been around since the early nineties, coined by Donald Norman when he worked for Apple as a cognitive scientist. User experiences have large elements of psychology, from understanding all aspects of a user’s interaction with a product or service from industrial design, graphics, the interface and physical interaction. To encompass all of these different elements that determines how a user feels while interacting with a product Donald Norman coined the term “user experience”
What does a UX designer do?
If you’re considering a career in UX Design you’re probably wondering what is a UX Designer’s role within a company? What projects do they usually work on? What do they do on a day-to-day basis?
As a UX designer you make products and technology usable, enjoyable and accessible to individuals. UX designers tend to work as part of a wider product team and are often bridging the gap between the user, development team and key business stakeholders.
Whether you’re designing a new product, website, feature or making changes to an existing product or service as a UX designer you need to advocate for the end user or customer, simultaneously you need to make sure the product or service meets the needs of the business, does it align with the CEO’s vision? Will it help to increase revenue or retain loyal customers?
“How do I explain what I do at a party? The short version is that I say I humanize technology.” — Fred Beecher, Director of UX, The Nerdery
As for the types of projects you’d work on, this varies distinctly depending on the type of business you work for and your priorities. You may find yourself designing websites, mobile apps and software or working with upcoming technologies such as voice, Virtual Reality Headsets or even Augmented Reality. Alternatively, UX designers can focus on service design which involves designing the overall experience for public transport or staying in a hotel.
On a day to day basis UX Designers typically engage in elements of research, testing, business analysis, project management and psychology as well as hands-on tasks such as wireframing and prototyping. There are some general functions a UX designer can be expected to perform:
- Conducting user research
- Creating user personas
- Determining the information architecture of a digital product
- Designing user flows and wireframes
- Creating prototypes
- Conducting user testing
How do I know if becoming a UX designer is for me?
UX Designers engage in a variety of tasks and therefore need to have a diverse skill set apart from wireframing, prototyping and interpreting data and feedback, UX designers also need ‘soft skills’ such as communication and listening skills.
If you’re someone who:
- Enjoys solving problems
- Loves learning
- Is analytical and pays close attention to detail
- Is empathic
- A great listener and communicator
- Enjoys thinking about the big picture
A career in UX design isn’t a long shot.
There’s an increased demand for UX skills globally, especially in regions like Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. In many countries, demand outweighs supply for skilled UX professionals. LinkedIn has cited UX design as one of the top skills to learn in 2020. UX designers are the most-in demand roles within product design roles. Industry leaders also forecast increased demand for UX and digital skills as organisations expand their online capabilities. In fact, Google’s 2021 page experience update stated that user experience is set to become a search engine ranking factor, companies with good user experience will rank higher than their competitors in search engines increasing the potential requirements for UX designers. There are many different paths into UX and the industry welcomes transferable skills from other disciplines, making it a great conversion career.
As you can see the world of UX is fascinating, varied and deeply satisfying as a career path with multiple progressions that could take you in many directions. With our day-to-day lives being consumed by technology and interactive tools like smartphones, refrigerators that keep track of our groceries, and cars that drive for us, strong UX is more necessary than ever.