Solving the UX Designer Problem

Posted 4 years ago by Trevor Connolly No Comments

User experience is the future, according to Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott. He’s right. According to his article in Fast Company, businesses used to thrive on product innovation, but are now turning to user experience (UX) to regain command of their customers. In today’s tech industry, companies are aggressively searching for innovative UX minds to help distinguish themselves in this relatively new creative field. I recently attended a career fair at a tech savvy university in search of UX Designers to join our creative team. However, after I spoke to the first few eager job-seekers, I realized I had a problem. Nearly each job-seeker I spoke to asked the same question: “What is a UX Designer?”

This particular university offers several tech-influenced programs, such as Computer Science, Emerging Media and Communications, and Cognitive Science. We spoke to hundreds of students, yet hardly any of them knew much about UX, let alone the daily roles and responsibilities of a UX Designer. It got me wondering; UX is such a hot topic in today’s fast-paced interactive world, but does anyone know what it truly means? UX is defined in many ways, but it’s also constantly being redefined, making it even harder for us to explain what a UX Designer does.

What is User Experience?
According to Smashing Magazine, user experience is defined as “how a person feels when interacting with a system”. That can be any system, such as a website, an app, a video game console, a refrigerator or a milk carton. The goal of user experience is to leave the user with a positive experience.

The Role of the UX Designer
For us at Tek, a user experience designer is someone who focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and their limitations. They evaluate common processes of the system and how users interface with that system. They identify and analyze potential potholes a user might encounter. They also take into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project.

For instance, a UX Designer might design the experience a user encounters when signing up for a new web service. They would start by determining what information needs to be gathered for registration, like name, address, email, password and birthday. They might also decide to have the service verify this information by setting up an email confirmation at a certain part of the process. The user needs to know to expect this email, so the UX Designer adds a new screen after the registration page. Finally, they might determine what happens when a user doesn’t fill out all the required information on the registration page, and how to alert them that they need to fill out a certain section. This is a common example of what a UX Designer might do. They gather the business needs of the product and design the interactions the user will have with the interface to guarantee a friendly experience and conversion.

Low Supply of UX Designers
The difficulty in finding UX Designers is there aren’t many programs that offer a degree with a UX focus. Plus, as I encountered at the career fair, most people aren’t educated in UX and thus have no idea they could be successful at it.
At Tek, some of our most successful UX designers started off very inexperienced in UX design. However, we have found that experience isn’t a requirement for grasping the concepts needed to excel at UX design. We have graphic artists who understand layout, scanning patterns, the importance of context and hierarchy in helping the user find information and how something works. We have front-end developers who are familiar with writing requirements for a project, who understand the agile process, and who know how to build smart, simple interactions. We have an industrial designer who understands how people interact with objects, how to help them connect the dots between something’s form and it’s function. We have visual designers, copywriters, business analysts, data analysts, project managers, video game architects, architect architects, creative directors, and behavioral science experts — all of whom are first time UX designers and are very successful in this role.

They’re all Problem Solvers
Problem solving and user experience is performed by people from all walks of life in a variety of fields and occupations. Engineers solve the problem of how humans interpret and interact with an object, making it not only beautiful, but also functional. Logistics managers solve problems by organizing massive amounts of shipments and data into common paths for distribution. A museum curator problem solves by grouping art and using thoughtful signage to direct museum visitors in a way that best helps them learn about the context of the collections. These people are already doing tasks that user experience designers do everyday, they just don’t realize it. At the end of the day, UX is simply understanding a user’s problem and finding the best solution.

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