This holiday season, I decided to get into as many intro-to-tech events as I could before the year was up. The second event that I found was hosted by Chicago Startup Community, a meetup group which is focused on helping its members get more involved in the local entrepreneurial scene. The event was a Day in the life of a UX Designer (UXD). The event was hosted at the relatively new General Assembly downtown office. Upon arrival, I could tell that this event was different and it was mostly because of the crowd who attended. A lot of attendees were already in a design-y field or company (mostly on the product or sales side) and they were interested in moving over to UX. For those who don’t know, UX stands for User Experience which involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User Experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership (thanks Wikipedia!). While UX has been around under other names such as Information Architecture and User Interface (UI is usually used in when it comes to user-product interactions in the physical world) it is one of the quickest growing fields that touts some of the highest salaries out there.
The panel was composed of people who are currently working in the field– most of which did not have a traditional background in design. For instance, there was only one person with a background in visual design, but others had their backgrounds in electrical engineering, video production, and geology! Of course, now there are opportunities to seek out UX on an academic track, but for the most part they followed their interests within their former positions which is what led them to where they are now. A few takeaways I got from the panel are:
- UX is a mindset: UXDs are “empathetic problem solvers”.
- The user is never wrong: There may be a flaw in the design, or perhaps you do not have a grasp on who your true primary user is.
- There are two main UX work environments: As a UXD you might work at a company whose product is UX design services, therefore you will work with other designers. On the other side of the house, you may work at a company whose product requires UXD maintenance. In that case you might be a department of one and you will work cross departmentally with other people to support the product. Ideally, you would at least be a department of two so that you can bounce ideas off of another UXD
- You do not need to know how to code: However, the more knowledgeable you are about how code works in the first place, the easier it will be for you to communicate ideas to the developers.
- Not every project begins with talking to users: There is a process to good UX design, however if you’re working with clients that are coming to you for a service, they might have already done the research and the only thing you’ll have is the data. In other instances, you won’t even have data, you’ll have someone who is supposed to know the users inside and out. The world isn’t perfect, but being able to work these scenarios will make you a much better UXD in the end.
- Transitioning to UX is like other tech transitions: Read your face off. Make side projects. Repeat. If you’ve got the money and think it’s valuable attend a boot camp.
A final point that was made was that UX Design is a big deal. More and more, companies are paying attention to how it affects the bottom line. Even the C-Suite is a part of meetings regarding UX and business decisions are starting to be made with the data. This is a big deal as it ups the value of the UX department and its staff.
From what I gather to be a full-stack developer it would behove you to have a grasp on what make UX design better than others so while this isn’t my main focus it wouldn’t hurt to keep an ear to the ground for happenings in this field.