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Skill Level Intermediate
- User experience designer, the new frontier. One of the hottest jobs in the Bay Area and potentially across the world, there are countless designers with endless amounts of ideas on how to solve the world's biggest problems. However, this episode isn't about the standard responsibilities a user experience designer accomplishes but more so a video about the attributes and behind-the-scene activities that a designer must also do to be successful in their day to day. I'll share the traits that make designers thrive and how they can set themselves up for success in one of the most challenging but fulfilling roles on the market.
We'll also look through a different lens at what being a user experience designer is all about as well as the impact we can have at scale. We'll finish by discussing why we need this role and the happiness it can bring you. I'll start by asking you a question. Take a second and think about what a user experience designer does. I'm positive that the first few things that come to mind are user research, prototyping, testing, wireframing and maybe presenting. If you thought of any of these things, then you're right but there are a pile of additional attributes to the role that we have to practice and maintain.
One of those attributes is to be proactive. This is when we take the initiative to do something without being asked. It's highly possible that your manager's slammed in meetings all day and you might not have the time to think about what to focus on. If you find yourself sitting around and not having a sense of accomplishment in your day-to-day work, then it's time to step up and discuss it with your manager or your product partners and take it upon yourself to find problems that need to be solved. Then there's reading situations.
As you get more and more experience in usability testing and research, you start to learn how one question can lead to a deeper question, then onto a deeper level of understanding the situation. A new sense of awareness can develop as you assess trends and user behaviors. Designers who are tuned into the user and to the people that build the product can start to develop an intuition that can help guide them toward better instinctual directions. To me, this my internal guidance system that's sending me signals on how to proceed with my actions.
Designers need to develop their intuition just as much as their ability to push pixels around and go through a user-centric design approach. We must adjust to our environment and our surroundings to have a better chance of thriving. This includes understanding how to have difficult conversations. Designers have to sell their ideas and then explain the reasons why they're doing something. In today's design world, giving and receiving feedback is a monumental skill that we practice weekly and it's something we can always get better at.
So, UX designers must strive to be proactive as well as learn to follow their intuition and to have difficult conversations but what else is happening behind the scenes? We work across the entire organization. We work with sales, marketing, engineering, product, data science, research, HR and legal. Then we have the sub teams of each of these departments where we have another nest of people and relationships to build. The better you can read and relate to people, the better you can navigate problems and have the tools to solve them and yes, designers solve other problems than just making things look pretty.
A user experience designer must become the connective tissue that holds together organizations. It helps break down problems for everyone to see. The next question would be why do we have to work with so many different teams? The answer, because the user experience of your product affects everyone and that's the magic of this role. The impact is not only for the customers you're solving problems for but you're essentially creating an experience that is saving your entire organization time, money and a ton of frustration.
And just like the butterfly effect, our teams and companies are a connected ecosystem and when the user experience design department is failing, it affects everyone. If you have more user experience issues, then you have more tech calls. If you have more tech calls, then your design team has to fix more. If your design team has to fix more, then your engineers have to build more and the loop goes on and on until team members quit and you get another set of people to fill their shoes. Then the loop just happens over and over but companies don't have to function this way.
The reason I bring this up is to express how a user experience designer's role has a profound impact on a company and the world we live in today. Building relationships is not a typical part of the official job description but if you opt out of applying yourself in this area, then it'll be a struggle to get stuff done. As a user experience designer getting stuff done is the coolest part of it all. When we get to ship an experience that makes people's lives better, it's one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.
Designers can also learn to anticipate problems and see them before they happen. We tap into our intuition and need to learn to trust that but intuition can only get us so far. As a user experience designer you'll need to learn how to navigate with data. Data helps you formulate new insights that inform you on the heartbeat of your product. Data is important but it doesn't tell us how to design. Data can mean many things but it doesn't always communicate the context. The goal is to understand the context of the data and how it was pulled and analyzed and over what range of time.
As a user experience designer you will learn to read data in unique ways, so take it upon yourself to ask questions and be the detective of what your data might mean. We also need to understand what success looks like for our product but it's just as important to understand what success is for our careers and what we're doing for the world. Shaping better user experiences for our future generations is an essential part of this role and the behaviors we encourage in our designs do shape that future.
If you'd like to continue the conversations or have more questions about what happens behind the scenes as a user experience designer outside of your typical role, then I'd love to discuss them with you. Find me on Instagram @abridewell or tweet at me @abridewell. I'm also available on Facebook @practicalUXweekly or you can post a question on our Practical UX Weekly LinkedIn group. Thanks for watching, happy career building and I look forward to seeing you next time.
Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.
Q. Where can I ask the author questions about practical UX?
A. To continue the conversation started in Practical UX Weekly with Drew and other user experience professionals, join the LinkedIn group at https://www.linkedin.com/