User experience design is a great way to participate in the tech boom without becoming a coder
If you have ever wondered why some apps make you fall down a rabbit hole of fun, while you cannot bear to even get through the registration page on others, the answer often lies in user experience design.
User experience (UX) designers are an integral part of teams that make technical products, like apps and websites, but often do not have technical backgrounds. This makes UX design a great career choice for somebody who wants to benefit from the tech boom but does not want to be a developer. A career UX design can be a lucrative one. According to Glassdoor the average salary for a user experience designer is $85,277 in United States.
What is UX Design?
Steve Jobs said “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This means that designers are not only responsible for things looking beautiful, their job goes much further.
The International Standardization Organization defines user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use and anticipated use of a product, system or service.” The anticipation of something is as much an experience, as the experience itself. We have all been to parties which were exciting until we actually got there.
In practical terms, the user experience design umbrella encompasses visual design, information architecture, usability, interaction design, user research and content strategy.
However, Sang Valte, who sits on the Design Standards Board of General Assembly, an international technology training school, says “UX is so critical that you shouldn’t put it on the shoulder of one person. Everybody has a part to play.”
Valte says that “the engineers that write the code play a part in how fast the app loads.” He adds that product managers, founders and commercial teams are also involved, “how the business process is defined impacts the user experience as well.”
In fact, because good design is so integral to the success of a digital product, designers have to be close to the users, the developers and the commercial thinking behind the product. “A good UX designer would consider the technical feasibility of their designs and would consult the engineers. They wouldn’t lock themselves in a room and just work by themselves,” says Valte.
Sang Valte is a self taught UX designer, and sits on General Assembly’s Design Standards Board
Empathy and curiosity
Empathy and curiosity are traits fundamental to a career in design. Valte says designers cannot have an ego and must think beyond their own biases. “Remember that it’s user experience, not your experience.”
Designers focus on users and the problem they want to solve, rather than on products. Valte encourages designers to remember that “users don’t just use an app. They use an app to achieve something, like finding a great restaurant nearby to go to with their friends.”
This is why according to Valte, UX is “something that anybody can do, but not everybody can master. When our biases get in the way and we forget to keep asking fresh questions, we are making designs for one person – ourselves.”
Getting into UX design
There are many ways to get into user experience design, and the profession is still developing. Given that user experience design mixes technology, graphics and psychology, UX designers tend to have backgrounds or interests in these areas.
Courses introducing technology to non-technical founders or professionals teach aspects of UX design and are a good choice for those who want to learn about design, but do not want to retrain completely. For those who do want to retrain, organizations like General Assembly and the Flatiron School teach full time and part time courses.
Valte is self taught and believes that this can also be a successful path. To get started, he recommends reading The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, the founding book on interaction design. For a comprehensive guide on how to lead a design from business requirements to launch, he recommends A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler. I have also found the UX Podcast to be a good way to learn about designer mentality and hear about the different paths that lead to a career in UX.
No matter how good the code it, if people cannot work out how to use a product or get frustrated with the interface, then the product will be a failure. Understanding what user experience designers do, even at its most basic, illuminates the frontline between humans and technology.
Do you work in user experience design? How did you get started in your UX career? Tweet your experience to me @sophiamatveeva