What Even (is UX Design)? A Practitioner’s Perspective.
By Justin Morken, Principal Product Designer @Intuit
Justin teaches in the College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University (COID 351: Intro to Human-Computer Interaction and COID 353: UX Design Studio). Learn more about our UX Design Certificate.
In the 21st century, small things can have massive impact. An hourly worker accidentally deletes all of her shifts for the week by tapping the wrong button in her employer’s scheduling app. Bad button placement in a sedan leads to thousands of drivers inadvertently turning off their cars at high speeds. Poor text alignment can determine the outcome of a presidential election.
It is no wonder that recent decades have seen the rise of the discipline of User Experience (UX) Design. Those of us in the field, go by many names: UX Designers, Product Designers, and Interaction Designers (to name a few). Yet, the common thread that defines us all, is our commitment to design thinking. To put it simply, the outdated approach to problem-solving (get a bunch of smart people together in a room, come up with our best ideas and then launch one of them) is not a great approach. It is ineffective in the long-term because eventually, we’ll be wrong. And, by the time we know we’re wrong it could be really expensive…(often publicly so).
Design thinking doesn’t start with smart people in a boardroom, it starts with users—talking to them, observing them, feeling their pain, and getting to know their problems better than they do. Only then, can we generate ideas for how we might solve those problems. Even then, those ideas are really more of hypotheses because we have to go out and test them with… you got it, more users! By the time we are ready to launch a product or a solution, it has been tested and validated with actual users. With this in mind, it should be no surprise to learn that companies that use a design-thinking approach consistently outperform the S&P 500 by more than 200%.
There is an incredible amount of variety in the day-to-day life of a UX professional. Some days are spent interviewing users or gaining empathy by shadowing them in their everyday life. Other days are spent facilitating brainstorming and ideation sessions with non-designers, to get a diversity of perspectives on what problems or solutions we should be focusing on. Many days are spent building out app designs and clickable prototypes to test with users or combing through analytics and data to try to figure out where users might be encountering friction. Yet others are spent creating comic strips (a.k.a. storyboards) depicting a user problem to build empathy with colleagues who don’t have the time or ability to meet with users themselves. Then there is the time spent on making the storytelling of a user problem and proposed solution, compelling enough that stakeholders will agree to build it. No two days in my career have ever been the same, and I love that about being a UX designer.
UX designers are devoted to making life simpler, easier, and better. Although my family may never completely understand what it is that I do, my UX colleagues and I around the globe are making what might seem like minor improvements to solutions which ultimately impact their everyday lives, in massive ways.