I’ve been in the design circle for 20 years. From my industrial design studies to my current role as head of design in a tech company I have never referred to myself as a UX designer even though I probably have filled this role to some extent.
User Experience also known (but not fully understood) as UX, UXD, UIA etc. has been a job/ industry title for a few years now confusing the heck out of recruiters and seekers alike. Almost every job ad for a UX designer seems to be a combination of knowledge and skills only a super-kid with an Einstein IQ and Red Bull overdose can apply for.
I’ve taken ‘UX’ design courses, went to seminars, read books and applied ‘UX’ methodologies to my daily job and yet for me UX is either the wrong title or a combination of skills and tasks that provide the same results as a gifted designer would achieve.
UX is not a single job title. UX is an approach. An approach that puts the users in the centre not always the business objectives. When hiring or referring to someone as a 'UX/UI' designer it mostly means a designer or design approach to solve interactive problems.
‘Experience’ is something one obtains by physical interaction and emotional interpretation.
Whatever the product, the steps to the final outcome are more or less the same. And the steps are simple: SPARK > DESIGN > DEVELOP
Each step will vary in size and will comprise of various tasks depending on the industry and product.
A spark can start as a personal idea, a third party request (client, boss), a necessity or just plain curiosity. Whatever a spark is, it what makes us all have a job. A spark doesn’t have to be a physical entity, it can be a philosophical thought, a financial product, a book, a sound or a joke. Hey, some say a spark created the universe.
Design is the outcome of the spark. It’s not only the drawings and prototypes more importantly it’s “the purpose that exists behind the fact, action or object” (source: Apple dictionary). The latter is probably what people refer to when they say ‘UX’ design. It’s the design behind the design. Good designers go through the path of discovery which includes the ‘purpose’. If a designer jumps straight to final designs the outcome will most likely be a failure or a lot of wasted time.
I am a true believer of coincident, chance and preliminary drafts, the ones that come from the sub-consciousness, dreams and plain old flukes. Of course, we will need to validate our designs but most of the time simple common sense is all that is needed.
Good designers will design solutions based on intent (spark) and production (development). This can only happen when designers truly understand the business objectives and the product. That’s why communication is key and liaising with the various stakeholders is crucial for a successful outcome.
Good designers, the ones that ask questions, break the rules and bend conventions are the ones most challenged by developers (and vice-versa). It’s both magical and sometimes vicious cycle but if orchestrated skilfully the outcome is rewarding.
Simply said, the ‘how’ should not effect design decisions except if the intent is to design something conventional, something that was tested, measured and we know will work. This is why most web designs, app designs, buildings or cars for example follow the same ‘experience’ because it’s our nature to observe, test and apply successful designs into our own projects. It’s not a bad thing by the way, it’s just the way science and art evolve. You learn from the past and apply your own discovery.
Design is Design is Design
UX designer is a luxury to hire, at least the UX designer most ‘wanted ads’ refer to. You know, the unicorn that doesn’t exist. However, designers with a specific job description are easier to specify and look for.
Not every designer is comfortable with or should be conducting surveys, user observations, run statistics or analyse hit-maps and user activities. Some designers are fine with it but in reality, common sense, open communications, vision and direction is all that is needed. You can call it UX, I call it Product Design.