If you work in any creative role in the media, tech or digital world, you need to know about UX (User Experience).
UX designers create the full experience that users have on a website, app or device. Their work is the backbone of any digital project, the foundation upon which everything else is built.
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You’re influenced by UX, even if you don’t realize it. Every digital experience you’ve ever had, from answering your email to setting up your new computer, was planned by a UX team.
Ranked as one of the fastest growing career fields, Adobe reported that “87% of managers said hiring more UX designers is the top priority of their organization.”
Whether you have no clue what UX design is, or you work with a UX team every day, there’s plenty to learn about this complex, multi-faceted world.
Here are six things UX designers wish you knew.
1. UX and UI are not interchangeable.
You’ve probably heard people use the terms “UX” and “UI” interchangeably, but they’re two very different things.
To put it simply: “UX refers to the user experience, which focuses on how something works and how people interact with it. UI, or user interface, focuses on the look and layout.”
Think of it this way—a UX designer is like an architect building a house. Before creating the blueprint for construction, she has to understand what makes a house flow nicely, as well as how someone living in the house would expect to get around and use the various areas and rooms.
The UI designer is similar to an interior designer who comes in later to oversee the look and feel of the house, select building materials, choose colors and make other visual choices.
2. A UX designer’s day-to-day is so much more than making wireframes.
They’re part psychologist, part architect, part storyteller—and that’s just the beginning. Over the course of a single digital project, a UX designer might:
- Do competitive research
- Hold focus groups
- Create user personas
- Map out content and information architecture
- Design wireframes
- Mockup design sketches
- Evaluate usability
- Collaborate with UI designers, web designers and developers
- Conduct user testing
- Review metrics
The specifics of the role vary from employer to employer. Some (very busy) UX designers also do the work of UI designers, web designers and coders.
Ideally, a UX designer will focus solely on UX, but in smaller companies, it’s not always possible. Take a look at these job descriptions to see just how varied the position can be.
3. They’re secretly judging the UX of everything they do.
When you’re part of a UX team for a long time, it’s hard not to bring your work home with you.
UX designers are the first to notice when a process is clunky or an experience isn’t intuitive. Show them a website that isn’t responsive, or an app that’s difficult to navigate, and they’ll recoil in horror.
4. They love playing the “what if?” game.
When working with a UX team, don’t be surprised if they throw extra questions into the mix early on.
- What if we could streamline the experience from seven steps to three steps?
- What if there are two completely different user accounts that will be using this same product?
- What if the user lives in Canada and our U.S. state drop-down menu means they can’t place an order?
When these questions pop up, don’t panic. UX designers aren’t trying to make the design process harder for you. In fact, they’re trying to make things easier for the end user, by carefully considering all possible scenarios.
Instead of panicking, say: “Thank you for pointing that out!”
5. You’ll save headaches later by folding UX designers into the process way earlier.
Everyone benefits when UX is involved early in the process. Don’t get too far down the road on any project without consulting your friendly neighborhood UX team.
Going back to our “architect” example: You wouldn’t start building a house until the blueprint was complete. Likewise, you shouldn’t jump ahead to website design and button colors until the UX is firmly nailed down.
Starting with UX saves you from going back to the drawing board. (And your UX team will be very happy.)
6. If you want to get ahead in any media/agency/digital job, take the time to educate yourself about UX.
UX design is the foundation of literally every digital experience, including mobile websites, desktop websites, responsive websites, apps, gaming and virtual reality.
Whether you’re a writer, designer, developer, project manager, or marketer, you’ll benefit from learning more about this vital field.
Remember, 87% of employers believe this is a valuable skill!