October 22, 2018

5 Things I’ve Learned To Do As a UX Designer

Hey all! I’m back with another “5 Things I’ve learned” installment, and today I’m talking UX! Below are some of the five things I’ve learned as a UX designer. Let me know what you’ve learned as this is a community that I’d like us all to be able to learn from. 

1. Have empathy 

Having empathy means that you sympathize and do your absolute best to understand other users points of views, struggles, and technical limitations. You put yourselves in their shoes in order to create the most authentic product for them, not you.  Many of the products that I design are for users with very little technical expertise. These users use their smartphones to talk, text, email, and maybe check a weather or sports app. Therefore it is my job to try to grasp how they best navigate and comprehend visual design. For example, some iconography might not be as apparent to them as it is to millennials who are on their phones or laptops for hours at a time. Certain gestures may never become intuitive to them as they are not familiar with applications that take advantage of those. It is our job as User Experience Designers to learn not only who our users are, but also have compassion for their strengths and weaknesses. 

2. Get the feedback you need

So what’s the difference between the feedback you need vs the feedback you want? First let me start by saying one of the most important parts of any ux project is fully committing yourself to understanding the problem you are trying to solve. From there if you can understand the problem, you can clearly identify the questions you need answers from. So when you’re talking to users, are you pulling out their pain points, successes, previous experiences with said product, etc? Or are your questions so open-ended that your test participants are not sure what they should be talking to you about? Rambling does not equate to sufficient feedback from the participant. Ask the good thought provoking questions that will get them comfortable and thinking about specific instances. Also, prepare in advance with follow up questions to ensure you’re really understanding the information you’re given. 

3. It’s not about you

You are not who you’re designing for. I repeat, you are not who you’re designing for. Okay, well perhaps you could be your target market, but the design process, feedback and outcome of the project should not revolve around what you think. Instead it should revolve around your users and their feedback. The main point here is, even if you do have opinions on how something should be designed or function and have strong reasoning, allow the research you’ve conducted back that up. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the two, but use your ideas as hypothesis and go prove (or not prove) those with your users. 

4, Never stop learning

I read that you can read about a new methodology or design style, and it will be old news by the time you finish reading about it because someone else has already created the next best thing. Our industry is one that changes so quickly that finding ways to keep up is imperative in order to stay abreast of what’s current. So how do you stay up to date when you have deadlines and new projects on the horizon? One thing I love to do is listen to podcasts while I work. For me this is the most effective way to keep my wheels turning while not missing a beat while working. I’ve listed a few of my favorite design/ux podcasts below. Let me know if you have any that you enjoy!

@revisionpath - “Revision Path“ Showcases Black designers, devs, and creatives

@jfrostholm - “Creative South Podcast” Focuses on the people 

@invisionapp - “Design Better” - Tons of learns from top design thought leaders

@debbiemillman - “Design Matters”  - Conversations with various creatives 

5. “Zoom out”

I love this phrase as it can be applied to any aspect of life, but for now we’re going to stick with ux. What I refer to as “zooming out” means probably just what you think; to not focus on the specifics and to shift your lens to view the full picture in its entirety. Think of it like this: if I’m zoomed in to a picture of a red rose in a garden, I’m not taking into account how that rose is just a small piece of what makes that garden beautiful. There could be other factors that play into what makes this photo so captivating, but I wouldn’t know because I’m only focused on one part of it. The same goes for ux. Sometimes we can get so stuck on solving the smallest detail, or finding the perfect color and before we know it, we’ve spent hours getting nowhere. Instead what I suggest is taking a step back and refocusing on the problem we’re trying to solve as a whole. What is the overall issue users are having? Do we even have enough information to make this decision or do we need to go talk to more users? Sometimes taking a step back can put things into perspective and allow us to make better, and more informed decisions. 

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