Are you a user experience designer? No really though, are you? After dozens of designer applications and interviews, I’ve heard practically everything. And knowing how to use UX Pin or Balsamiq doesn’t even begin to qualify you. Good try, though.
With new professions come new pitfalls, and being an often misinterpreted role, the job title “User Experience Designer” is becoming one of the most abused titles in the tech industry, full of fancy User Interface (aka, graphic) guys who’ve added wireframes to their portfolios and claim to be UX experts.
Sounds harsh? Perhaps, but it’s not your fault. Your ‘fake it ’til you make it’ attitude is the right one because there isn’t a clear standard for User Experience Designers to match themselves against, and it’s our job as an industry to define one.
So what makes you a user experience designer or, for the sake of this article, what doesn’t? How can you not only evaluate your own ability as a UX dude or dudette, but translate it to the layman? How can you convince the HR team and the product gurus that your abilities extend beyond a few Balsamiq sketches?
I have created a list of 7 things you need to know—and that recruiters should be looking for—in a world of UX wannabes. So own up! And if you don’t agree, I would be up for some healthy debate in the comments section!
1. “I’ve made wireframes”
Wireframing is the best way to fake it. Not only is wireframing important to effectively design and iterate a product, it’s also the go-to visual portfolio way to tag yourself as a User Experience designer. The problem is, both employers and designers tend to forget what wireframes are for, so let’s set the record straight:
Wireframes are developed to prototype distribution of existing site content for testing and iteration before the graphic interface and code are developed.
Got it? To break it down another way, wireframes should be quick to build and built to frame existing content. They are used to test and iterate before the interface is designed and the site coded.
So if you’ve ever bragged about designing Wireframes in Illustrator instead of a dedicated wireframing tool, you may as well put your foot straight in your mouth, because unless you’re faster than me with UXPin, you lose.
Secondly, content comes first. If you’re wireframing before you even have a draft of your content, you need to have a serious chat with yourself and your team. Your job is to structure the most effective experience for what needs to be communicated. It’s an iterative process. Brands must learn to define their voice and image, while UX designers need to push for processes that make sense. Unless you are the product manager, communications director, copywriter and branded elements designer all at the same time with 12 hours to build a website, the content comes first. Always. Period.
Finally, wireframes are quick so you can get data quickly. Any decision you’ve made as a designer that lacks data to support its effectiveness takes you one step farther down the “faking it” route. Data is UX’s best friend, so learn to get it, log it and use it.
2. “I’ve designed an App in the App Store”
Out of 40+ discussions with potential User Experience hires in the past year, this is the second most common answer to the question, “What makes you a UX Designer?”
As a response to the question, mention of the App Store is like name dropping celebrities “you know” on a first date with a girl you picked up in a Porsche you rented that cost almost as much as the silk boxers she will never see because you’re so full of it she leaves without dessert.
Don’t get me wrong. If you have this in the bank, that’s awesome. Really awesome, and you should link to it in the comments so I can check it out, but it doesn’t make you a User Experience Designer unless the process you used to get there is as articulate as the product.
3. “My Process Is My Own”
Do you hear the buzzer? Because if you’ve said anything like this in your life I’m slamming the “wrong answer” button like a monkey on speed. A User Experience Designer is defined by their process; a structure within which yourself, other designers and clients can all operate in. So it has to be easier to explain than singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
There are few things as important to user experience design as having a clear process; going from business goals, to information architecture, to content development and wireframing, through to testing, iteration and the many levels there-after. At CareerFoundry we greatly emphasize this in the user experience course we have developed, because if we can guarantee anything, it’s how to turn those million and one steps into a blazed trail instead of a game of psychedelic hopscotch.
Without a process you’re just an idealist, and while creative problem solving is important you need the data to support it.
4. “We learn when it’s live”
You’ve probably never gone out for the night without checking the mirror. But ensuring your hair is perfectly gelled has distracted you from the fact that your fly is wide open and that your last pair of clean boxers (the Mickey Mouse ones) are sticking out. A fact that your “buddies” and bar patrons proceed to notice and make fun of you for. A third party opinion would have been helpful before the public display, don’t you think?
If you consider having a “good time” at the bar as the revenue from good preparation, then this awful analogy from a night out in Boston 6 years ago is my reminder that no product should go public without first having controlled third party input.
Data is a user experience designer’s best friend. Every step, every idea needs to go beyond you, because while art is subjective, successful UX is defined greatly by numbers, and you can be as creative as you want (my hair that night was amazing) but if you’ve left holes the public will always find them, so its critical to close as many as you can before embarrassing yourself.
5. “User Testing… Yeah, Like A Focus Group”
I’m looking for one little word combo here—”User Interviews”. Those of you who are former or active marketers try to put user experience testing in the context of mass, while those who have never done it before get hung up just asking people a single question. When looking for feedback, what you really need is raw uninfluenced detail. And marketer or not, if you’ve tried it before you already know that testing digital products in a focus group setting is akin to asking cats to chat about politics. The response is so obscure and difficult to translate that your learnings become purely the interpretation of the focus group holder.
While surveys and question-response tests can be effective for highly targeted issues, when it comes to testing your on-site user experience, or specific user journeys, the only way is to sit down with someone and watch them screw it all up. And trust me, they will, and rarely in the way you expected.
As per my experience at the bar, had I asked someone how I looked before walking into an evening of friendly abuse, I would have expected and hoped for comments on things I had paid extra attention to—my hair. But what I would have likely received was the one thing I needed—a quick snort and a finger pointed towards my crotch, bringing attention to what in effect would be the most important detail of the evening.
6. “I’m a creative person, not a technical one.”
If you don’t think of yourself as a technical person, then you should never ever call yourself a user experience designer. Ever. No wait, maybe… Nope… Nope, never.
You might take this for granted, but I encourage you not to. The ability to be creative and use your “informed opinion” is the driver behind so much of what we do at any level of design work. and although we’re all entitled to our wrong opinions, how your work translates to reality, how that translates to UI designers and developers, how that translates to a live site and its optimization, these are all technical and operative skills.
Since I’ve been pushing data driven decisions this whole article, let’s put the discussion in a similar context. Do you know how to use Google Analytics? I don’t just mean the basic readouts, but setting and defining goals, experiments, user funnels, segmentation and split tests. Do you know how to install the different analytic codes on a site and check if they negatively impact the site’s performance (speed)?
If you do then you’re on the right track. If not, you should, you need to put yourself in a situation where you are training and actively learning from it immediately. But it goes beyond just analytics (Google or otherwise). Do you know how to distribute information within a design to not only complement the efforts of marketers and designers, but incorporates the lightest code load possible? What about defining full loads vs. enhancements for fast loading and mobile?
In all honesty, knowing this stuff, learning this stuff, even applying this stuff is no harder than reading this never-ending article, but it’s crucial and ever changing. Your job is to keep up with the technical requirements involved in implementing and enhancing upon your “informed opinion”, which you should always hope is right, but always assume is wrong. If you can’t drive process and interpretation, your job is driven solely by assumption and nice ideas, and that’s not what UX is about.
7. “Once the product is built, I’m ready to move on.”
Not sure what sweet, hot Panda love has to do with user experience design? Read on.
To wrap up this article I’ve chosen the one thing that is probably always true because a user experience designer’s job is never done. It can’t be, as there is no such thing as a completed product, a perfect product, an unchangeable product. Once a product is built, your job is now interpretation testing and iteration, interpretation testing and iteration. As much as you’d like to think you are (and I know I do), you are not a secret agent; in with a mission, and out through the window as a product explodes into the world behind you. You’re more like a panda sexologist, trying to figure out why Shoofoo won’t mate with Takeshi on your journey to initiate the equivalent of a panda love-in.
That is probably the worst analogy I have ever made, but what I’m trying to say is that pride as a user experience designer comes not just from the development of a product, but from proving its success over and over and over again. And if you’re the unfocused type, like me, remember that there are business goals associated with a product and your job is to help get it there, not just by getting your initial job done, but by helping make it easier every step of the way.
So remember, when you’re lost or unsure, just pretend you’re a panda sexologist.
How to tell when you’re a UX designer: You’re able to write in a snarky tone to “de-title” those not worthy.
I get the idea, but I’m not sure it helps the image and promotion of the discipline.
Perhaps I’m too serious and question ‘why’ too much.
thanks for your comment. I would start by saying that snark is an attribute to popular content more than an angle to UX design EXCEPT that the discipline involves the development and position of content to most effectively appeal to a target user; it’s our job to make it compelling, I.E. this above example of snark.
Now you could argue that in your case, I seriously screwed up in the case of this article for you as a user, because that snark was not appreciated; but for many readers who are less informed about UX than yourself, the read was easier and more fun, given a framework that was compelling enough to educate, which was my end goal.
So I don’t think you’re too serious. If you take the topic seriously, you want serious content and that completely makes sense. This wasn’t promotion of the discipline, in fact it was a demotion of the people abusing it, and intended as a standard of evaluation that less-informed individuals can use to figure out if they’re speaking with a real UX designer, or someone who’s just waving a pretty flag.
I hope this makes sense, and I would love your continued thoughts on the matter.
I’ll chime in here and say that, when Emil submitted his article for us to review, we knew there was a risk that it might be interpreted as condescending by some readers. However, there’s no question that Emil’s points are valid (especially when you consider where he’s coming from, having reviewed tons of resumes of applicants applying for UX design positions). Plus, we didn’t want to remove the personality in the writing, of which there is plenty, I’m sure you’ll agree, so we decided to run with it.
As Emil mentions, there’s an argument to be made that without confronting some hard truths about what it takes to succeed in a UX role, we’re actually hurting the discipline, rather than helping it. That’s what Emil has tried to do here—although clearly his style isn’t for everyone. :)
I didn’t think it was condescending at all – it was honest. Time is precious and if I’m going to spend some of it reading an article to further my career rather than work (I’m a front-end developer looking to become a UX designer), I’d prefer it be as brutally honest and to-the-point as possible.
what I can say, simply you made my day with your Article.
I agree with you 100%
thanks for your comment, man. Much appreciated and I’m glad you agree. Do you think this list should be expanded at all?
Nice article with a clear transformation of the UX-designer requirements to everyday experiences and lessons learned.
thanks so much! Are you a designer yourself? If so/not, did you feel the list should be added to in some way to help you more in the future?
As a non UX designer, your article was compelling to read. I work a lot with UX designers, and I definitely noticed the abuse of the title UX Designer. However, I think “you guys” ;) have to blame yourself for that.
The definition of User Experience Design is just too broad and not descriptive enough.
A Developer builds the product, a Graphic Designer makes the graphics and a Salesman sells it. Easy to understand. And what does a User Experience Designer do? Buy me a coffee and a comfortable chair so I have a good experience while using your product? Laugh at it, but it actually fits the definition of UX if you ask me.
Being a true UX designer (as described in your article) is a challenging and irreplaceable job. I think this job would be better understood by outsiders when the job title and definition are clearer (and less broad). That way, you don’t need to read an article like this to figure out if somebody is an UX designer or not.
“A Developer builds the product, a Graphic Designer makes the graphics and a Salesman sells it. Easy to understand. And what does a User Experience Designer do?”
In my experience, they try to tell the Graphic Designer what to do.
Thanks Emil. Besides being fun and personal, this was a very eye opening read! Probably the top 5 in the list of UX articles I’d recommend anybody from now on.
My question is: What are some of the most important areas that a person needs to start building proficiency in, to make up for the weaknesses you mention in point. no. 6?
Thanks for your comment and compliment, I’d love to know what the other 4 articles are if you don’t mind linking them here?
To answer your question, firstly in an ideal world for user experience training:
The best way is to get yourself a project to work on that already has a lot of traffic, but maybe isn’t doing a good job of collecting data, yet. This is an opportunity to test and develop your technical and team skills as discussed in #6.
You could walk into that example project, whip our your ego, tell them “this, this, and this have to change because from your experience, yadda yadda yadda”, and trust your assumptions…
— OR —
You first take whatever data does exist, dig deep and make some early assumptions to test. Then place a data driven decision protocol for future improvements, get a small budget approved for a list of tools you’ve researched your head off about. And then learn to use them.
It might take you a few days work with the help of a developer just to get everything set up and running, but if you’re working on a high traffic site you may be able to pull relevant samples of a data (1,000 users per test is doable, but really you want 10,000+ per aspect of test). Then just learn data! Learn how to collect it, interpret it, and use it to make decisions.
The technical side is going to be about 2 parts research, and 3 parts hands on to learn how to do things effectively. If you you’re not really sure on how many different kinds of data you can collect, this where your research should start!
Now that was the ideal world. The more realistic situations for user experience trainees are as follows:
1. You get brought into a high traffic website that already collects a boat load of data in different ways.
2. The projects you land (or at least like to work on) are not high traffic sites, so tests are hard to make relevant decisions from.
In the case of #1, this is actually a really good way to get to know data. However, due to the bureaucracy involved in companies of this status, it may be hard for you to lead decision making on use of tools, tests and tracking unless you step in at a managerial or consultant level. If you can do that, awesome, take this route. The ideal world version is only better because its more hands on and involves the setup.
In case #2, this is tough from a data perspective, but great from the other technical aspects because you probably wont have the support system and may have to implement many details and tools on your own. The problem is, if you’re not pulling lots of traffic (startup websites can be really slow for the first 6-12 months) its hard to pull concrete test data unless 70% or more of your traffic is a very tight niche-segment of the market.
So what is the ultimate lesson? Get hands on. As with all things technical, do your research and get hands on!
I hope this helps. If I’ve managed to dodge effectively answering your question, please drill me for better answers!
All the best,
thanks so much for your comment. Its a great perspective to have here, and you do me a huge compliment with the last sentence as well. Thank you.
You’re right, the definition of UX Designer is broadly undefined, in part because its been called many different things over its hundred of years as a profession. UX Design has been hidden and confused within titles like “product design”, “product manager”, “product owner”, “quality assurance”, “product tester”, “market researcher”, “market developer”, and across a massive range of industries; starting of course with physical products, particularly those that are bought and used as accessory instead of need, a great example being toys.
The term “UX Design” as to describe a profession has really only been around for ten years, and largely as a response to attempts to associate product testing and validation roles with the tech industry. Now people are no longer sure if UX is simply a digital ideal, or something more, and there alone we have a conundrum that leaves the profession largely undefined.
The UX Designer that I present in the above article is strictly a digital one. Being friends with many industrial designers and having myself designed toys, we prefer to look at that work in a different light, though the theory itself is basically all the same.
So actually what I’m saying is simply, you’re right, there is no proper definition. To the extent of which most companies hiring their first UX people are expecting UX specialists to also be graphic designers and/or front-end developers. Sure, its great to hire mutli-faceted individuals, but people now learning UX are thrown off by this, thinking these skills are a requirement or part of what defines UX as a profession. I find this to be a massive massive issue, and one we discuss a lot with potential students at CareerFoundry.
So, in conclusion. Yup, its an issue, and I’m hoping I took one small step to solving it with this blog post. Thanks for your support.
And if anyone else enjoyed Jasper’s comment, check out his company which looks like another great way to learn online, UX Design included…? Achieved.co
Thanks for the elaborate response Emil! Your article certainly helps. I hope articles like yours will slowly educate a broader range of professionals about what a UX designer exactly does.
Hello Emil, you are correct that UX is an ambiguously defined area easily exploited by those who think its a small leap from Interaction design to UX.
To me a true UX person is a social scientist who uses empathy based design to create products that empower users. This individual has strong technical/creative skills in addition to the more “ethereal” skill sets I mentioned above.
In my personal opinion, the greatest traits a UX designer can have are humility and curiosity. Humility allows the UX person to be transparent in the process of designing products. Curiosity inspires the UX designer to glean as much data before making decisions.They notice how people interact with the world around them and are keenly aware of user motivations and desires.
What tools or procedures will vary with the team that the UX person integrates with.
The point of your article is how to determine a true UX asset. I agree with you that a person who has a myopic approach to UX “I do wireframes” for example is a bit of a red flag because UX is largely concerned first with the big picture. The details that fill in the big picture research and development, prototyping, testing, shipping and iteration are skills/procedures in their arsenal.
So to me, the real question is how to conduct an interview with a potential UX hire that will yield accurate results.
Applied Minds has an interesting take on this. They will put a candidate in a room with a box that contains several obscure hardware components and ask them to tell them what each component does. These objects are virtually impossible to decipher so the candidate answers give a good impression of how their minds work.
When I interview potential UX assets I’m looking for someone who is passionate about improving how humanity experiences the world. I will always ask candidates to give me examples of good and bad user experiences. What I want to hear is something like this. “When auditory cues were added to crosswalks visually impaired people became more confident in their environment and traffic related pedestrian deaths declined by X%”. That sounds like a potential candidate to me.
I have to hand it to you, that is a phenomenal articulation of the User Experience discipline. Regardless of whether or not I agree on all points, I would love to read or have you write an article about the topic. I feel your written approach is an incredible conversation builder, particularly on top of the points Jasper and I exchanged in the comments above.
I would particularly reiterate my statements on the status of the UX definition from my response to Jasper and ask for your thoughts in response to a follow up question: How would you differentiate between user experience design and product design?
To approach your question, first your quote:
“So to me, the real question is how to conduct an interview with a potential UX hire that will yield accurate results.”
I feel that perhaps this deserves an article of its own. Perhaps Matt would be willing to let myself, you or us develop a piece that speaks to this, and the variety of options one has in asking “the right questions” for “the right reasons”.
What I look for in interviews is the discussion of point number three in the article, concerning process. I like your interpretive approach to how someone thinks by asking them to define an object, but what I’m more concerned with is how someone defines the actions it takes to reach an end goal. For some professions this is loose ordeal, or more theoretical, but as in our User Experience Design Course at CareerFoundry, process and iteration are key to effective UX Design, and I need to see people exhibit that mind set before anything else is relevant.
Would love your continued thoughts on the matter. Thanks again for your great comment.
All the best,
Emil, my apologies for the late response. I would enjoy conversing with you on this topic. Cheers, Sharky
Your article made me laugh and totally made my day!
I couldn’t agree more – the first image about the persona walking into the storyboard is so true.
I recently had experience with someone who exhibited all 7 of these traits. It wasn’t easy trying to explain that there was another way of doing things ie actually knowing who your user is before spending weeks designing wireframes in powerpoint.
This person had done a lot of work but had also made a lot of assumptions based on zero evidence or research which I think was one of their biggest mistakes. They’d spent more time focusing on the pretty than understanding who it was for.
To me, an open mind and curiosity is significantly more valuable and outweighs all the fancy schmancy documents in the world. I’m also of the belief that you don’t know what you don’t know and there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Faking it until you make it isn’t helping anyone – you’ll learn more if you admit what you don’t know and take the time to learn from those who do.
I’m not sure if I ever properly responded to your comment (it doesn’t seem so, though a couple comments weren’t posted as a direct reply) so I’ll do so now! Sorry for the delay.
I’m really glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks so much for taking the time to say so! Some variation of these 7 traits can be found in all UX designers, and its not necessarily a direct indication that they are “bad”, but should definitely be a point of evaluation. As UX is a cognitive science really, or at least that’s why the term was invented, anyone making decisions without understanding the user its for would have a very difficult time claiming the title “UX Designer”. Good on you for recognizing this!
And as for what you said with this:
“Faking it until you make it isn’t helping anyone – you’ll learn more if you admit what you don’t know and take the time to learn from those who do.”
Couldn’t agree more. So rock on, kick ass, and best of luck!
With warm regards,
In terms of “faking it until you make it isn’t helping anyone”, I couldn’t agree less. That may be a good philosophy if you you’re a cog in a wheel i.e. you work for someone else. But if you’re freelance, or own your own design firm, you absolutely have to fake it until you make it.
I agree 100% about learning from those that know more. Having a mentor is absolutely essential if you’re building your own company. I’d be nowhere without mentors. But you never admit to a client you don’t know something, unless you really mess up, then you apologize and move on. Otherwise, you look it up, or ask someone and get back to them. You’re supposed to be the expert.
As an example, I took on a big promotional video project a while back. I had no business taking that on. Didn’t have a lick of experience. I didn’t even own a video camera. So I hired a videographer, researched my ass off about videography and direction, taught myself Premier Pro in 4 days and pulled it off. That one job allowed me to buy equipment, learn to shoot myself, get good at editing, and now video makes up 50% of my business.
Same thing with UX. I did an e-commerce site and had to learn all kinds of web design and UX skills on the fly. More on the analytics end. I also had to learn PR, media buying, online marketing, , SEO, connecting with a shipping fulfillment center etc. I literally just did enough research to stay one step a ahead of the client and advised them how to proceed.
As a result of all this faking, I’ve now made it. I’m getting steady clients, building my company (which I only started a year ago) and getting offers for Art Director positions. Which I don’t want because I don’t ever want to work for someone else ever again. So the path I’ve taken is for those that want to either become an Art Director (or lead UX? in the context of this article) or own their own firm. It’s a very different skill set and career trajectory than someone building their career from within a company.
So, the author owns a company that will teach you UX Design in just 3 months, with only 10 hours of study a week!
Call me cynical, but what are the real motives for this article? It smacks of hypocrisy (beginner to UX Designer in 3 months?!) and has the odour of a veiled marketing piece.
Disappointing all round.
Thanks for taking the time to write a comment, though I’m very sorry you feel that way about the article. I’d like to address as many of the issues you bring up as possible. And will do so at length as your disappointment is not something I’m comfortable with, and want to address as thoroughly as I can.
Firstly, yes, I am the CMO and Creative Director of CareerFoundry. We, as you’ve noted, have a 3 month, 10 hour a week course that trains individuals to be UX Designers. As a long time product and UX designer myself, I not only helped structure and write this course, but have advocated it as a first step, as a path to understanding the discipline of UX design, and learning how to use the skill in the “real world” (aka, outside of a learning environment).
The company and the program are both young, but we’ve seen huge success so far, students going from our course straight into working for friends and family to build up their portfolio, or into internships, in some cases junior level positions right off the bat. The non-beginner category of our students are perhaps the most interesting as they are often long time and successful graphic/print/UI designers who come to us to learn a new discipline, adding to their tool kit of ability and offerings to clients.
You say this article smacks of hypocrisy, but what we teach in the course is a process, one that enforces all of the principles I speak to in this article as I attempt to build discussion around the definition of the discipline. Not just my own interpretation but that of the experts I surround myself with, and to those who have taken the time and effort to write lengthy comments on the subject: I appreciate and respect the need for an ongoing discussion.
The point I try to prove is that we as professionals of a discipline have thus far failed to enforce one line of interpretation, leaving the profession open to manipulation and false intention. Part of why we developed the course, was to battle exactly that.
Now you might just not like the article because of the tone and nature with which I’ve written it. My writing style is not for everyone, but what I hoped to do (and seems to have worked for many) is create something readable, and accessible to people who are not necessarily experts in the field. By writing something fun, and amusing in its interpretation of the problem I’m not slighting it, but rather making the subject of interest to a wider audience. One step more towards battling the problem.
And a veiled marketing piece? Not at all. There is nothing veiled about this.
I wrote this article, and UX Mastery allowed me too, to promote my opinion, my own voice about the subject as it relates to UX Mastery readers and the UX audience as a whole. The claim you make does Matt and the UX Mastery team far more injustice than it does to me. They saw an opportunity to start a discussion, one you’ve been kind enough to contribute to. As for me, all of us strive to promote our expertise, abilities and offerings through various mediums, I do the same, and work as hard as I can to make sure those contributions to my personal status are a relevant and impactful statement to the industry I’m addressing. Its trickle down to my work with a company that reflects these ideals is anything but veiled marketing. Its blatant, direct, and honest marketing. It is a statement to what we do, how, and why, as a resource to those interested in exploring what we/I have to offer beyond this article.
I would genuinely appreciate you taking the time to elaborate on your disappointment with the article; particularly if I haven’t managed to address other thoughts and concerns you had when writing your comment. This subject, this audience, and my profession mean everything to me, so if you’re not happy, I’m not happy, but I think we may be unhappy for similar reasons and I want to explore that. We should ultimately be fighting the same battle, not separate ones.
So thank you very much again for voicing your opinion, and your elaboration may help me do my job better so I hope to hear from you again soon.
With warm regards,
to anyone new finding this article and reading the comments, you’ll note that the major and recurring theme is the definition and articulation of the discipline itself.
As I continue to battle for clarity on the topic, I’ve just finished a large and more academic piece on the Differences Between UX and UI Design, defining their distinct roles, their relationship, and comparing them as professions.
As the precursor to my next UXMastery.com article, I’d love to have your voices contribute to this new piece, and hope very much to hear from you all soon.
Thanks a lot for this article. As an humble consultant willing to design Useful experience for users (some guys call this “ux design” ;) ) what you say and the way you’re saying it is really refreshing :)
I most of all agree a lot with you about point #6.
I my self started to work in webanalytics before moving progressively to ux design.
And i’m convinced that this point-of-view is an huge help for me when designing.
And to complete your list, i think a good ux designer is someone that as the ability to merge the best of design, business and technology in one interface. And that’s what make this job so interesting.
BTW : this panda sexologist analogy is definitively weird :)
Thanks so much for your kind comment, I’m really glad this resonated with you, and that #6 particularly struck home. Definitely rock that, its super important, and could boost you from an “interesting” UX Designer, to a “damn good” UX Designer. :-)
Be careful with your addition of course, because the second you mention “interface” people will think you’re doing pretty things, where you’re real goal is to define and prioritize information. If you’ve ever had any confusion about UX vs UI design, I highly recommend giving this one a read:
And yeah, I make some weird anecdotes sometimes, but at least it got you thinking! ;-)
Nice article and good points. For the most parts I agree with you.
Thanks Bojan, glad you liked it!
Anything you don’t particularly agree with? Or anything you would emphasize as particularly important?
WOW… I’ve been reading other articles on what makes a good UX person… but this blew me away… lets start with I’m a dudette… It’s funny to me.
What I’m hearing between the lines and in regards to the tone of the article… is you are a clever motivational writer, a psychologist that may have written this for a well established industry that is currently merging with a young arrogant, know it all persona/stereotypes and deserve to have an article like this because then it may motivate them to do this course.
Well done, I take my hat off to you because it made me feel a little unsettled as to what I have already learnt and performed as a now practicing UX designer. I want to do your course. Funny huh!
I will do my best to give you clarity of the frustrations of moving from one field of expertise to another… I came from a Graphic Design Degree moving into digital design and UI Design (deigning my first website for a University in 1993) and I can draw!. All these disciplines gave me great clarity of CREATING an outcome… but to get to the outcome I have had over 1000 one on one stakeholder interviews / workshops for my own personal need to understand or really really good briefing documents or reverse briefs. I moved into human behaviour through many courses and studying Liguistics and realizing this covers cognitive psychology – the study of mental processes such as “attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking.”
Nothing like real situations though… I have had to create, use or interpret Illustrator, Balsamic, Axure, Omnigraffle and even visio wireframes. Can’t this industry just use one and now you are introducing another new tool to me… UXPin. Each company uses what they believe to be the best for their results. Omnigraffle is great for wireframes. Axure is great to low fi and high fi Prototypes, TV companies are using advanced Axure (with devs) for extreme High Fidelity and gesture interaction prototypes for user testing. Other people just use powerpoint and now I’m even seeing Keynote (FREE)! Now I’ve learnt rapid prototyping (Lean UX) with sketching and not going near a wireframe or building a prototype.
I’m exhausted… does this make you exhausted just reading my transcript? It should, the whole point of being a UX designer is to create intuitive, engaging experiences and interfaces that consumers want to visit, use, and return to.
I even had a dev tell me that I didn’t follow my own wireframes to the T when I was designing the UI and high fidelity, I was iterating because I saw it didn’t work when the brand and content was applied. You stated… “wireframes should be quick to build and built to frame existing content” what if the project is a GREEN FIELDS project.
We didn’t have knowledge or access to the all the content earlier due to it being a green field project, a new invented intranet/extranet with some existing excel files and no analytics, just report style files! The UX solution did not allow for the creativity of the design component. Was I going too far at this point, no because this was part of the project with what was sold to the customer (the sales guy sold it to him), they were expecting high fidelity. So not all projects have the luxury of advanced or intermediate analytic’s. More confusion for the wanna be UX’er yes…
The job title “User Experience Designer” is not abused, I feel customers or companies or recruitment/placement agents don’t really know what a UX person does and make assumptions and then the companies make restrictions based on budget or their ego as a GM running the company to LOOK GOOD! So we cut corners, try this or that, DOING YOUR OWN PROCESS… often getting overpowered, overruled, have to fight to be heard, have to EDUCATED over and over, OMG I’m so tired of educating a novice GM or manager because I just don’t have the energy to care for them when they get in the way of the process… humility went out the window. I trust you are finding this HUMOROUS also. :) LOL
There are so many attributes or I’m going to improvise and call it UX heuristics that UX designers face today that even if you are trained well and have done a few courses and worked in the industry over a few years… each organization does what it wants and confuses the hell out of us UX’ers as to what is best practice within our own industry!!!
Recently I asked a Lead UX… what part of the CX / UX process is what you’ve just drawn up… his reply was “none, it is my mind mapping, creative ideation…” God help me… UX is such a vast scope of work that we can’t be everything to one organization.
The ideal UX person for… is what your article could be called rather than attempting to cover all areas. Your’s is written as a challenge rather than as an educational supportive point of view to entice the end user to sign up to your course… :)
7 Signs This Person Isn’t Actually A UX Designer in the field of Commercial Online ‘retail’ Business Websites. Retail in quotes because it could be a fashion outlet, financial share trading site or toy store or furniture or groceries etc, etc … you get my point!
I have worked on in industries like:
Banking, Insurance and Finance
Business Services / Consultancy
Architecture / Construction
The only two that fit into your example of this article are Telecommunications and Consumer goods. I am a creative to start with, then curious, and empathetic to the end user… and during all this always learning and listening for the user needs and for the technical restrictions and requirements and how the end result will fit into the big picture.
Multimedia (old school) turned into kiosk touch screen systems, Video Interfaces, inflight systems, Interactive CD Roms and then websites and now back to touch screen systems with mobility and gestures. The CX and UX component came about differentiating themselves as something unique… but this has always been around, just new labels. Customer Experience. User Experience.
“There are few things as important to user experience design as having a clear process; going from business goals, to information architecture, to content development and wireframing, through to testing, iteration and the many levels there-after”.
Now the sell:
“At CareerFoundry we greatly emphasize this in the user experience course we have developed, because if we can guarantee anything, it’s how to turn those million and one steps into a blazed trail instead of a game of psychedelic hopscotch”.
I’m just going to pretend I’m a panda sexologist. Sounds pretty good!
And the person who wrote the article is not he same person who responded to each person.
Correct me if I am wrong… but I hear and read different language and different tone used. :P
Thank you for the laughs.
UX’errrr (Panda Lover)
I find this article very meaty (sorry, I can’t think of anything that can match your panda sexology), and very refreshing for one reason: I’m so tired of attending seminars, watching videos, and hearing people blabber UX as something explained in an obscure manner, like “UX is empathy, curiosity, etc., etc.”. While those things do cover the values of UX, and prepare one’s mindset, I don’t think it helps anybody that much. What the heck do UX people actually do? I loved this article because it went down to the nitty-gritty of things, like it’s not all about the wireframes, and it’s not just about the first version.
Our company just started exploring UX and designated a small team (including me) to get a head start. On our first few projects, it was so hard to actually do UX stuff because first: most of our clients had no idea about the field, so they are very apprehensive about adding extra money for the process; second: a lot of people think that it’s all about the wireframes, so the moment they have it (even after just presenting it), they are itchy to start designing and developing. During meetings I feel so helpless, trying to calm the clients down and convince them to do a little bit of testing, even if for a small number of people, because I know that what we have presented are mostly assumptions. I feel like I’m violating and sinning against a UX God watching over me from somewhere up in the sky.
Anyway, I may appear to be ranting (in fact, I think I really am), but these are real problems encountered, especially for small and medium businesses. I know there may have been gaps, or I may not have explained the field properly to impress the benefits and importance of doing user experience design on the project, or I do have a long way to go and lots to learn about the field. This article helped shine a little bit on how to improve our ways, our work, and our team, so thank you so much for taking the time to write it, as well as to respond to the comments that are equally meaty and refreshing.
Hello Emil ,
Well…Nice article first of all…I was thinking myself as UI/UX designer….I even don’t now, that does these both walk in hand-or-hand or not.I usaually designed the wireframe in balsamig and continue to make that in PSDs, or code….but this article emil had thought me a lot…other than any ux blogs…..I am removing ux from my CV…..and trust me soon it will be added again….thanks you for such a pinchy article….
What a bunch of bullsh*t.
This article shows what many creatives have know for a few years: UX “designers” are actually untalented people, not good enough to be real designers, not good enough to be be technologists nor developers. I’ve met people coming from all sorts of backgrounds (from developer, design, insurances, PM and even accounting) that end up being “UX specialists”.
Also, to think that people interact with products in a rational/scientific way, is plain ignorance. Of course User Testing is good, but most revolutionary products wouldn’t have made it if they were “designed” with UX “designers”.
I say this based on many years of working as a creative, but being the type of creative that actually thinks about consumer experience, interface conventions vs. new metaphors, testing and tracking, personas, etc. I’m still to meet a UX “designer” that actually adds revolutionary (or just fresh/new) thinking to a project. Normally it’s just a bunch of cliches and predictable approaches.
To all the exceptions out there (if there are really): sorry this is not pointed at you.
Totally agree…!! Most underrated job… the photoshop guys say out aloud “I use balsamiq, I am a UI/UX Designer”
Definitely an interesting read Emil thanks and although provocative (snarky?) has done its job in creating divided opinions and a healthy debate. It’s a timely article and I have to agree UX design is a confusing term even for people working within it seems (which tends to add even more to the noise.)
I’ve been working in web design/development since 1999 across different departments and disciplines – I.T., design and marketing. In 2011 there was a mind shift in how the company I was working for went about improving its website and I got time for more research (finally). Remote usability studies, analytics, personas, wireframes and prototypes were all used in the process and I was involved from sketches to final integration in I.T. It felt like the right way to do web design after many years of just designing screens to satisfy individual tastes of managers and owners.
For the last few years however I have been freelancing. When branding myself and selling services I had to try and define who and what I was. Was I a designer, front end developer or UX designer? I opted for ‘freelance web designer’ as this seemed the most clearly defined path and have been kept busy since which is good. However, no matter how hard I try to sell/introduce UX to my clients there is very little interest. It adds costs to the project and isn’t always seen as something tangible so becomes low priority when budgets are tight.
Although I know that a UX process is the way to go it is still hugely misunderstood by many people who want a website building. I have read many books/blogs and recently done a course in CRO to improve my knowledge and understanding of getting user feedback. I believe I’m more than just a freelance web designer because unfortunately this term has been cheapened and diluted so expectations of costs are low. Seasoned UX professionals are now fearing this is happening to them too (understandably) as UX becomes the new must have addition to a CV. Everyone wants a slice right.
I want to understand goals and measure them, listen to the voice of the customer and make design decisions based on their feedback and data rather than hunches. This moves me closer to using UX processes and improves me as a designer, whilst making my clients website better. Win win. I am currently building a new landing page which outlines the processes I want to take and am looking to use UX / Web designer as my position. Although interesting this article has made me think twice about using UX in my title as I question my lack of experience in certain aspects of it – IA, lab testing, etc.
Surely there can be crossover as disciplines become merged though? A web designer with an understanding of UX adds more value to a project doesn’t he? Ultimately I’m looking to work with smaller companies who need someone who can wear different hats and introduce UX methods into their processes to improve their website.
To get these clients I will have to reposition myself, and yes, perhaps even fake some of it initially to get the work I want. Does this seem so bad?
Ok I’m sold. Now take my money (not really) and help me take those baby steps. Where do I start if I really want to earn that crown?
I really enjoyed this article, and I wish all hiring agencies/recruiters would actually read this too! It’s frustrating that they require “expert level” UX/UI design along with the title of graphic designer. I’ve tried to explain that as a graphic designer, UX/UI is different. The closest is probably UI, but even still, it can’t be clumped together with graphic design. They automatically assume that if you are a graphic designer, then you BETTER know UX/UI design and it’s just not fair.
If hiring managers would only take the time to learn that these are fundamentally different roles, respectively different, and therefore you could only be so lucky to find a graphic designer that also is a UX designer. Even so, to learn UX/UI definitely takes time and there’s many different avenues for learning it. UX/UI is an asset to have, apparently nowadays, but it shouldn’t be a prerequisite for a graphic design job. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve tried to learn UX but alas, I’d sooner take a computer sciences course. In other words, not all graphic designers are suited and able to take on UX/UI at the same time (such as myself).
I think it’s time for the general public to STOP assuming that graphic designers must know UX/UI design, and if they don’t know, then they aren’t worth hiring.