Why become a User Experience Designer?
I got my break into the industry with no qualifications or experience, about a year after I dropped out of university. This was followed by a few months of studying a home base Web design course until a friend introduced me to the founder of a digital agency start up.
10 years later, I have had the pleasure of working with some great people and companies on a variety of UX projects and have thus accumulated six reasons why people should consider a career as a User Experience Designer.
I love how you are always in a creative environment with no need to wear a tie. You are literally creating new things for people to use and because technology is contantly changing, with the emergence of new devices and ways to use them, there are always new problems to solve.
Your creativity is used to help serve peoples’ needs, explore new possibilities and conduct controlled experiments known as user testing so that you can learn and get closer to what the right solution should be. It’s this permission to fail and learn that helps you remain creative without limiting yourself.
Being a UX Designer has always been a well paid role. You can expect more money every year as your role is so highly valued. Why is it so highly valued? Because not many people do it and even more are not aware of the role. People in the industry have even various names for it over the past couple of decades such as 'Information architect', 'Customer experience consultant' and 'Interaction designer’. It’s not just a supply and demand issue. UX Design is not something that you can easily send to an off shore team and expect the right result. This is because UX Design is a process rather than a deliverable and going through that process has too many steps that requires the UX Designer to remain in close contact and communication with the end user to simply hand it over to someone far and disconnected with the intended audience.
Most importantly lets consider what happens if you do not involve the role of a UX Designer within your project that involves designing a new app or website. You would go straight into the design and build without understanding whether you are building the right thing. Designing and building an app or website is such a time consuming and expensive endeavour and the last thing you want to find out after such a long commitment is that you built something that provides no value to your customer or that you made it extremely difficult for people to benefit from that value. Thus, the UX Designer is very well paid to help avoid such an expensive problem.
Throughout my time in the Digital Creative industry I have never known a moment where there was a shortage of UX Designer roles. When ever I was on the market for a new role it would only take about a week to receive multiple opportunities and commit to one of them.
This is probably because it is still not a widely known role as people probably still think in terms of a ‘Web Designer’, the one man band that designs and builds a whole website, whereas how many people have heard of a UX Designer, let alone what they actually do?
The need of UX Designers has increased with people trusting more of their lives to online services. This is especially true when you consider the rise of smart phones and other ’smart' devices that has overtaken many other electronic consumer devices such as the walkman, portable gaming device, compact camera, car navigation and the mobile phone. With every new app and website there will be a need for a UX Designer.
One of my favourite aspects of being a UX Designer is how you create something that did not exist previously with other people that have different perspectives, experiences and skill sets than you. Knowing how to collaborate with others is one of the most important life long skills that you can ever learn if you are involved with creating things.
Collaboration trains your emotional intelligence so that you understand how to communicate with people by being effective rather than trying to be right. The way to do this is to focus on how you make the other person feel when explaining your perspective so that you can both achieve a desired outcome rather than just imposing information on to the other person.
Ultimately, when you work with others towards a creative goal you develop camaraderie, have more fun and create better work.
A UX Designer is generally part of the creation of a digital product right from the beginning all the way to the very end. This means that you learn the process of what it takes to not only create compelling digital experiences but hopefully the right ones in order to solve equally compelling problems.
In order to achieve this you must have a process that ensures you are asking the right questions upfront. This involves some of the most enjoyable part of the process as you get to engage with people, understand who they are and what they want. What they want usually means that a problem needs to be solved and then you get to be the one to design and create interactive prototypes in order to test and observe if peoples’ problems are being solved.
The process is the perfect blend of art and science as you are not only expressing your intuition of how you can solve people's problems, needs and desires but are objectively validating whether your intuition is correct.
You cannot be a UX designer without embodying some principles that are not only applicable to your role but also your life. The main principle you learn is empathy, which is understanding how your users feel and what they desire. Being able to empathise not only with users but those you work with makes your job 10 times easier.
The second principle is compromise and you practice this by finding the right balance between the needs of the user, the business and technology. You are the one making a stand for the user to ensure their voice is heard amongst the competing perspectives of what the business wants (to make a profit from the product) and what technology wants (to make the product in the most easiest way). Choosing what to compromise on in order to reach the greater goal is a worthwhile skill to internalise in all areas of your life.
There are not a lot of careers out there that not only let you improve peoples’ lives in how they experience your designs but also improve your own life on the job. The great thing about UX Design is that you can also apply the principles to other things in your life such as your relationships and daily routine. Imagine being able to understand what your partner's wants, needs and pain points are and your partner being able to understand yours. Imagine that you both then design your ideal relationship with each other, which is always measured, iterated and then improved. A career in UX Design is also a foundation to UX your life.