What the heck is UX anyway?

In part one of a two part series offering outsider perspectives on UX Design, Jo Higgs offers her thoughts as a newcomer to UX regarding what it is, and what benefit it can bring.

When I joined Webcredible back in June as Operations & Talent Manager, I was tasked with, among other things, recruiting and retaining the best UX talent out there. My first hurdle (and it was a pretty major one) was learning about our industry. The first time I had ever even heard the term 'user experience' was when Trenton, Webcredible's founder, emailed me one day to ask "fancy working for us?" I had a great deal of work to do before I could even begin to understand the CV of a 'UXer'.

Training

Luckily, I was able to attend our Training Academy, and sat in on our UX Fundamentals training course (a great intro into the world of UX if you're a total novice). I also talked to the amazing people at Webcredible and I listened to them all wax lyrical about 'User Centred Design'. Their passion for their craft is clearly visible, bubbling to the surface when they are given the opportunity to talk about what UX is and why they do it.

It seems obvious now but I began to understand: it's all about 'designing for the user'. I remember explaining it to my husband in the most basic way possible:

"You know when you go onto a website and it's all weirdly laid out, confusing, and difficult to use? You probably think 'urgh' and click 'back' to see what else Google has brought up, and that website didn't get your business. That amounts to a bad user experience. Where I work is focused on preventing that by looking at what you expect, need, and want, and designing a better experience for you."

As basic as that sounds, I'd learned that it boils down to that fundamental principle. It was the best way I could describe it to others around me who also weren't familiar with UX.

That light bulb moment led to another: I would need to really get to grips with what our UX team actually do, how they do it and what makes someone a really good UXer. Cue more training courses! Mobile UX, User Research, Interaction Design, Usability Testing & SEO all formed part of what I needed to know to find the best UXers to hire. Part of that involved understanding Webcredible's core process in achieving the best end-result possible: an ideal user experience.

It seems obvious now, but I began to understand: it's all about 'designing for the user'.

Investigate

First, and probably most importantly - you need to speak to the users. It seems obvious, but it's astonishing how many people and businesses don't do this. By talking to users you can understand who they are, what they want and how they want it delivered to them. There are all manner of research tools available that we use to get that information: interviews, focus groups, card sorting and user testing are some of the main ones. Like detectives with a crime scene, first you have to gather all the clues and information.

Accelerate

Once we have the insights from investigating, it's time to start thinking about how we can design and re-imagine these experiences. This is where the user journeys, site maps, and information architecture (IA) come in. To use the detective analogy again, imagine a board covered in clues: the information needs to be laid out logically and cohesively to help solve the case. With UX of course, this generally involves post-its more than anything else!

Evaluate

Analytics start to come into the picture, as we dive into data to work out exactly what people are doing on a site, where they're doing it and when. Are there specific 'pain points'? Do people drop out at certain points in the process? Once we have this information, along with the insights from the initial research, we start to build a picture of what needs to happen to make it all better.

Cultivate

The final stage of the process is to recognise that this isn't just a one-time activity. User needs are always changing, so the way you interact with them will need to continue to evolve as well. That involves educating internal staff and cultivating a culture focused on user experience. In detective terms, think of it as sharing knowledge with the police to prevent future crime.

So what makes a good UXer?

At the start of this I mentioned that I needed to learn all of this to be able to understand what makes a good UXer. Here at Webcredible we are looking for people who are 'blended' and have a deep understanding of the process and all of its complexities, individuals who understand and are excited about every piece of the puzzle from the research right through to the visual design.

Most importantly however, we are looking for someone who is totally passionate about UX. Think that's you? Want to come and solve UX crimes here with us?

Well we are recruiting, so get in touch by taking a look at our current job opportunities!

 

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