What I learned as a UX intern at Uber

In the summer of 2018, I joined Uber on their New Mobilities team as a product design intern. I designed the platform for their next highly-anticipated product—shared eScooters, to launch in cities around the world starting this September.

Uber had entrusted me and one other designer with a huge task; though I had access to many other incredible designers for feedback. Though I was the youngest person at the company, I was given enormous freedom and autonomy to build the product from start to finish. This was my biggest UX undertaking so far and here are a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve taken away in my three months:

No decision you make will be foolproof.

Today’s solutions, tomorrow’s problems.

Every decision you make will have its tradeoffs. Some will have bigger ones than others do. There is no perfect solution, you can only strive to find the one with the least negative impact. At Uber, I wasted a lot of time trying to make perfect all-encapsulating solutions that accounted for every use case and edge case, but quickly learned that if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. The designs were giving users cognitive overload and needed to be simplified. The best thing to do is to pick your battles and then commit.

Seek out feedback early and often.

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
Don’t we all love compliments?

If people aren’t picking your designs apart, then you are probably doing a shitty job. Your coworker sitting next to you is a fresh set of eyeballs you can use to your advantage; ask them what they honestly think of the icons you made. Your manager was once a novice designer; ask them what advice they’d give to their 20-year-old self. Seek out criticism over and over again.

Take decisive action.

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.
src: xkcd.com/1445

I was one of the two primary designers on the Uber Scooter experience, a project in which many, many stakeholders were involved—from other designers to PMs, engineers to content strategists, legal to marketing. My biggest struggle during this internship, hands down, arose from my inability to filter all the noise and reconcile each stakeholder’s input with the others.

Watch out for analysis paralysis. Filter through the noise and make a decision. Put a time limit on it and don’t allow over-thinking to continue endlessly.

Great product designers must be able to pair intuition with logic.

Design is where science and art break even.
Overused chart (but true)

“But this design feels right”

“I’m doing it this way because everyone else is”

“[Highest paid person] said to do it this way”

Product design is about understanding, observing, ideating, iterating, and testing. All ideas are assumptions. Therefore, all assumptions must be tested. Be intentional about each design choice. It’s good to take a step back and doubt your gut feelings, especially if you are young in your career.

Being able to articulate your reasoning is vital to building trust with stakeholders.

Ideas are cheap.

Execution is everything.

‘Nuff said.

Dare to dream.

Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.

At Uber, I often found myself sticking to a regimented list of features and methods of execution, without considering how I could make an experience go above-and-beyond expectations for a user. I had, hilariously, forgotten that itty bitty me could actually change and propose new things outside of what was assigned. The amount of freedom and impact I had was enormous—something I was clearly unused to and I soon realized: this is why good UX designers are paid the big bucks. They are depended on to be visionaries.

My coworkers were very inspiring, presenting work at critiques that had little relevance to what Uber was doing at the moment. Digging through Uber’s UI archives, I even stumbled upon some light-hearted, experimental Uber space travel w that I’ll, again, stress was completely experimental.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

And last but not least:

Set out to prove yourself wrong.

Strong opinions, loosely held.
(src: https://fs.blog/)

One of the biggest takeaways for me is to stop looking for ways that I’m right. It is every person’s natural tendency to look for ways in which they are right; this causes us to become blinded to the aspects in which we fall short.

When you start to ask yourself “Why shouldn’t I do this?” rather than “Why should I do this?” is when you begin to explore the possibility that you are wrong.

Thanks for scrolling! Have a nice day.

Bre Huang is a UX Designer based in Boston, MA. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent Uber’s views or opinions.