The How’s, Why’s and Aha’s! of UIX and me.

This way, that way, somewhere else …oh boy

Hello, my name is Hugo and over the past 5 years, I have been in the role of a UIX Designer & Developer. My day to day can best explained or summarized as the following: A problem solver of business puzzles that affects clients and users who spend their time, money, and resources to use our products everyday.

Every screen, interaction, workflow, icon, color, font, data presentation, database call, mouse click, code, css, etc. was painstakingly thought through, user tested, prototyped, and finally developed using the findings, patterns, and workflows discovered through interviews, testing, brainstorming meetings, and analysis. Sounds granular and complex right? It does but it actually has become more of fine tuned, easy to absorb process … but it wasn’t always this way.

In the beginning … sometime in the 1990’s …

Sometime in the 1990’s I was still learning and teaching myself HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I immersed myself in it until I was skilled enough to get my first IT job which was not even programming but help desk (programming came later). The term UX had passed by my desk in the mid 90’s much like 747 passes through the sky. You notice it, you appreciate it, you may even wonder how it does what it does, and then, it’s gone. To me, UX was exactly that. A passing phrase in the sky that looked cool, made some noise, and was never to be heard from again.

Years later, somewhere around 2005 I had decided that I had enough of learning programming by the following methods:

  1. How many books can I buy which will sit on the shelf and hopefully, by some type of osmosis, the information from the book will transfer to my brain
  2. The do it yourself from dusk till dawn and not getting anywhere because you’re still on the same chapter in the book because what you are reading is not what is happening on the screen
  3. The infinite hacky, it works and I don’t know why but whatever … it works so just leave it

College was calling me, so I signed up and committed to it like a pig to a plate of ham and eggs. After five years of hard work, stress, no sleep, more stress, and bad food choices, I finally obtained a computer science degree … and the minstrels rejoiced!

So what was next? Another IT job … duh. I was officially a programmer (… the minstrels rejoiced again!) and while the coding was fun, I still loved … no, sorry that was wrong. I was enamored … with the design aspect of it. So much so that I decided to only focus on the front end. Around that time, Front End design and developers had actually become a focus. Lucky me. I found the right fit. As I continued to work at it, at the core I knew that the design was much more than just colors, fonts, icons, and placement. I was losing interest in just making pretty screens. There had to be purpose. My work was good but I was getting feedback (here and there) about how they liked what I was coming up with but “could be easier?”. I had tried my best to find solutions which worked, temporarily, but at that time it didn’t occur to me that I was solving the symptoms and not the actual root problems. Oh boy…

Enter UX.

The UX phrase came back into focus again and over my desk, like Doc Brown’s DeLorean after time jumping back into 1985, flames and all. Aha! I dove into UX like a deep sea diver after some lost Spanish treasure in the middle of the Atlantic. I spent hours, days, weeks, and months reading scraps all over the internet about the design process, user testing, user journeys, why all of this is important, and how UX wasn’t just a phrase, but many disciplines and it tied right into the UI.

You know when you hear Led Zeppelin for the first time?

Exactly!

Something just clicked. I had put it altogether and realized I had to set out in a new direction. Fortunately enough, I had the most of the foundation set.

Reality: I didn’t have the foundation set.

It was weak. It was fragile. It was based on assumptions. It was like when Indiana Jones, in the Last Crusade, on the second path for the Holy Grail, misspells the name and almost falls to his death. Yeah, that’s kinda what it was like.

Enter the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF).

Remember how I spent hours, days, weeks, and months reading scraps of information about UX (like a deep sea diver in search of lost Spanish treasure in the middle of the Atlantic) from all over the web and connecting with people at meet ups? Yeah, well, it just wasn’t enough. I read what the IDF was about (on their site) and signed up, (taking a risk, but if you don’t take risk, you may spend the rest of your days wondering, what if …?) and enrolled in two of their courses. Those two courses are what I needed to go from weak, fragile, and based on assumptions, to: Planning out calculated steps in the right direction, knowing and owning every piece of the process and looking forward to discoveries along the way. Those courses were “Become a UX Designer from Scratch” and “Design Thinking: The Beginner’s Guide”.

I will say the following about the IDF:
The courses that they deliver (and I can only speak for the courses I have taken) are well thought out, presented in a very easy digestible manner, and true to the work environment. What do I mean by that? They try to give you enough information and advice that is closer to real work than a perfect world scenario ( and that to me was powerful because perfect scenarios rarely happen). To “kick it up a notch” as Emeril Lagasse would say, they also include speakers who are UX professionals in the industry who, in their courses who give their first hand experiences or advice on a particular subject. That is priceless information.

As of now, I have been a member of the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) for over a year, and in that year is has strengthened the foundations that I have as a designer and taught me a reinforced and formal approach to UIX in my career.

I’ll leave you with 4 tips for learning online that worked for me:

  1. Make time. No, seriously, make time to clear your schedule and read the material.
  2. Absorb it. Apply it.
  3. Teach it, ( or explain it to others) to reinforce your understanding of the material. Reach out to others if you have questions. It’s how you learn and get better at what you want to do.
  4. Invest 1–3 in yourself. You’re worth it.

“To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.”
 Confucius-