UX research is a growing field, and with an average salary in the $85,000 range, the opportunity to impact tech and products, and the chance to work on interesting challenges, more and more people are looking to become a UX researcher. Whether you’re curious about the day-to-day duties and responsibilities, the skills and attributes that make a great UX researcher, or what the best way to get started is, this article’s for you.

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Illustration by Erica Fasoli.

Tammy Le and Alec Levin have both seen the growth of the field through their own careers and from their work in the UX research community. They were both involved in the founding of the UX Research Collective, which has gone through several evolutions as a meetup, conference, and now a learning platform with content for researchers at all stages of their careers. In 2018, the UXRC conference had 400 attendees, which grew to 1,000 attendees in 2019, with people coming from all over the world to attend. …


Data visualization has arguably been the star of coronavirus pandemic coverage. From early graphics urging us to flatten the curve, to John Burn-Murdoch’s Financial Times charts, to regularly updated dashboards like the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard, we’ve been inundated with visual interpretations of the pandemic data.

“The pandemic is one of the first times in my living memory where so much data is publically available during a crisis,” points out Shirley Wu, a data visualization designer working in the Bay Area. People are so close to the numbers and are engaging with them on a daily basis. “There’s really no way to communicate the pandemic other than through data,” adds Jane Zhang, a data viz designer based in Toronto. …


I celebrated my birthday shortly before the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns took hold all over the world. I had the pleasure of eating a meal at a restaurant and going for drinks with friends. One of my favorite gifts from a friend was a sweater from a local designer with a small shop and studio that I had been coveting for a long time.

Since then, everything has changed so rapidly. The retail and restaurant industries have been incredibly hard hit by the necessary shutdowns of non-essential businesses. The National Restaurant Associationindicates that “8 million restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed, and the industry will lose $80 billion in sales by the end of April.” The outlook for retail is not much better, with an estimated 250,000 stores closed across the U.S.


A hand holding an old style filament lightbulb up to a cloudy, evening sunlit sky
A hand holding an old style filament lightbulb up to a cloudy, evening sunlit sky
A metaphor for ideas: holding a lightbulb to the sky for no apparent reason…

Recently I’ve been pondering the narratives and practices around ‘ideas’ and ‘ideation’ that I see playing out in service design. This is based on my own experiences over the last five years or so, as well as observations of the conversations and framing in broader design practice and organizations.

I’ve increasingly felt like there are some tricky and unhelpful undercurrents going on around ‘ideation’, which are particularly tied to challenges around implementation and delivering on service design (especially beyond a digital implementation context).

Why is this happening? I have a few hunches:

  • Ideas and ideation feel like the fun, mysterious and magical part of the ‘creative process’ that can be very appealing and seductive to teams, executives and designers. Quite simply, we romanticize these bits. …


Dr. Amy Bucher is currently the VP of behavior change at Mad*Pow, where she applies behavior change to the entirety of the design projects she works on. Her book, Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, was published in March 2020. She has spoken about the relevance of behaviour change principles during the global pandemic, and in this Q&A below, I asked her to share everything designers need to know about behavior change during this challenging time.

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How did you get into behavior change design?

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Dr. Amy Bucher.

When I finished my PhD in psychology, I knew I didn’t want an academic job. At the time, there wasn’t really anybody doing design psychology. I was very interested in healthcare so I joined a healthcare startup and was applying psychology to my work, getting a lot of experience in health and design. Behaviour change design is so powerful, and I’ve worked on projects designing for things like medication adherence, eating well, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for sleep habits. …


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Illustration by Andreea Mica.

Maintaining and evolving a design system is a significant undertaking. Fundamentally, design systems are meaningless if they don’t get adopted and used by people. As Brad Frost called out in a recent talk, “A design system needs to help build real software products.” It’s crucial that the design system is actually linked to product design, to the websites and applications that are shipped and live for customers to use.

Stephanie Poce, a UX manager on the Shopify Polaris design systems team, agrees. “A lot of the time it seems design systems start with a very component focused view, and I think we should really be starting with people. Who is this for and how are they going to use it? How are they going to understand it as their own? …


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Illustration by Andreea Mica.

The people and politics aspects of design systems are hard. How do you get buy-in from your boss and team to spend time working on the design system project? How do you ensure people will use the design system? Without widespread adoption and use, design systems are meaningless. This is especially challenging at scale in very large and complex organizations, where design and development functions are spread out among many teams and locations.

It can also be a very intimidating and daunting task to get started on a design system. You might even experience ‘design system imposter syndrome,’ feeling like your project isn’t a ‘real’ design system because it doesn’t include code yet, or because you don’t have a dedicated design systems team. …


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Illustration by Andreea Mica.

Imagine going about your online activity — paying bills through your bank, buying tickets to go to your favorite band’s show, or scrolling through your social media feed. Now imagine that, as you’re doing this, the website gets stuck in frustrating dead ends, the checkout flow won’t let you complete your purchase, and there is a clear mismatch between how you use technology and how interfaces are designed.

For many people who use assistive technology to navigate the web and digital products, this is a daily reality. A recent WebAIM study found that less than one percent of website homepages are likely to meet standard accessibility requirements. Assistive technology encompasses a wide range of devices, including screen readers that read out an interface, magnifying or zoom software that enlarges interfaces, or alternatives to computer mice such as trackballs. …


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Illustration by Andreea Mica.

“A design system is like a pet. It’s easy to like the idea of having one but if you do go ahead and pull the trigger you are taking on a big responsibility,” says Apurv Ray, a design strategy lead. “When it’s a young design system it’s great to play with it, teach it new tricks by adding new components, and it doesn’t take up a lot of your time. But as your design system matures and grows it needs more and more of your time and you’re responsible for anything it breaks. …


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Illustration by Andreea Mica.

Design systems are everywhere these days. It seems that every leading technology organization has published a design system, including Salesforce, Shopify, Airbnb, Spotify, Google, and Microsoft. Design systems are even spawning their own specialized UX and product roles.

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An example of a design systems-focused product design role.

So, how did all of this come about? Why are design systems suddenly so popular? And what do all of the terms like UI kit, design language, and style guides actually mean? We’ve put together this comprehensive blog post series to take a deep dive into design systems. …

About

Linn Vizard

Independent Service Designer. I ❤ glitter, cats, and deadlifting. Previously @Bridgeable @UsabilityMatters. www.servicedesignpaths.com

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