What design school did not teach me about UX but shopping at a grocery did

We all know the “aha moments” — these rare glimpses of deep understanding that come out of blue and bring the blissful feeling of recognition — be it recognition of how to open a jar in one second or why all your friends seem to become running addicts.

But what is characteristic for the “aha moments” is that when the euphoria of understanding fades, the “how come I did not realize such an obvious thing yet” thought comes. This is just what I experienced one morning at a grocery shop on my way to work and made me wonder why they did not teach me at school an absolutely basic thing or why I misheard it.

I study communication design and recently started my first serious job as a designer at a mobile apps development house specializing in creating products for Android. Since the college provided me with some insight into the world of coders, my collegues’ (coders’) language did not sound to me as black magic and I did have a general idea what they meant by view pager or performance issues. Though, when I enthusiastically started redesigning the layout of the first real app in life with the head packed with UI theory, I felt both confused and disappointed. The result was not as cool as Nike+ Running. Not even as Messenger or Duolingo. In fact, it was quite bland.

The next day, it just dawned on me why it was so when I stepped into a grocery and queued to pay for a yoghurt and a banana. There was a women in front of me buying breakfast of impressive size for at least four people, so I waited a decent while. When her basked was finally empty, I was already repeating “please faster, faster, faster, faster!” like a mantra in my head. I started to get ready to pull the wallet, quickly pay and run to office, but my rush was untimely. She placed her card on a pay pass reader and waited. Waited. And waited.

“You can take your card”, said the cashier eventually.

“Aww… Allright. It just did not beep!”, answered the woman and a huge “AHA” knocked into my head.

At college, we did a number of mockups in Photoshop. We used Bootstrap for prototyping. We more ore less got to know Axure. UXPin. FluidUI. A/B tests. Qualitative research. Yet, all these tools empowered us only to create 2D visual designs, lacking with such vital aspects of a good design as sound and kinetic experiences. We had have a class in sound design, however I did not even think about asking my pair developer to discuss sound effects of the app. It swiped nicely, buttons looked like buttons, sliders had a pleasant gradient and that was it.

I am far from saying that my design studies were worth little. Quite contrary, I am convinced it was one of the most mind-opening things that even happened to me. Yet, conscious of how certain about their capacities and knowledge my peers are (and until recently I was too), I would advise to refrain from calling oneself someone else than “graphic designer” if you are freshly after college. “Visual designer”, yes. “UX designer“ — not really. Why? Because probably before you spend a decent amount of time with a coder that will enlighten you with technical aspects of coding animations, kinetic experiences and sound effects, your pixel perfect layouts will seem as lively and engaging as an ideal cube of ice.

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