UX design is not about design
Design is about intent: I know what product I intend to deliver to you.
UX Design is not primarily about intent (not about design), it’s about objectively understanding and improving the experience users have with a product.
Understanding and improving. Optimizing. From here on I will refer to UX design as UX optimization.
Can I be both a Designer and a UX optimizer? Sure. You should be if you intend to create a company. Your intent might be to create the fastest electric car on the planet and to grow that company to build 1000s of cars. You should optimize the user experience because you want people to buy those cars. Be radically clear about the intent and optimize the user experience around the intent: make sure that the experience of traveling very fast is enjoyable, practical, secure etc.
And if you freelance, it helps to understand the intent of a product before you optimize the experience.
So…what does a UX optimizer do?
Defining the product information architecture , user flows, copy and visual affordances are perhaps what most people think of as UX design: to create a usable product.
But understanding how people react to the experience is perhaps the core task of a UX optimizer. It’s about data, both quantitative and qualitative. It’s about what data to look for, how to gather the data, and how to synthesize and present that data.
When a UX optimizer sees in the data that the experience needs improvement, the next step is to suggest improvements which is about knowing best practices and also about being empathetic; put yourself in the users shoes. The emotional state a user is in when faced with the problem you solve, or their emotional state in search of a solution, or even purchase of the solution: these are often the most valuable insights for a UX optimizer. Finally testing is about measuring outcomes for a set of suggested improvements.
At CareerFoundry we believe that creating great product is not happening by accident. It’s a craft (what we also happen to teach).
Thanks to @EmilLamprecht for input to this rant.