What is UX Design for me?

Beyond the buzz words

Rachel Zhang
Dec 18, 2016 · 4 min read

I’ve always been very curious and observant about everything and wondering often how could things that we experience in daily life be improved. That’s how I got into the field of design 6 years ago.

Design for me, is not making things look in a certain way but providing us with the right tools to get things done. During my journey in design, I’m constantly learning from listening and exchanging ideas; thinking critically; experimenting, building and testing ideas.

There are three aspects that I value the most in user experience design: Context and anticipating needs; The service around the product; Iteration and implementation.

Context and anticipating needs

User experience design for me is not only about websites or mobile apps design. It covers a wide range of fields such as user research, interaction design, industrial design and service design. As UX designers, we look at the whole user journey, find out the pain points and think of solutions to improve or recreate the product/service/system. During the process, it’s important to consider the context of use. Using your phone to navigate while driving is totally different than planning a road trip on your laptop, or comparing hotel information on your laptop and then make a booking on the bus the next day. Our needs can be totally different when achieving the same goal in different contexts.

As the technology of connectivity, cloud, artificial intelligence and sensors developing exponentially and the huge amount of data being collected, the need for contextual design is growing which means the machines begin to learn and anticipate human needs based on our behaviours, situations and locations. For example, Google Now combines the data that you provided in your Google searches, calendar, maps and emails to give you contextual notifications and suggestions. It will remind you that the restaurant might be closed at the time when you reach there or you should get going in 10 minutes if you want to attend an event at 7 PM somewhere. It saves us time and effort by providing useful, contextual and personalized information and fulfilling our unconscious needs.

Good user experience is fluid and seamless. Good UX design helps us to get things done easier and faster.

The service around the product

A few weeks ago, I was very confused when I couldn’t find any rental bikes in Berlin on my Call a Bike mobile app. Nothing had changed for 3 days and there was no information in the app or at the bike station. So I finally called the service hotline and found out that the whole bike system in Berlin is under construction. I was not informed at all and couldn’t even get a refund for the monthly subscription. It was a great service for me until this frustrating moment came and I lost trust in it.

Another story: I was using an online tool Smaply to digitalize a service blueprint for a project. And when I finished 30 percent of the blueprint, it suddenly crashed and all the data I put in was gone. It was definitely a horrible moment when you saw hours of works gone in one second. So I wrote them about the crash and expressed my frustrations of using their online tool for the first time. After a few hours, I got an reply from their VP apologizing for the inconvenience and promising to recover the data as soon as possible. Meanwhile they offered to upgrade my account to business for one month. This sincere and personal reply really earned my trust and delivered the message that no matter what goes wrong, they will be there and do their best to help the users.

We are not only designing products but also the services around. A successful product can’t live without a good service.

Iteration and Implementation

Design thinking is indeed a powerful tool which allows us to validate ideas at early stage so that we won’t waste time on the ideas that will not work, however, it alone is not enough to tackle challenges and deliver solutions. After the iterative ideation, prototyping and testing phase, our idea needs to be implemented which often turns to be difficult, especially when designing from the agency side. There is a good way that I would recommend, to get a rough idea of potential problems that may occur during implementation, is to have Co-creation workshops with stakeholders including clients, specialists from marketing, sales and engineering background who look at things from different perspectives. At the same time, get constant feedback from users and iteratively adapt the design. Also, coming from an industrial design background, I strongly suggest starting “design doing” right after “design thinking”.

Think more, but also do more.

In brief

As user experience designers, our duty is to understand users’ frustrations and create products/services which meet their needs and bring them delightful experiences.

Rachel Zhang

Written by

UX & Service Design | Remote work | Sustainability zhangxiaowen.com

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