The U of UX

Why every single tech job nowadays is prefixed with an UX label? What is in fact the difference from a 90’s designer to a 16’s Ux designer?

Photo credit: Gratisography

Those questions are not easy to answer. According to a professor of mine, engineers and designers have to create new words from time to time so they can raise their consulting prices. Jokes aside, those questions reflect a significant shift in the tech industry from a business-centric approach to a user-centric approach.

This “user-centric” approach attempts to shrink the gap between business and user needs, hence the term popularized as User Experience or simply UX, just because UE was not that sexy. Although the concept seems appealing in theory it’s not so simple to translate this approach into practical work methods.

Let's take a look when designers suffer from a condition called design blindness, which as Braden Kowitz puts it:

“[Design blindness] is when an idea comes out of your head, of course it makes sense to your head… but it might not make sense to other people” — Braden Kowitz

This condition pretty much goes against the whole user-centric approach mentioned earlier in which "other people" would be your clients/users. But, how do we solve this? Well… there is a couple ways, the one we use at Taqtile and probably the most simple and efficient one would be to include constant feedback on your design process. Feedback is so important that instead of calling ourselves UX Whatevers we should be called Powered By Feedback Whatevers, because that would be one of the main differences from what it's been done now from what was done in the past days. That Mad Men style of work in which a team receives a briefing, works in isolation insanely and in the end deliver a golden egg is no longer fitted to our current needs, in contrast collaboration and co-creation work way faster and efficiently in the current overly-competitive market.

Feedback can be included in the design process in a multitude of ways, however the methods that include the user in the design process takes us closer to our desire of diminishing the gap between business and user. As for user’s feedback we need to be very careful in how we approach our users, since they know a lot about their pains and frustrations, but they often don’t know what they need. As the famous (and probably-fake) Henry Ford quote states:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — (Most probably not) Henry Ford

The quote exemplifies the point that helps the designer to identify the pain point (mobility in this case), but it does not give much insight in how to solve it (the solution being the automobile). Talking to the user in a discovery phase is very important to better understand their context, but not extremely helpful to find out if you’re building the right product, or if you’re curing your design blindness.

That’s when prototyping and usability testing come enormously handy, prototyping enables designers to quickly create a grasp of what the product will look and function, whilst usability testing provides user’s reactions to this product. User's reactions are very important to figure out which part of your prototype doesn't correspond to user's expectations and, most importantly, why that is happening.

Using test-based and feedback-based approach to design becomes clear that design is a craft in which not only theory or book learning will drive your design to success, as (again) Braden Kowitz wonderfully putted:

Design is a skill that resembles much more the one that requires you to play piano, to the degree that you don't expect to play a symphony after reading your first book about it, but it requires a lot of practice, failure, and it constantly improves with feedback from others.

So that design doesn't rely solely on theory, but mainly on practice.

Practice your design skills! ;)

If you would like to know more about the behind the scenes on how we create digital prototypes to get these famous user's reactions, you can read this follow up article: Hacking your digital prototype.

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