The demand for user experience design, also known as UX design, has ramped up in recent years but there’s still a bit of confusion as to what it is and how it can assist with accessibility, functionality and, most of all, customer satisfaction. Here’s the lowdown.
User experience is easy to define in broad terms but harder to pin down on particulars. In general, it is the feeling a user has when interacting with a product or service. More specifically, as a cousin of ergonomics, it deals with the a user’s relationship and interaction with a product or service and the behaviour he or she exhibits before, during and after that relationship.
UX design is the creation of a particular experience that affects that behaviour. Functionality is one part of that piece, but so is accessibility, especially when it comes to catering to the needs of people with a disability, and how the experience influences future interactions.
“It’s the greatest and the worst time to be a senior UX designer. There is a lot of demand for it but people don’t actually know what it is,” says Henry Cho, one of the UX instructors at General Assembly in Sydney. “There are a lot of jobs out there that say ‘I want a UX designer’ but they don’t, they want an interface designer or an interaction designer. They want the person who can paint the room, not the architect.”
The ‘architect’ is responsible for defining the right problem, then finding the technical inputs and possibilities, adding the aesthetics and identifying what’s desirable, he explains.
“It’s not just about making things usable. A misconception is that usability equals user experience and that’s not true. That’s one component: things should be usable but they need to have a lot of other tricks as well,” Cho notes.
“Is it useful to me? Does it solve a problem? It’s no good having a usable product that doesn’t solve a problem. Building stuff is easy, solving problems is hard. We can solve problems but have you solved the right problem for the right person at the right time in context, which will actually make them change behaviour?”
Start a UX career
People rarely come to UX as a first step in their career, but this may change as the discipline becomes more popular. Instead, UX designers tend to come from sectors such as design, IT, engineering and marketing as the space overlaps those areas.
UX design is an ideal next step for designers, product managers, engineers, web developers and marketers to learn about how design influences behaviour and the practical elements supporting that concept.
“It’s about organising information in a way that is predictive and instinctual for users. You’re trying to empathise and if you don’t have any empathy it’s going to be a problem for you,” says Cho. “It’s about user-centred design and process.”
CoursesNow offers a 12-week User Experience Design course through General Assembly. If you’d like to find out more before you enrol, General Assembly is holding a free info session on UX design in Sydney on 5 September 2013 at 6.30pm. Contact CoursesNow to secure a place.
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