What is UX? My Two Month Crash Course

Starting a new job is intimidating. Starting a new job you don’t know anything about even more so. Granted, when I accepted the position of User Experience Intern, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into. Over the past few months, I’ve bitten my pride and realized there’s so much more to learn than I thought possible.

So, I’m in UX. It’s a field that’s evolving and defining itself as we speak. This is incredibly exciting because the people I work with are some of the most intelligent ones I know, and they’re on the brink of helping define this new field. I’m honored to work with them, to be in an internship where I feel valued and am given projects that matter.

Most of all, I’m honored to be learning about UX. I wake up—besides being tired/crabby because it’s early and its summer and my roommates got a cat that wakes me up—thrilled to find out what I’ll learn that day. My team consists of people of all backgrounds: computer science, communications, English. Everyone’s pasts have developed their skills and aided in the jobs they have today, whether it be designing prototypes or using analogies to get a point across.

With UX, you can come from anywhere. You can be anything.

However, you must want to learn it.

So, what is UX? Awesome question. Let me tell you what I know.

My first couple weeks involved a lot of Google and User Interface Engineering videos—and then more Google because I didn’t know what the videos were talking about.

One incredibly universal theme, before we get into anything else, is the importance of empathy. In UX, you work with people a lot—both on your team and during usability testing. You must be able to put yourself in their shoes and care about their struggles. UX is about making a better experience. How could anyone enter this field if they didn’t care?

I’ll just start with the basics. If there’s interest, I can delve into more of the exciting world of UX in more blogs.

One of the hardest things is that there’s no set-in-stone way of accomplishing a task. For a process so heavy in user research, I kept looking for a sure-fire way to accomplish any task, whether it be deciding what to put on a mobile prototype or narrowing down the results deck. There are many opinions and suggestions, but one size does not fit all. You must look at what your stakeholder wants to know more about and formulate your process around that.

On a test we did in my first weeks, I did a lot of observing and notetaking. We conducted a stakeholder interview session to discover what they wanted to learn from our research. We defined goals and questions to support those goals. Using a handle tooled called “Axure” a prototype* was developed. After we recruited participants, we tested how easy our prototype was to use. (This is where attention to detail and user behavior is crucial.) As testers, we must carefully watch how what participants say matches with their actions to see what possible discrepancies there are. (Ex: a user may say that our prototype was really easy and they had no problems, but if during the test they struggled to open a Web Browser, there may be more to the story).

After a test, it is important to have a storytelling session. As a writer, I love that term. In practice, it really makes sense. Everyone who observed gets together to discuss what they saw while it’s still fresh in their minds.

Depending on the test, there could be more brainstorming, there could be journey mapping*, there could be a completely new prototype and script developed. After the test is completed, though, a research deck is put together and presented to the stakeholders.

The main takeaway here is this: don’t just be hungry enough to take your lunch break, be hungry enough to learn more. And stay hungry.

*without getting too in-depth, a prototype is based off of your research questions/goals and a rough model of the item you’re testing (like a sketch of a website); prototypes can be interactive

*journey mapping occurs when you put together a visualization of a customer’s process with your product/service

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