UX – The Rainbow Unicorn – by James Semmence

unicornThe title is probably slightly misleading – I just like the way it sounds. I wanted to write about how I am finding my introduction to user experience and what steps I’m taking to try to align myself with UX as a speciality.

I’ve only had minuscule exposure to UX and the difference between someone who is UX focused and strategic and someone who knows it’s a hot topic so has decided to put it on their CV. I have found the way to sort the wheat from the chaff is to be genuine. I actually have become more and more enthralled by the whole concept of the user experience – how/why/when a customer visits/buys/uses a product/service. My understanding of user experience is so new and so basic that I feel like Jesus stood before the red sea… where do I even start?? (before anyone gets ahead of themselves, no I can’t turn water in to wine!! I’ve tried!!)

UX is such a vast subject, you can delve into the research and really get into the heads of your shoppers or you can go and look at the more conceptualisation side of things, qualitative and quantitative data and how to drive strategies using this data. I’ve read blogs, websites, ordered a book (hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ve ordered Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug).

I have worked on a couple of user experience roles. The first was by far the biggest learning curve. Making the mistake of assuming UX/UI came as a pair. Off I went searching for UX/UI designers (which I feel is often a misrepresentation of what the company/person is actually looking for). The first person I came across had written user interface designer, let’s call him Hank Moody (I’ve started watching Californication again!!) I picked up the phone and made the mistake of trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about… Luckily for me Hank was also attempting to do the same, what a pair of blaggers!! My next call wasn’t so easy – I spoke with an extremely helpful candidate who asked if I had worked UX/UI before, clearly he could tell I was pretty new to the field. We got into conversation about how I was finding a lot of front end developers, who claim to have UX/UI skills. He suggested taking some time to go on form my own opinion of what a UX/ UI role would be and what sort of person would you want to fill it. I came away from this conversation realising I was asking the wrong people, the wrong questions. I needed to find out what my clients goal was and what do they need this person to do. I found that my client was talking about the strategic side of things, looking at the information architecture, workshops, someone analytical. This led me to the conclusion I wasn’t looking for a UX/UI designer as the title had me believe.

This was over 5 months ago (one of my first roles) I am by no means claiming to understand UX or acting as though I am some sort of subject matter expert, but I am happy to say I think I have a good grasp of what somebody in a user experience capacity should know, and be confident talking about.

If I’ve said anything you don’t agree with or have a different outlook on, please comment, contact me – I’m not writing this to talk at you, I want to talk with well-informed people. You don’t need to be a user experience guru nor do you even have to know what user experience is. This is my journey with UX so far… Share yours!

I want to learn, and I feel that learning is all about perspective. You can only learn so much through your own eyes!!

Finally, I read an article (more about design and what design roles will look like in the future) and it had an amazing analogy for technology itself –

“Early technology was, in its most basic form, like a huge block of ice: not very accessible, clunky, and necessitating specialists to handle. Now as technology melts, it will transform from solid to liquid to gas, permeating almost every aspect of our lives and creating a cross-disciplinary opportunities”

Thanks for taking the time read my first article. Hope you enjoyed it. From James.