What is UX design? The answer varies depending on who you ask. A lot has already been said about user experience, and now it's time for Katarzyna Kaniewska from our Product Design team to share her main thoughts about the topic. Fasten the seatbelts and dig into this brilliant interview.
- What does it mean to you to be a UX Designer?
Being a UX Designer is a constant adventure. One day I need to think like a teacher, another day like a businessman. In my opinion, it broadens not only your knowledge of the industry but also of other people. In all of my projects, I have to bear in mind that I don’t design for myself. If I won’t think like an end-user, I won’t understand what they really need. In other words being a designer is learning new things on a daily basis and taking a great deal of pleasure from doing it.
- How did you get into UX Design?
When I was studying Cognitive science I had the first contact with UX. I remember thinking that the topic was fascinating, but didn’t pursue it until a couple of years later. I was working for a corporation for some time and couldn’t help to notice that some of the software we were using was very counter-intuitive. I’ve observed that people, even those very experienced ones (later I would call them hard users), had their own notes or instructions of how to use the system. This observation made me realise that I will never stop seeing loopholes in the bad design and this feeling of frustration pushed me to postgraduate studies on UX Design. After finishing them, I could see no other path for myself than becoming a full-time designer.
- What are the main responsibilities of UX Designer?
It depends, of course. I would say that the responsibilities of UX Designers are very broad and depending on the size and maturity of the company can be combined or split across different roles. A few years ago “UX Designer” used to be an umbrella term for a variety of responsibilities. Nowadays there is a tendency towards separating the roles within the UX industry: UX designers, UX researchers, UX writers, UX strategist, Interaction Designers, Data Analyst etc.
For UX Designers the responsibilities usually cover the following areas: product research, analysis, information architecture, low and high fidelity prototyping and testing.
UX Designer is a middleman between different parties: business, developers, end-users. In my opinion, the primary responsibility is to satisfy the expectations of business advocating for end-users at the same time. This entails two things: creating solutions that are user-friendly and logical; the approach towards designing where users are equally important as the business.
- What is UX design? Why does it matter?
UX Design is everything that happens in-between user and product in a certain environment. To explain it, I will split it into three main components:
user - who has expectations, a wealth of experience, needs that have to be satisfied, the entirety of feelings and emotions, physical and mental limitations etc.
product - that doesn’t have any human-like properties but has a variety of characteristics such as simplicity, quality, efficiency, appealing look, size, material etc.
environment - the external factor that might determine the context of use, for example, severe winter conditions, scorching hot day.
All of these factors play a huge part in shaping the user experience. The responsibility of the user experience designer is to take into consideration all 3 of these factors and propose a solution. And this is basically what UX design is about.
- What makes a good (or at least a decent) UX Designer?
I believe that a good designer is someone extremely versatile. UX designer is a person who cares about business as well as user’s needs - keeping both perspectives entails a certain degree of persuasiveness combined with diplomacy.
On the one hand, I imagine a good designer as a person who doesn’t stop being curious about people, empathises with their problems and wants to remove their frustrations. On the other hand, not everything can be fixed and look impeccable. A very mature and hard lesson to learn is letting go, and this is something that great designers can do.
- What does it mean that something is ‘well designed’?
The obvious answer would be: it’s easily used and frustration free. The well-designed product is closely associated with its receiver. Something might be well designed for me, assuming I’m an expert in a certain domain, but utterly ridiculous for someone who is not (due to factors like language, no expert knowledge etc.). I would like to highlight again that the decision of perceiving something as well designed lies within a user and a context of use. If I’m using an application that has revolutionised my way of working, has all the proper functionalities and saved my precious time I could clearly say it’s well designed for me (even if it’s not visually stunning).
- How did UX change since its beginnings?
UX design domain changed on many levels. First of all the perspective of everyday people has changed (and is constantly changing). A few years back, UX design was perceived as something that can be seen - only a visual aspect was taken under consideration. Nowadays it’s recognised as a process that consists of many steps - most of them are invisible (analysis, research, strategy etc.) but they construct a product (and not just the interface). The approach is more holistic. As a result of increased UX awareness, a typical setup - UX team of one - is evolving into UX teams. Subsequently, the styles of work have changed, and now the design tools have evolved into focusing on collaboration, sharing the designs, gathering comments, connecting dev teams and facilitating remote work.
- What are some of the biggest trends in the UX design industry right now?
The UX domain is changing rapidly so there it’s not feasible to mention all the little trends that have gained popularity in recent years. One of them is moving toward product design, so focusing more holistically on the product (keeping in mind also business and strategy).In terms of design changes, voice interfaces have become more and more common and are believed to be used in over 30 million households worldwide. This is a huge shift from the ubiquitous clicking.
The design is no longer associated solely with web or mobile devices. There is a growing market for other types of devices that are interface-based (such as wearables). There is also a tendency towards personalising the user experience. Time and again users can customise their applications so that they could serve them better and create a better experience.
Looking at the job offers, UX Research is becoming increasingly popular. This gives real hope that UCD (User-Centered Design) is more widespread across companies. It’s high time it was embraced.
- What would you say is the next big trend in UX design?
For some time now people have shifted from reading to watching. Ever since YouTube became second search engine in the world, it became obvious that for many people prefer to watch something rather than read it. This creates a growing market for designing voice interfaces which seem to be effortless and simply fun (Now everyone can feel like a Star Trek captain giving commands that result in real life actions).
Another significant trend is also AI. I’m not even thinking about self-driving cars or delivery drones. AI could revolutionise the work of designers. It looks like Airbnb is creating a solution to transform mockups of the system into code. If such solutions were widespread, they would make testing ideas a piece of cake. And this is just one example. It’s really thrilling to think what would be next.
- What is your design process? Describe the design methods that you follow.
I don’t follow any strict rules. I treat methodologies as a set of guidelines. In everyday life, it’s really difficult to follow them all, so rule number one is to be flexible. One thing I always do is trying to understand the project at hand: what is the purpose, who are the users, what is the context, does the proposed solution makes sense from the business and user’s perspective etc. In other words - what I start from is asking a bunch of detailed questions and analysing the data I have. Afterwards, I can move forward and validate my assumptions. That being said, I don’t start from prototyping and suggesting a solution but rather delving into the problem.
- Where do you get inspiration from? Who in the industry do you follow and read?
I’m slightly old-school in that matter. What I usually do is I subscribe to plenty of newsletters and digest the feed they provide me from sources like Jacob Nielsen, UX Matters or Smashing Magazine just to name a few. (Rebirth of newsletters is by the way also a new trend that can be observed lately). I also profit from Muzli - a browser tool that provides a wide range of sources (from articles, ebooks to behance inspirations etc.) and Medium subscription. The UX podcasts and YouTube channels are also a source of inspiration to me (such as High Resolution).