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Exploring the T in “T-shaped UX Guy”

The T is a visual representation of the following concept:  the horizontal axis represents multiple skills - such as empathy, engineering, information architecture, visual design, wireframing, content creation, user testing, whiteboarding - skills that add to the whole picture; whereas the vertical bar represents the specialization, such as Interaction Designer.

In my case, I started off my UX career as an Interaction Designer - feeling that the thrust of my skills was in interpreting/predicting/enhancing user interfaces (i.e., where the interactions happen in a software application). But I soon came to realize that I wasn’t ready to pigeonhole myself - even though my business cards suggested otherwise.  So, I began to modify my personal narrative: “I'm a Generalist  - but the perfect jobs are the ones where my colleagues LOVE whiteboarding, and user testing, too. "

I've also come to realize that most of us, including myself, are not a 90 degree T type.  My T is a little more like a robust tree with low hanging fruit. I'm not just "Super Duper Whiteboarding Strategist"; I'm also "decent visual designer; strong coder; pretty solid video editor; great writer(?!); rapid prototyped; great user tester and researcher - with experience designing a Google Glass app."

For more about me, follow me on Twitter or Instagram.  But know what, you can catch me on YouTube, Tumblr, Google Plus, Flickr and Yelp too. Cool? See you at the Internets!

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Ask Matthew Magain: What the #$%@ is a UX Designer?

Thru the use of a very succinct animation, UX Designer Matthew Magain has defined the role of the UX Designer. You have to watch his video, but the key takeaways for me are:

  • ux refers to what, when, why, how and who of using a product
  • ux must also help the business achieve its goals; must hit the sweet spot where user needs and business needs overlap
  • tools are used by UX Designers to take the user’s needs into account during every step of the product life cycle (including mobile apps, web and even physical products)
  • ux design applies the scientific method to humans and their behavior in order to optimize the product
  • ux is the design behind the visuals: you don’t have to be a great visual designer to be successful in a job as a UX DesignerHe also defines what is means to have a career as a UX Designer, and encourages people to pursue it.Here's a link to the video on YouTube:  What the #$%@ is a UX Designer

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UX is Not Simply All About the User

Wouldn’t it great if we could just forget about making money, and about cost? Then we could concentrate entirely on making products that users love and enjoy. But really, that’s not the world we live in. Business owners (also called “stakeholders”) expect User Experience Designers to meet the needs of the business.

Thus, an additional notation to our definition of what exactly is a UX Designer must include the following: a synthesis between the needs of the stakeholders and the users. They should both get what they need out of the domain (product).

A wonderful book that helps define the role of User Experience Design is: About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design, by Cooper, Reimann and Cronin.

Here's a link to that book on Amazon.

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What Exactly is a UX Designer?

Formerly a Front End developer who also advocated usability and accessibility, in 2014 I made the bold choice to pivot my career and become a UX Designer for good. For years I had been coding user interactions; prototyping animations (Zinio); architecting user flows in web applications (Harvard Lampoon) and all-in-all, advocating for web experiences that were delightful.

However, I was still titled a Front End or UI Developer (Walmart); rather than a UX Designer. And, of course, I was still expected to code web and mobile products - rather than design them.

Well, finally, in 2014, I discovered General Assembly, and it's intensive 10-week, 40 hours per week UX training program and I've never looked back. The program combined theory with project-based UX activities; and we did this day-in and day-out for 400 hours, resulting in a collection of various UX deliverables - from card sorting results to personas to complex user interface prototypes.

This is my first blog entry, and throughout, I will make efforts to constantly clarify what the role of a UX designer is; and how company's can practice UX on a day-to-day basis. It's not simple; and should not be taken for granted. One of the most common errors companies make is hiring UX staff - but burdening them with extra roles, such as development or UI graphic design. Whereas those are fantastic - and necessary - aspects of digital products, they are often implemented at the expense of the user, i.e., the UX staff is busy visual designing and coding, rather then building malleable models and testing them with users.  Hopefully, by reading this blog, my users will embrace the same facets of UX design that I tout - and push push push for user advocacy - so we all find ourselves using delightful products regularly - not just every so often.