This blog is for anyone starting out on their UX journey. We put 12 UX questions that we receive most on social media – to our expert UX mentor Shiva, who is has been a designer for well over two decades and has been at the helm of top design firms like Ogilvy and Brand Union. Find out what he had to say about starting a career in UX, the skills and knowledge of tools required, the future of UX and other top UX questions in this interview.
Top 12 UX Questions
What is UX in simple terms?
A – We use technology to solve problems all the time. UX aims to design technology in ways that make it useful and usable. The focus is mostly on the user in this process. For instance, user experience designers concern themselves with problems like how a farmer does banking online. Or, how can technology help a child pick up a concept or learn something.
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How are UX and (graphic) design related, if they are at all? What are the similarities and differences?
A – UX greatly relates to design. First and foremost, both UX and design focus a great deal on people. Secondly, neither design nor user experience takes place in a vacuum. Therefore, the context plays a significant role in both. If we go back to the example of the farmer taking up banking online, the digital literacy of the farmer would be something to consider both in design and how the user experience is served. Thirdly, design believes in the idea of the prototype – something that is very close to the final product, which you can touch or feel even though it may not work fully. The prototype is useful in getting feedback. And, user experience borrows this idea of the prototype from design. Lastly, both design and user experience are participatory activities involving collaboration with a variety of parties.
What about UX and UI? How do these relate to each other?
A – The terms UX and UI are often interchangeable used, and people have a tough time differentiating between the two. The two are obviously related. UI is part of UX. The best way to differentiate between the two is by considering a scenario. Say for instance, you want to buy something from the mall. You will take a number of steps to perform this task. For instance, you will go to the mall, then the shop that sells what you want to buy, and you’ll probably talk to a salesperson if you know what you want, or even if you don’t know what you want. You might need guidance on where to find what you’re looking for. These steps altogether make up you experience of buying. If we had to make this experience digital, each of these steps would be an interface. User experience is a stack of interfaces that are put together in a meaningful and interesting way.
Why should someone choose a career in UX?
A – The best reason to choose a career in UX is its exciting and new, and its here to stay for the long run. There will always be a need for UX as without it brands and businesses cannot acquire and retain users using technology. They can only talk to them. So long as people use technology to solve day to day problems, user experience designers will be in demand. Second reason is the sheer demand for user experience designers and the shortage in the market. With many brands, businesses and organizations shifting to the digital space, there are way too many opportunities and too few professionals, who can meet requirements of the market. This is another reason why a career in UX makes sense now. Lastly, the field of technology is serious business, but user experience design is a lot more playful in its approach. Its much more enjoyable in this regard.
How can I build a career in UX?
A – The best way to start is by being mindful of user experiences. Whether you’re booking a cab on Uber or buying something on Amazon, you’ve got to pay attention to what the user experience is like – how you go about performing these activities, what are the steps you take along the way. Then you have to connect with people, like I said. Talk to people, extract their pain points while using technology. Observe and interact – get insights. Then try and deconstruct experiences from a third-person’s point of view to see what can be improved. Finally, read about user experience as much as you can.
What do companies look for when they hire UX professionals?
A – When companies hire UX professionals, they look for research skills – ability to observe, empathize, draw insights. Then they see if the candidate can deconstruct and reconstruct user experiences or task flows in a simple manner. You’ve also got to be able to demonstrate these abilities and your concepts or ideas effectively. Therefore, representational skills are very important. User experience starts out as a concept, which has to be communicated to a wide range of professionals to be made real and tangible. And in the end, UX professionals should be able to seamlessly collaborate with people.
What skills or knowledge of tools must a UX professional possess?
A – UX professionals need to know representational tools like the Creative Suite or Adobe Creative Cloud, which comprises of Illustrator and Photoshop. It’s a good set of tools to know. Then UX professionals need to be adept in a prototyping tool like Adobe’s XD or InVision Studio that can put a rough prototype together easily.
Is it necessary to possess programming skills in UX?
A – Not at all. Coding is required in the later part of the design process – at the end of the lifecycle of product design. The idea of feasibility and implementation is separate from or the last of concerns in the UX process. Most of the best UX designers have no programming skills whatsoever.
How can professionals from engineering and other backgrounds switch to a career in UX?
A – Engineers are good at breaking things down and using logic to put things back together in sequence and creating flows – even business flows. When we speak of architects and interior or graphic designers, they already understand empathy and relating with the user. They are used to imagining people living in a house or shopping in a mall. Again, they are also generally good at representing their ideas. These professionals can use their existing skills and build on it in UX.
How does an online course help an aspiring UX designer?
A – An online course can ease an aspiring UX professional into the field. It will provide them with the guidance that they need to start. If they join a course like the one offered by Acadgild, then they will even develop a portfolio by simply completing the course. This, they can use to demonstrate their abilities to employers and set the ball rolling in their careers. This program is also not just instructor-led. Mentoring is an important aspect of it. Moreover, the course is delivered through live sessions, in which other students and peers contribute. The sessions are two-way interactions and students not only gain from the mentor but also from their classmates in a collaborative and co-creative manner.
What are the elements of a good UX portfolio?
A – A good UX portfolio must demonstrate research capabilities. This is important because it shows the employer that the professional can understand the user well. The portfolio should also comprise projects that are complex in varying degrees that are shown again using prototypes or progressive screens – as narratives that someone can walk through. Lastly, a good portfolio must demonstrate the range of skills that the professional possesses.
What are some good books or online resources for aspiring UX professionals?
A – A book that aspiring UX professionals will definitely find interesting is ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug. Another book is ‘Elements of User Experience’ by Jesse James Garrett. This book explains every possible term that can be thrown around in UX. It is also always exciting to look for the best UX portfolios on Google to keep up to date with what others are doing. Pttrns is an interesting website for mobile interfaces. The website categorizes designs according to functionality and style allowing visitors to learn a great deal about UX design for mobile devices. Two people aspiring UX professionals can draw inspiration from are Tom Kelley – Founder of Ideo, who is great at developing user-centric designs. He is a true innovator. Ideo is a great company to follow as well. Then there is Alan Cooper, whose works are also quite interesting. He has also written books about interface design that are worth reading.
What does the future look like for UX with artificial intelligence and machine learning? Are UX designers threatened by advancements in these technologies like other professionals?
A – This is something that UX designers have been thinking about too. User experience fundamentally is about providing choices to the user based on information received from them. Machine learning and artificial intelligence help provide an adaptive user experience that respond to the inputs given by users along the processes that they engage in. They allow businesses and organizations to change the experience they deliver to their customers in real-time, or at least, near-time to better suit the customer’s requirements. These technologies understand user far better than we ever did. Augmented realities, virtual realities, voice interfaces, etc., create a new realm for UX, which is hard to categorize as threatening. If anything, it opens new possibilities and makes UX really exciting going forward.
That brings us to an end of the interview with Shiva on the top UX questions. We hope that his answers to the top UX questions will help you begin your journey in UX. For more information on Acadgild’s course on UX, you may visit our website. For more updates on UX, make sure you subscribe to our blog and Youtube channel. As always, we wish you happy learning.