Aleksandr Prysyvalka | UX Engineer at Coherent Solutions Poland
At some point, you’ll find yourself observing how people interact with various products and services. You’ll strive to comprehend why they choose one option over another, uncovering the motivations that drive these choices. You’ll also identify recurring behavior patterns, notice the clever tricks and shortcuts people use to save time, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of interfaces and the emotions they evoke.
Perhaps you just came across the term “User Experience” or have already begun advocating for user needs in your work and, eventually, felt that you could evolve into a UX professional and make a positive impact on people’s lives. In essence, considering the journey metaphor in the title, you might experience what we call “design wanderlust.”
I know what I’m talking about because this was a part of my own story several years ago.
In the future, you’ll likely be searching for more information about UX design. What you’ll find right away are numerous articles, books, and courses. While many of them are appealing and useful, it can be challenging for newcomers to figure out where to begin.
I’ve been in the same situation and have felt the uncertainty of facing the unknown. So, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about this unfamiliar territory. As the saying goes, “there is nothing more practical than a good theory” (Lewin). Let’s start by delving into some theoretical background to highlight key terms that will guide you on your journey.
A bit of theory
In essence, UX design is the practice and theory of making technology more user-friendly. As designers, our goal is to connect user needs, corporate objectives, and available technology while enhancing every aspect of the user experience.
User experience can be described from both the user’s and the product’s perspectives. As designers, it’s important to consider both viewpoints simultaneously.
From the user’s perspective, UX encompasses elements such as usefulness, ease of use, appeal, accessibility, trustworthiness, and discoverability. Together, these elements form a framework similar to a honeycomb.
User Experience Honeycomb, Peter Morville
In product development, we consider UX (User Experience) by focusing on several key elements: user needs, functional specifications, information architecture, interaction design, interface design, and visual appearance.
Since UX focuses on humans — rather complex creatures — it is a multi-disciplinary field, and except design itself involves engineering, psychology, communication studies, cognitive science, etc. You can imagine UX design as a junction where various roads meet. Designers come from different domains, each with diverse backgrounds that are all relevant.
Now, let me share my story. I began my career as a design engineer with a degree in Automotive Engineering. After a few years, I transitioned to cultural research and started a grassroots initiative aimed at reviving the local Belarusian bread baking and culinary traditions. During this period, I was trying to understand why certain things, traditions, local imagery, and even language disappeared from everyday life, remaining only in the memories of the elderly.
One of my main questions was, “Why does this happen?” This curiosity led me to my next professional journey in UX research, particularly in Game Development (GameDev). Before my current role as a UX Designer, I gained valuable experience practicing Interaction Design in the field of Educational Technology (EdTech).
If you consider yourself one of these travelers, you’re already equipped with something valuable to start your journey, like your past experiences, no matter the field. Let me clarify how you can approach this like a designer and turn it to your advantage.
What I find fascinating about design is that there’s no such thing as irrelevant knowledge. The concept here is that to create good design, we must take into account various perspectives.
When it comes to individuals, the more diverse experiences you have, the more perspectives you have at your disposal. This means you can switch viewpoints, uncover hidden meanings, and explore potential possibilities. Recall Steve Jobs’ famous words, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Therefore, the more resources you have on hand and the more tools in your toolkit, the better prepared you are to navigate uncertainty and tackle a wider range of challenges.
To be an adventurous traveler, I am always trying to be well-prepared. This means packing my backpack carefully because it’s not just a jumble of random stuff, right? Each item needs to be thoughtfully chosen and placed in the right spot to make everything fit together.
Similarly, when it comes to a successful UX design journey, it’s essential to fill your metaphorical “baggage” with knowledge rather than disorganized data or information. What I mean is that everyone has a unique story, and now is the time to reflect on it and turn it into valuable lessons for the future.
The first step to achieve this is to lay out and review all your belongings, which include your work, projects, challenges, interests, hobbies, and more. You can use tools like a whiteboard and marker, a sheet of paper and a pencil, sticky notes, or a digital platform like Miro for this task. The key is to get all the information out of your head so that you can see the big picture and make sense of the mess.
Moving on to the second step, remember that creativity thrives on making connections. With the complete picture in front of you, try to identify relationships, group similar elements, uncover hidden meanings, and make sense of your story. This way you will gradually be shaping your body of knowledge and transforming your story into a valuable experience.
In fact, one of the core abilities for designers, as recognized by d.school, is the skill “to make sense of information and discover insights and opportunities within it.” As stated by Veen, “Good designers can bring order to chaos.” This skill is developed through practice, so why not start applying it immediately?
Embarking on One's Journey
What is the value of this newly acquired knowledge? It’s now your toolkit, carefully filled with practical knowledge and tools, with nothing unnecessary or outdated.
There’s a crucial aspect often overlooked here. When you assess your toolkit, you’ll notice what’s sufficient and what can be improved. Eventually, you’ll discover another essential facet of your experience: uniqueness. Your experience encompasses more than just a set of skills. Over time, your body of knowledge can evolve into something more significant—your unique perspective, or what Talwai calls “the unique way you see the world and the types of questions that excite you.”
It’s important to understand that, for me, design is primarily about one’s worldview rather than just skills. As designers, our goal is to explore how things ought to be and how to enhance the current situation. However, there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, the solution may lie at the intersection of diverse worldviews.
To broaden your worldview, it’s essential to explore different paths and experiences.
Now, it seems that you are prepared to embark on this remarkable journey. I encourage you to cultivate and nourish your passion for design.