UX design, especially mobile UX design, has completely mushroomed in the past two years. The field is a dynamic and fast-paced one, that appeals to many, yet is often misunderstood. Exactly how does one enter the field in the first place? What makes a ‘good’ UX designer? If you Google these questions, you will often come up with mixed, gray answers.
We decided to cut through the noise and go straight to the experts- specifically three experts. We asked Sophie, Hara, and Dimitris from Mobile UX London a few questions about their engagement with UX as well as some of their opinions in the sector. These are three experienced professionals who will also teach MUXL’s Foundation course in UX&UCD.
Sophie is a UX designer with 7 years of experience is design and research and has mentored start-ups at Google Launchpad and designed for leading start-up LoveCraft.
Hara is a strategic and multidisciplinary team leader, passionate with every idea that challenges the existing HCI (Human–computer Interaction) reality. Hara Mihailidou has previously worked for brands like Microsoft, Skype, O2, Hearst as well as Seren EY Service Design agency.
Dimitris comes from a Mathematics background and has recently worked at HSBC and Thomson Reuters.
Hope you enjoy meeting them as much as we did.
1. Why did you get into UX?
S: I discovered graphic design by flipping through the brochure for short courses. I was looking for a course to learn something creative while working in the City. The flute course was full, and my attention was drawn to a graphic design evening course: it was at the intersection of creativity and commerce which I liked. A few years later, I discovered user experience design while writing a dissertation on smartphones as part of a graphic design BA at London College of Communication. I now combine my experience as brand designer and UX design to create great experiences.
H: User Experience was an emerging discipline when I started. Human centred design & thinking was just starting to become democratised. Back in 2010 Mobile was also creating the need for deeper thinking on how people interact with new media. Today that need has spread into multiple channels. I enjoyed the challenge of solving problems back in a day and I guess I still do!
D: My mother once said: “come fix the oven, you fix things”. That sentence changed my life. Fiddling with things and understanding how they work, has always been an everyday activity for me. This made me realise that some interfaces are made in a way that only a fiddler can make sense. Probably the fiddler that made them in the first place. That realisation, that I can change people’s everyday lives as a decision maker of what is presented to them and how they interact with it, got me into UX.
2. What tips can you give to people starting in UX?
S: Learn, look, practice and speak. Learn: as a beginner you want a good grounding in all design aspects, so that you can sustain an argument with anyone discussing your work.
Look: You want to immerse yourself in design. look at great design daily (or weekly), so that you train your eye and build a personal library of best practices (be it interfaces or processes or anything else related to design).
Practice: contribute to projects, however small. Little by little, you’ll build a portfolio leading to great jobs. I would avoid taking on any project: try to work on projects you find exciting, in industries you like.
Speak: don’t be shy, give your opinion, learn to speak about your work. What works? How do people respond?
H: Always ask yourself what is the design problem you are invited to solve. Be up to date with research methodologies, stick to a simple design process, be lean, prototype and leave your egos out of the game.
D: If you can, at first, be part of a company that has a well established UX process, and part of a team that has experienced UX people in it. Be passionate about technology and keep yourself up to date. Try new things. Always keep in mind that UX design is a job, and even though there is a high degree of creativity involved, it’s not art. UX professionals design interfaces and systems to become unnoticed and out of the way for people using them, so they get their job done without thinking.
3. What current UX trends interest you? How do you stay current with them?
S: I’m very interested in voice interaction, UX processes and teaching in the design sector. I go to conferences (Mobile UX, Learning & Teaching in Design), read articles (UX Matters, A list Apart) and books. My favourite books at the moment: Laura Klein’s Build Better Products and Google Ventures’ Sprint book.
H: Data driven design, cross-channel strategies and framer prototypes. I guess I just read, search the web and choose to work next to very talented designers, always. ☺
D: I see a lot of potential in Internet of Things (IoT) and Natural User Interfaces like voice based ones. They’re currently all in their infancy, so I’m equally exited and cautious to see what their adulthood will look like, taking into account the inevitable security concerns. I follow them by being a user of the above myself, experimenting with them, and being kept up to date with their progress.
4. What does it take to become a great UX designer?
S: I think being a UX designer requires a variety of skills. Acquiring these skills takes time. To ensure you’re learning, reflect on your experiences, ask feedback and work on your weaknesses.
You can apply Cooper’s cyclical models to your personal development, i.e. Learn, Build, Measure
Courses are a great way to quick start a career in a safe environment, where you get expert support, “learn” design principles, “build” by practicing on a project. At the end of a good course, there’s time to reflect, a way to “measure” your progress. This applies of course to life-long learning too.
H: Hard work andddd hard work. Attention to detail and an appetite for seeing the bigger picture.
D: A great UX designer knows they are merely the voice of the needs and requirements of the end users, not their own. They are aware that criticism comes from all directions, in all shapes, and at full speed. They know how to work with everyone, understands where they’re coming from, explains what the responsibilities of the UX person in the team are, and helps them to better their criticism next time. After all, it’s not the person that’s criticised, it’s an idea in anticipation for a better, more informed one.
They design without requirements, for they know design without requirements is guesswork. Therefore they always back up the design decisions with research. Otherwise, their design concepts are fragile, easily demolished, possibly wrong, and their credibility will take a hit.
Lastly, a great UX designer understands that they never stop learning. No matter how experienced they are, each project has an aspect to it that introduces a unique challenge for their hard and soft skills.
This is an edited version of the Q&A. You can check out Dimitris’s here.