3 ways to become a better user experience designer

April 25, 2017
Adi Murphy
UX Consultant
, in
UX Design
hands using trackpad and pen with laptop

A quick heads up - this isn’t going to be an article filled with clever words and incredible insights. I’m talking to all the Junior UX staff out there who want to improve how they work in order to become a better user experience designer. I’ve worked for Natural Interaction for over four years now, and I’ve spent about half that time doing UX stuff. I was originally employed as a Producer which entailed keeping Adam & Dave organised. (Which they sometimes still need!) This was my first role in this field as I came from a background in customer service, and UX was a completely new idea to me. But, I picked it up quite easily with the help of a good teacher and a few other tips I’m going to share with you.

1. Observe, observe, observe

In the beginning, I was completely hands-off in the design process. The way I dipped my toe in the UX pool was by watching remote user tests. When Adam was especially busy he’d give me the odd one here and there to annotate. The more I watched, the easier it became to recognise patterns in user behaviour. What tripped them up and why? What annoyed them? What delighted them? Eventually, I was confident enough to watch, annotate and analyse any user test thrown my way. Nowadays, the analysis of our research on any project is mostly left to me. I’m aware you may not have access to hours and hours of user test footage. My point is that you need to observe your users as much as you can by whatever means you have. You'll be surprised by how much you'll learn and how much this will help you when it comes being a better user experience designer.

2. Understand the why not just the how

This seems obvious but it wasn’t to me at the time. Armed with all the knowledge and insight I felt I’d gained I was ready to try my hand at wireframes and prototypes. Again, I started small. I'd wireframe a page or build a small section of a prototype within a well-established project. And I did well - I felt confident I knew how it should look and how users would behave whilst using it. Yet, when more freedom and larger tasks started coming my way, I hit a wall. When given a little more freedom, my designs could be a bit hit and miss. Me jumping in here and there on an established project was fine because I knew what should be there. But with more creative control over a design, I struggled as I didn’t understand why I was doing it. Which leads me to my next tip…

3. Ask questions

Ask your mentor, your boss, your users. Use Google, question your colleagues, your friends, family, yourself... I’m not suggesting you hand out a questionnaire of UX related questions to your loved ones. But, if the opportunity arises, if they recommend or criticise a website or app to you, ask them why. It seems small but it will help to speak to people that aren’t involved in a design role. I dealt with this in several ways. 1.   I read a lot. Slogging through articles can be a bit tedious at times but it’s a necessary step. You will definitely encounter stuff you already know. But, in a sea of content, I guarantee you'll find plenty of useful information. 2.  I pestered Adam about what and why he was doing something, or why he wanted me to design something. 3.  I kept building. I sometimes made mistakes but I never got disheartened because I learned so much. Finally, like I said at the beginning, this isn't groundbreaking stuff. But you don't need anything groundbreaking to become a good user experience designer. By observing and listening to your users you're already halfway there. The rest takes time, patience, plus a healthy dose of Axure!

Adi Murphy

UX Consultant

Adi has been at the heart of the Natural Interaction team since joining us in 2013. Adi’s speciality is empathising with users and ensuring that our design doesn’t lose its humanity. She’s participated in interaction design and usability testing for clients including Jaguar, Consortium and Rolls-Royce.

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