UX Design is a term that came into existence suddenly in early 2000s! The visual design game was not as strong in 2000s, as it is now maybe because of lack of tools or slow speed internet (you can see the websites of top-companies like Apple, from back in 1990s and 2000s, and get ready, to get shocked!) But suddenly when pretty much everything was functional, and the users figured pretty much everything about internet surfing and browsing, we also wanted to make things look beautiful!
Someone started a wave of designing websites (and not only developing them), and there started an entire career stream for thousands of people, who wanted to get into tech, but with creativity and not just logic. There were, of course, designers and developers earlier, even in 20th century, but the kind of job they did, versus the kind of job today’s UX Designers do, are fundamentally different. The tools that we have at our disposal right now, didn’t even exist. The infrastructure to support those tools didn’t exist.
When we talk about UX Design, we think about a lot of scenarios. We think about ideating by using post-its, colourful office walls where everyone sticks their ideas, paper-prototyping, good amount of research, and a lot of time in hand to actually do all that! But the reality can be completely opposite than that!
How do you explain it to your friends or parents, about what your job is? What do you do?
Let’s imagine your five year old niece asks you about your typical day at office, how do you tell her what your primary job is?
I say I’m a super-hero. I’m saving the world one-webpage at a time. I am saving the world from ugliness and non-functional websites and apps. I am saving people’s time, by designing quick sign-ups and forms. I am making things look pretty, but also simpler.
I am removing the junk, the clutter and the sh*t from websites and web-pages. I am the e-janitor!
I am preventing Karen from getting frustrated while she’s looking for a dress online, and the page takes a long time to load. I provide interesting facts about Coco-Chanel that keep her occupied while the app loads the page! I am preventing John from throwing his phone away, when he’s trying to book a cab and the driver cancels the ride. I provide him discounts and offers on his next ride, and save the thousand dollars that he just spent on his new, flashy phone!
What do you really think UX is all about?
User Experience Design, a heavy term coined by the father of UX — Donald Norman, and that’s where the journey of entire generation of UX Designers began! No, I’m not kidding, there was no term such as a UX Designer, before Don Norman came up with it in his book “Design of Everyday Things”, and now companies across the globe require those ‘UX Designers’ to save their worlds!
UX Design is more about function over form, which means ideally, in a mythical scenario, there should be two different designers in an organisation — one UX Designer, who should do all the back-end cleaning and other UI or Visual Designer who should focus on beautifying the app, or adding illustrations, running social media campaigns, focusing on branding, creating presentation templates etc. by the side.
But that’s an ideal world that we are talking about. The reality is far, far away from this utopic universe! Most “small” companies and looked budget startups cannot afford two designers. Many companies have only one designer overall. YES. They don’t even have two people working as designers, let alone having a separate UX and a UI Designer in the team. Most of the times, it’s the ‘all-rounder-designer’ who has to do everything — from research to wireframes, from visuals to final prototypes, sometimes even videos for social media campaigns!
All in all, it can be a one man army!
And this one-man army, has to fight many wars everyday! From fixing the functionality issues, to keeping your head sane enough to come up with creative illustrations for that brand campaign that your sales-manager has decided to run on LinkedIn!
I was working in a small start-up, that had the budget only for one UX Designer, and they hired me.
Being a newcomer, I was enthusiastic, passionate and energetic — exactly what they needed, because nobody even hinted me about the ‘amount’ of work that was coming up!
While some of you might think it was unfair on the part of my employer to hide secrets, but on the other hand, even he was clueless about the amount of work their apps and websites actually required!
The second biggest myth that people have about UX Designers is that we can do everything in a minute! That it doesn’t take much time to ‘design’, it only takes time to ‘develop’.
No. We are not robots. We need time to think, ideate and then build. We need our creative juices to flow, so that you can approve our design in the first go!
On the job, I explored and learnt a different tool every week, I learnt about how things in the world ‘actually’ work. I needed that reality-check since now I was out of college and the dreamy life was over!
Nobody in the real-life really cared about things that you thought were important in college. Where on one side, there was a technical co-founder who was only concerned about how things functioned. The visualisations and the beauty could just go to hell for all he cared! While on the other hand, there was our social media manager, who ‘only’ cared about the beauty of the things. The app should look beautiful, doesn’t matter if it’s throwing an error on a new sign-up!
I was stuck into a whirlpool of contradictions. There were different and same things to do everyday!
Sometimes, I only worked on the sign-up page of the application for one complete month, because there were back and forth iterations, as the screenshots had to go on Google Play Store. Nobody was happy with one design, and the suggestions were extreme!
Our social media manager liked everything ‘clean’, and aesthetic. While our technical head wanted me to show the ugly-insides of the app that weren’t even designed or thought of ?
Sometimes, I worked on a different poster everyday for their Instagram and LinkedIn campaigns that were going on by the side, and sometimes, just one page of one app wouldn’t be finalised for months!
As a UX Designer, I also did the job of a UI Designer, a graphic designer, a video editor and a social media creative person, who also handled their Instagram and Twitter account in the time of crisis! There were many roles that I played, and juggled with.
But all in all, I am happy that I survived such a hectic, disorganised and chaotic work environment. And I am sure the way many companies are just coming up, a lot of new designers are down the same path, or already struggling and juggling different roles in their one job, that they have signed up for. The job of a UX Designer!
So, if you are someone who’s looking at starting your career in UX Design, be prepared to do everything and anything that comes your way (in case of crisis). But if you do happen to get an ideal work environment — cherish it and don’t forget to share your story with the rest of us! 🙂
That’s all for now folks. Let’s make this community awesome!