6- Months as a UX Designer.
I wrote a similar article after my first week as a UX designer. You can find it here.
The last November when I made the jump from being an Architect to a UX Designer, like everyone, I was ecstatic. I spent all my time reading Design books, following influential thinkers and problem solvers. I said to myself that I am going to implement all my theoretical knowledge and win the black belt of UX Design.
…….Now, let’s talk about reality.
Learn to observe. Observe to learn.
One of the hardest things to digest in the earlier stages was, realising that business goals play a huge huge HUGE role and a major deciding factor for the ideas that are going to walk out that door into live designs. Oftentimes, it won’t be enough that you are solving user problems and meeting their needs. There will be a question that hits your face, “How does it help my business?”
In short, your designs need to make money; not just solve a bunch of problems in and of itself but must transmute into something larger and scale in size. This might be controversial, but only if your design makes money, it can grow into the superior experience you wish to provide for the people you design for.
This meant I needed to learn how to speak the language of business people, key decision-makers and stakeholders of the project. I was fortunate enough to work with experienced designers who presented their designs to captivate their audiences and tailor their presentations to suit them.
Soon, I emulated the key points, the body language and the words used to communicate one’s design effectively. I believe this is the most important advantage of being a UX Designer in a mature organisation under experienced senior designers.
TIP: Always try to observe what others are doing and try to use some of those aspects of your work. It’s not just designs that we need to be inspired from but communication, research, workflow, collaboration, even file naming system can all be improvised.
Your perspective matters if you want to grow
My first and dearest project was a commercial one. A car rental platform; I immersed myself entirely in it because I knew how the industry works and it was easy to learn the intricacies because it was fairly simple and methodological. I was comfortable and loved doing the research and document collation before even starting to design.
Fast forward a few months later, I was given an investor platform design where I had no idea what screws go where. The biggest challenge was that the platform was meant to be designed for an investor, auditor perspective with a limited time frame. Now and then, I understood just like architectural projects, there will be challenges that make the project above budget and below the timeline.
Projects like these will either make or break a designer. I remember the first day I was trying to wrap my head around it because I was the sole designer for this project and I could not understand the abbreviated data and cryptic numbers given in large tables. How am I supposed to design data visuals when even I can’t make sense of the data.
It was clear that this time, the project was something I’m not sure I was passionate about because I was clueless.
It’s like math. You love it until you understand. The moment you don’t understand, you throw a tantrum.
Fast-forward a couple of days after understanding investor terminologies, rigorous studying, research and learning how the data sets are related, I was able to draw up patterns between the data so that I could design them in such a manner that it makes sense for the majority of the investors in one glance. I also started to learn what kind of visual representation works best with different kinds of data. This was new to me. Even though it was scary, it started to become exhilarating.
At the end of the meeting after presenting the final designs to the client with the design rationales, I was overwhelmingly satisfied with this project than the first one because I spent way more time in the basics and learning from scratch. It’s like how Robert Cialdini describes in his book, Persuasion, that we value the things more for which we have spent time and effort upon, even though they are inherently of low value. The bonus is, I learnt a fair good of information about how investment companies work and how they make money and what are the processes that occur in the background for effective functioning.
Enterprise UX Projects makes you grow. Not just as a designer but as an overall generalist. You understand the specific field if you devote yourself to the project. You will always learn something new.
TIP: Be willing to venture outside your comfort zone even if you are unsure of what lies ahead. I know this sounds cliché
In the 6 months, these were some of the crucial lessons that I will be remembering for a long time.
- Not discussing with the client what are the technological or the financial constraints for them when an idea is at its infancy. Even though we had regular meetings, I realised at a later point that I could’ve saved time had I communicated better.
- One of my teammates taught me to question my ideas before explaining them. It was weird at first because I thought that was why my team was there for. Questioning our ideas helps us to navigate from where did we extract that idea from and does it make sense to use something similar to the problem at hand. You will start to wonder how to build on that idea before it is shot down. I found it effective to think in this manner during brainstorming sessions where we aimed to refine our ideas and test them out.
- Designing quickly. During the early days, when I started to draw wireframes, I would try to be perfect and try to make it look good even on paper (the curse of architecture). I realised I was wasting a lot of time and started progressive sketching where I scribble different ideas and then slowly make the usable and sensible ones into usable paper prototypes.
A year ago, I heard from someone on Reddit say, being a UX Designers is such a rewarding and interesting experience to go through. Today I can gladly agree to that statement. It trains you to master some and get good at the rest.
If you have any such experiences to share, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.
Thanks for reading.