The Not So Blank Canvas
The most common question I get these days when I tell people that I am interested in getting into UX design:
How did you develop this interest?
I think this is an important question for anyone deciding to change careers or start a new path. It begs the question of passion — what is your true intention towards this interest?
In examining your motivations, you will start to see if this is something that has happened by chance, or perhaps something that you might be genuinely more inclined towards, and therefore something that is worth the risk.
There were clues of it along the way: Despite not knowing how to code, I love tech and have a knack for “breaking websites” — in other words, I often find bugs and send bug reports, and complain to my husband (who incidentally is a web developer) about poor user interfaces and how annoyed I get at frustrating websites and things that don’t work. Conversely, I absolutely love slick apps and gorgeous designs that work effectively and are easy to learn to use.
When sounding out other friends in tech who actually know what a UX Designer does (because as most people not in tech, I initially had no inkling as to what it entails), pretty much all of them would give it a think, nod and say something like “yeah, I think you’d be good at it”.
Exploration and Stick Figures
OK, so people that know me, and know more than I do about UX Design say that they think I would be good at it.
So I started reading articles about UX Design, but found most to be utterly confusing to a person coming from a world of eighth notes, scales, and Ella Fitzgerald. The tech world is full of business jargon and fancy hip words that quickly overwhelmed me and threatened to douse my flame.
I attended a free introduction to UX workshop.
When we went around the room introducing ourselves, I noticed that most of the turnout came from backgrounds like graphic design, or architecture.
I suddenly had a flashback of drawing a donkey when I was teaching a class of Third Graders some years ago, and how my students thought I had drawn a dog.
Despite reassurance from the workshop instructor that it’s perfectly alright if I am not an artist, and that UX Design is so varied, and that I can learn skills that don’t need me to be a super talented artist, it was not enough to convince me, and I was skeptical that I could be any good in a role with the word “design” in it — I can only draw stick people, much less design!
Focusing on the Right Things
Then one day, my husband came back from a UX Psychology meetup and told me about how the talk had been about gaze-tracking for human-computer interaction, and how I should go for some of these meetups because “did you know that there is psychology in UX Design?”.
That piqued my interest.
I love psychology. I majored in Psych and Education, and have always had a natural curiosity for human behaviour. Forget those stick figures for a moment — this is something I might actually be good at.
Next came a whole barrage of UX meetups. I went to talks about UX career trajectories, designing for data trust, and the difference between UX and CX. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed and lost, other times I lapped up every gem of learning I could garner on what UX design actually entails, and I often left feeling excited, with more questions than before.
All throughout the meetups, a theme emerged: Empathy.
UX Designers need empathy. The ability to adjust your awareness and perspective to consider that of the User and Stakeholders.
I suddenly didn’t feel so overwhelmed.
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