People often associate the term “user experience design” with visual design or the design of a digital interface, like a website or mobile app. But the truth is, user experience (UX) design is bigger than that, and it’s used across every industry, from software, to business, to schools, and beyond.
Successful UX design is why shopping on Amazon is addictive, ride-sharing apps like Uber are thriving, and binge watching TV shows from any number of services has become the best way to spend a weekend indoors — skillful UX design has made it insanely easy to do. Even physical spaces are impacted by UX design: Think strategic layouts of department stores with enticing buys at every turn or the always-moving checkout lines at Trader Joe’s.
Understanding UX design can give you deeper insight into consumer needs, behaviors, and motivations, keep your skills relevant in a digital world, and increase your value in the job market. With a fundamental understanding of UX principles, you can better communicate with more teams at your company, create user-centric marketing campaigns, and learn to solve the right problem at the right time.
UX designers come from a diverse range of backgrounds like finance, industrial design, psychology, and medical research. Will Greenaway started his career as an anthropologist before transitioning to the field. He works with clients ranging from early-stage startups to giants like Google, Prudential Financial, and McKinsey.
Now, Greenaway is an instructor at General Assembly in Denver, where he arms students with the skills they need to either bring user experience into their current job in part-time courses, or pivot their career to focus on it exclusively. He’s also deeply involved in the Denver’s UX scene, navigating the intersection between clients and consumers.
We asked Greenaway for his expert point of view on the growing field of UX and how you can get started in it.
In one sentence, how would you define UX design?
UX design is an approach to solving problems so a product fits exactly with the problems and goals users need the product to solve.
What can a person or business accomplish with good UX design?
User experience design is applicable to many aspects of life. You can use the techniques to help solve any problem you might encounter, even outside of technology. If you’re creating any type of product or running any type of business you can use UX methods to find out exactly what needs to be delivered to customers. When a customer can receive exactly what they need, and exactly what they were sold, your business is a true success. Customers will tell others about your product. Then your business goals of generating revenue, growth, and customer engagement are increased, because the product will provide a solution to whatever problem the user purchased it to solve.
What are some common misconceptions about UX design?
That UX is somehow all about visual design or designing the interface of a website. These elements are an important part of the user experience, but UX design is about a user’s behavior, needs, goals, and dreams, and how to best deliver a product that meets all of these areas of the user’s experience.
What’s your advice to an aspiring UX designer?
Don’t wait until you think you know everything to call yourself a UX designer. Grab a book, a video, a quick course, and start applying the skills today! You’ll be amazed how much you can learn by trying out some of the techniques in everyday life.
What are some of your favorite resources for someone interested in getting started in UX design?
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug
Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton
What are some common mistakes people make when they design their own websites and what are the fixes for them?
1. Not taking into account that their own tastes, goals, and preferences for a website are often very different than what the website’s users actually need.
2. Not testing their websites out with their users. When you write a rough draft in college you sometimes get feedback at a writing center or “test” it with your friends and classmates. Why wouldn’t you treat your website like something that might need feedback?
3. Getting too wrapped up in features and visuals without really focusing on providing the users with the right information and features when they need it. All those extra features are nice but they are usually to satisfy business stakeholders, not the users.
How can a designer break into the Denver UX scene?
Denver — and Colorado in general — has a lot going on! There are startups popping up all over the place. One of the best ways to break in is to get out to meetups and make friends in the industry. Denver is really relationship based, so the work comes as a result of making an effort to be involved with the local community. Sometimes the best way to break in is to do what you love with people you like and you will find a lot of tech-industry professionals are doing the same thing. Don’t assume you have to attend just tech meetups either! I’ve made a lot of great connections in the tech industry by getting out with my hiking groups and meetups.
Boost your professional profile with user experience design.