So, I am an UI/UX designer and front-end developer. I know for a fact that people I hang out with, talk to and meet sometimes have no idea what I'm actually doing. Sometimes I say I'm a programmer, sometimes I say I build apps. Sometimes I say I'm a designer. Usually that satisfies people. But, today I'm going to try, for you and for me, to explain what I'm actually doing as a UI/UX designer. This is part one of a two part series. In the next part I will explain more about front-end development and what that means.
1. How do you define UX/UI design?
The hardest to explain to people is definitely UX(user experience) design. It basically means you design with the user in mind(user-centric design). How would the user experience the application and how can you make the usage as smooth an experience as possible. This was the easy part. Because how do you do this? You definitely don't start designing. You start by conducting user interviews and surveys, creating persona's and conducting thorough research of the market. This is the most important part of UX design. UI design is what comes next. The actual designing of the product. I will explain more about this process next.
2. What is your design process?
When I start designing the first thing I do is turn off my computer and write down the things that need to be designed. I try to find a quiet, peaceful environment and sit down and doodle the my thoughts onto paper. Usually very quickly idea's come up and I get a rough idea of what the product or feature should look like. Only then I turn on my computer and fire up Sketch to create the wireframes.
After this you go back to being a UX designer and conduct more user research. You now have a basic idea what the application is going to look like and you need to test and verify your thoughts.
Then you go back to the computer and reiterate and test again. You continue doing this for the wireframes, mockups, prototypes and final product. Going back to potential users every step of the way.
At first, these potential users consist of friends, co-workers and people you have easy access to because you want to move quick and not linger on research too long, especially in the fast paced startup culture. Later on, you will do more thorough research and try to find the actual users of the app.
3. What are some apps or websites that you love?
So what do I think is good design? Well, apps and websites that don't feel like they have been designed or engineered are the best. Simplicity always does it for me. I really like Medium for this. It features very minimal design and focusses entirely on the content. Also the writing environment is unbeaten by any other product on the market. Ghost, also a publishing platform and what I'm writing this post on, is another great example of beautiful design. It does one thing really well, and that's not getting in your way.
4. How do you work with engineers/Product Managers/other designers?
A UI/UX designer works in different environments and they themselves come in different kinds, but usually you'll work with engineers, product managers and, depending on the size of the company you work for, other designers.
Engineers: this is usually not the hardest thing for me as I have a huge plus here: I know how to code and this is something I like to do. Also, I know what engineers and developers need to know if I want them to realize a design I made. What specifications and assets they need and in which way they need them. Engineers love working prototypes. They see the flows and immediately know what to build. You have to be very clear in your communications with them. And preferably visualize everything.
Product Managers: Product managers are usually present in mid-sized to larger companies. They oversee product development and the key to working with them is communication. This is the person I usually have longer discussions with because this is someone who is also thinking about the use cases and users of the product. So it happens quite often you have different ideas about this.
Other designers: I haven't worked for a lot of companies where this was the case, but it's the most fun and most terrifying thing at the same time. There's always big fascination and big jealousy of each others work. Who's the better designer will always be the question amongst designers. At the same time this is a very nice and useful experience. You learn so many techniques and philosophies from other designers when you work closely with them. It's a very valuable experience.
5. Who in the industry do you follow and read?
I mentioned earlier I am a big fan of Medium's design. But I'm also a big fan of the content and I'm at a place where I have trained the algorithm in a way I get the best of UX design, UI design, Sketch tips and tricks and also front-end development in my feed. Usually every morning I open Medium on my phone and breeze through a few articles. A few good writers are:
- Jon Moore: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
- Christian Beck: https://medium.com/@cmbeck_
- Nejat Seçkin Oral: https://blog.prototypr.io/@nseckinoral
6. What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
This must be Party with a Local. I have written about them before. They were the reason I moved to New York. When I started doing design for them they were working on a feature to let people get groups together around events. It was interesting to build a completely new feature in an existing app. The hardest part was embedding it in a way that it complemented the original version of the app. I think we're pretty far in realizing this, but there's still improvements to be made.
7. Do you prefer to work alone or with a team?
I'm a freelancer, so I love to work alone. But I prefer to work in small teams where everything is open for discussion. Where communication is easy and quick. So I like the combination of both. Working for myself, from home or different café's and co-working spaces is great, but if you have a couple of clients and you can work with directly, that's perfect.
8. Tell me about an assignment that was too difficult. How did you handle the situation?
I was just starting out as a freelance designer and I got a pretty nice job designing and building a website. But I forgot the UX part and just started designing. I did not know the things the client wanted or the users needed from the website. The project is still lingering on, but the boundaries are a lot clearer now. It was a learning experience.
9. Why do you want to work at as a UI/UX designer
My career has taken many twists and turns but something I have always been doing is design and think about design and what people need and want. After all the weird detours I have made in the past few years, I know I want to do this because it makes me happy to work on real problems real people have. And after that, seeing those solutions being used in real life gives great pleasure and satisfaction.
So that's basically what I'm doing these days. This, and front-end development. Which is a whole different business. I'll write another post about this later. If you like what you read and you like what I'm doing and how I think about problems and solutions to real world problems, I have have a tenth bonus question for you:
10. Why should I hire you?