Field Guide — What the hell is UX? By Matt Gould

2 years ago by

Ahead of our upcoming DA Design Sampler – Conversations for Teachers one of our expert facilitators, Matt Gould (Director at Lushai, co-founder of UX Gym and co-founder of UX Homegrown design conference) demystifies UX…

UX is short for user experience. It describes a holistic approach to design, where design decisions are made by understanding the experience ‘users’ have, rather than just designing something by speculating how it might be used based on our own experiences. It was coined (or so he claims) by the designer Don Norman when he was working at Apple. He realised that the experience of using an Apple computer wasn’t just influenced by what happened on the screen, or even the design of the case, but by every experience they had with the product from seeing it in a store to taking it out of the box for the first time.

But what do UX designers actually do?
If you have heard of UX then you may associate it with design interfaces, apps and websites which is where the term is most commonly used. But experience designers work on a wide variety of things including designing services, physical objects, live experiences and even government policy. Many UX designers spend a lot of their time doing all the normal design things such as sketching, creating mock-ups and prototypes, experiment, explore and some of us even code and build. But we also spend a lot of time trying to understand people. We spend time with the people who will be using the things we design, sometimes observing them, sometimes interviewing them, sometimes designing with them. We then create visualisations of what we learned to help other people understand what needs to be done to create things in a way that genuinely meets the needs of those we are designing for.

The best way to get an idea of what goes on in a typical UX project is to read case studies. Most agencies have them including us at Lushai.

How do I get on board?
Getting the first UX gig can be tricky, but experienced UX designers are sought after. The first thing you need to do is network. UX designers are a friendly bunch and we love to talk about our work and are interested in yours. So, look out for local meetups, attend or volunteer at UX conferences (Webstock, UX Homegrown, UXNZ) and also contact local UX agencies and offer to buy them coffee in exchange for a chat.

Once you are in front of them, UX people want to know you understand the UX design process and that you want to take a user centred approach to design. We like to see case studies so we can understand how you made decisions and see what processes you use. We understand you don’t get much of a chance to practice UX style design at school or university so projects you’ve invented yourself are fine, basically we just want to see how you think and where your skills are. If you’ve introduced user centred design practices to a place where you already work, or used them in course work off your own bat, we will be super impressed.

Finally, you don’t need to be a good graphic designer to be a good UX person. Graphic design is a useful and highly valued skill but we also need people with other skills including those who are good at research, organising information, facilitating, designing content and a number of other vaguely defined skills. It’s an amorphous profession.

UX Resources

UX Education and Training

General Assembly (Australia)
UX Gym (disclaimer: we runs this!)
Interaction Design Foundation (online courses)

NZ UX Community Groups and Conferences

NZ UX Community Group
Auckland UX conference
Wellington UX conference
National design and technology conference

Matt is the Auckland director of Lushai, co-founder of UX Gym and co-founder of the UX Homegrown design conference. He is an experienced user experience consultant and design educator with a history of employing user centered design processes in a variety of sectors to develop successful digital strategy and compelling interactive experiences and service design solutions.


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