The average person spends about 5 hours online, engaging with different mobile apps and websites. One of those important people behind those beautifully designed apps and websites is a UI/UX designer. But what is it they actually do? Are they like graphic designers? Web developers?
We spoke to Tiffany Teng, a professional UI/UX designer, to shed some insights about this exciting career.
You’re a graduate of Universiti Utara Malaysia, may you tell us about the course you took and how this is related with your current job?
I studied Multimedia at UUM. During my studies, my favourite courses were user-centered design and programming. They gave me a good theoretical foundation, and enabled to start working as a web designer, but I had to learn a lot more practical knowledge to specialise in UI/UX.
When we hear the job title “UX/UI designer’, a lot of definitions come up. What exactly is it all about?
UI/UX design is about making the product simple and intuitive for users, so they can perform their task in the smoothest way possible. We try to optimize the user’s experience by eliminating friction (removing all sources of frustration, no matter how small), and giving users hints when they need it.
As well as research for the product design, a UX designer will also perform user testing sessions and gather analytics and feedback to measure how our changes have affected users, and to find where users are experiencing difficulties, so the product can be improved.
How did you get started as UX/UI designer? Was it something you always wanted or something you discovered?
I started work as a web designer, working on UI design and development. My mentor wanted me to study more about marketing and user psychology to enhance the product, so I read into those subjects in my free time. Fortunately, I was later offered the opportunity to work in Piktochart, where they asked me to focus on user experience for their infographics editor.
When I was young I was interested in psychology. The field of UI/UX didn’t exist at that time! Later when I worked as a web designer, I became interested in the emerging field. It took about 5 years of reading and practice, inside and outside of work, before I became a professional in the role.
Aside from earning a bachelor’s degree, what other skills you think are necessary to become a UX/UI designer?
Creative problem solving.
It would be good to know a some human psychology (some of this can be found in the field of marketing). It is at least as important to understand people as it is to understand computers. Communication skills are also important because a UI/UX designer will need to talk to developers, marketers, graphics designers and product managers, who each have their own perspectives.
It is good to have attention to detail. If you find yourself getting frustrated at annoying software, and think it could be improved, then you could be a good UI/UX designer!
In your five years of experience as UX/UI designer, what do you think is the most challenging in your job? What’s the coolest aspect of it?
As I mentioned, communication is crucial. One of the tasks I have struggled with is to write survey questions without passing any bias to the people answering them. Writing neutral questions is difficult!
It is also tough to get the information and research done in the short time. Because developers and designers are waiting for your decisions before they can start work. I am always reading to keep up with the latest methodologies in the field, so that I know what and how to apply the UX principle and methodologies to get the feedback from users.
Do you think there’s a demand for this type of career? Why?
Yes, there is. Because quality design and planning are essential roles for products, companies are investing money to hire UI/UX designers to improve their products. Users will abandon products if they are not user friendly. And because it is a new field, there are not very many trained UI/UX designers out there.
What advice can you give to students who wish to become a UI/UX designer?
Read about user psychology and marketing. Work on paid or public domain projects. Keep practicing, there is no better way than to try and to learn from mistakes. Learn to love negative feedback even more than positive feedback. It is the key to creating a good experience in the product. Remember that beauty is not the main concern, the ease of function of the product is the goal.
This article was originally written by Lyn Cacha and first published on EasyUni.com, a website dedicated to guiding young talents to a higher education and beyond through quality content, resources, networks and connections to over 2000 universities and colleges in over 20 countries.