There are many people trying to figure out how to make the jump in to the UX field. I too, not too long ago, was trying to transition (or to use the buzz word “pivot”) in to the field of UX. Thankfully, I made the transition and I am now a UI Designer. However, it took a lot of hard work, networking, self discipline, education and pushing myself to learn more about UX every day.
One way I went about getting experience about UX was to learn as much as I could about the deliverables in the UX field. I would hear a term like “personas” or “wireframes” and decide that I was not only going to learn as much as I could about these topics, but I was also going to put it in to practice.
Here’s an example. Say you are a web designer for a flower shop. Sure, you could just design the website per the shop owner’s request. But why not take it a step further? Why not do a bit of discovery and research before starting the design project? You could interview the owners and customers to find out what the business goals and customer goals are. You could do a bit of ethnographic research by observing people shopping for flowers or employees performing a transaction. Sketch our a few concepts before diving in to the code.
If you are trying to get experience in UX, and want to build up your portfolio, use some or many of these methods to show that you are so much more than a visual designer or developer. Show off your analytical skills and how they are applicable to a career in UX.
Here is a brief list of UX deliverables to get you started:
Information Architecture (Taxonomy)
Examine Business Goals
Examine Customer Goals
Site Map and Architecture
Whiteboard and Sticky Notes
Use Case Scenario
Persona Empathy Map
Cognitive Walk Through
Now take all of these deliverables and practice creating them. Then, use the most important UX skill of all: Tell us Your Story.
One way to really understand how your users work on your product is to view them in their natural environment. That puts their working circumstances and environment in perspective. By observing people, you see things they would not normally tell you. Maybe because it’s so routine they don’t realize they are performing such actions. Maybe because they do not think it is relevant. If you just observe a person in their work situation, then you can decide what actions they take are related to the software or product you are working on.
Here are some questions to keep in when when you are performing an ethnographic research study:
Is the work place quiet and calm?
Do the users get interrupted a lot?
What other tasks do they do while working on your software or product?
How is the work station set up? Is it on a desk? A counter? Shared by several users?
What real world objects do they use instead of using the computer? (like post-it notes and pens)
You can learn a lot by acting as a “fly on the wall” and getting a feel for how the workplace is run and how the software interacts in that work flow.
Value of Ethnographic Research
I cannot express enough how important it is to get out of the office and get in to the user’s real world. In the photo above, had I not visited this doctor in her office, I doubt she would have told me about her paper files organization. It’s just as useful to understand a person’s physical environment as it is to understand their electronic or software environment. That way, you can figure out how you can make the two world meet seamlessly.
Plus, you get to see things like these cutie pies.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery