When I came to DT, I was a little nervous about switching up my career path. Previously, I was a branding designer on the east coast and now I’ve made a huge transition to being a UI/UX designer on the west coast. Talk about a leap career-wise and geographically. It is a big thing to switch from one path to another. Being a branding designer and a web designer are two different things. In the past, I had worked alongside web designers so I had a little plus in my back pocket when I started here.
One thing that is different from my previous job is the amount of research that you have to do when it comes to UI/UX. At my previous company, we did light research before we started a project. Here at DT, we do a lot more research, not only at the beginning of a project but throughout as well. It is a great feeling — you learn a lot about the client, what they do, and how their customers use or perceive their product or service. You get a lot of insight into the client’s industry too, but you also learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to design in general.
Coming from a branding background, the most common research I have done in the past involved creating moodboards. Something I’ve learned is that no one really does moodboards the same way. In the past, I would have placed images (mainly logos) on a blank canvas with the help of a branding questionnaire, and then presented it to the client. When it comes to web design, you can’t really just create one single board to demonstrate a look or feel for a project. You have to break it down into different parts (navigation, buttons, icons, typography, tables, etc.) –here is a reason you add the “s” at the end of moodboards.
A new tool that I was introduced to for research is Google Analytics. For someone who has never looked at GA or any other type of analytics software, it can be a very scary thing. I’ve learned that Google Analytics is definitely something that can give you great insight into the user experience of a website and how people use the website.
Since I’ve started at DT, I have experienced a few different group exercises used in researching a project or discovering some kind of solution to a problem. One exercise that I found pretty cool was the “User Journey.” I find that it is a great way to see how much of an understanding you currently have of a client’s website or product. It also helps you gauge the results you want after the the project is complete and in review.
Everyone is a Little Bit of a UX Expert
Something that I never really realized is that anyone and everyone can become a UX expert. Within the first couple of weeks of starting at DT I was in a room with another designer and one of our strategists and contributing to my very first project. I was super nervous and felt kind of out of place. I soon found myself giving ideas and opinions on how things could work by applying my own experiences.
In this day and age we are all using smartphones, tablets and other devices so regularly that we pick up on how we believe things should work, what would make them better or worse. We interact with technology every day, sometimes more than we interact with each other. Even though someone may not be trained in the art of UX, there is a little bit of an expert in each and every one of us.
In the design world, whether it is branding or in web design, things are always changing. With web design things are more dynamic and change more quickly. A new trend, whether it is visible like flat design or with smartphones enabling gestures, things tend to get implemented quickly and become widespread fast. I can remember when iOS 7 first came out and within a couple of months everyone’s app was “up-to-date” with the latest design craze apple pushed forward.
In branding, once a brand is established it tends to evolve, but much more slowly. Changes within a brand are more subtle. Most people never even realized when that Google changed the kerning of their iconic logotype last May. When things change within a website, it tends to be more dramatic and widespread. One of the biggest trends with branding is “keeping it simple.” It is something that stems from what Mies van der Rohe said in the early to mid 20th century: “Less is more.” Fast forward a 80+ years and we are still following that same philosophy with branding, for the most part. The branding trends tend to last a lot longer and fizzle out slower–but of course branding has been around a lot longer than web design.
So Far, So Good
This whole process has been a real learning experience for me. Four months ago, I had little to no UI/UX experience. Something that really has been a great asset to the learning process is the people here at DT. Whenever I need help on something or have a question, I can literally just tap someone on the shoulder and they will help me out with whatever I need. It is awesome.