If you've ever been involved in a large technical project, you're probably familiar with these job titles. But maybe you find the role of "UX Designer" a little (or completely) unfamiliar. Maybe you've heard of these jobs at other companies, but can't put your finger on what it is they do. Or you've heard that digital companies like Facebook and Amazon hire for these roles, but you ask, why then would a services company need a UX Designer?
It would probably help to start with a definition of UX Design.
User Experience (UX) Design, is a design discipline that focuses on creating products and services that are useful, relevant and meaningful to the end user. It puts the user, their needs, and the context in which they use our products and services front and centre in the design process. This change in focus doesn't mean that business and technical requirements don't exist. They certainly do. It is that these restrictions are considered in the context of how they affect the user.
"Well," you may ask "isn't that what a Graphic Designer does?" Great question!
Graphic design has never specifically focused on user feedback, usability, and function. It focuses on look, feel, tone and voice.
Visual design helps bring a story to life. But it's not the writer.
UX Design has its origins in software development, which gradually adopted more usability design standards. This change happened when software became widely available with the personal computer, and regular people, not just engineers needed to use them.
The practice of UX Design has different methodologies. At a high level, these are the core phases of a UX project:
Strategy - articulates the guiding principles and long-term vision of an organization, and what they're trying to achieve
Research - sometimes called 'Discovery', research is key to educating the design team on who they're designing for, and what those users need. Research techniques can vary, it depends on the goals of the project! Some research exercises include: interviews, user testing, and competitor analysis.
Analysis - is necessary to draw insights from data collected from Research. This is also an opportunity to communicate with end-users to reflect and confirm the design team's understanding
Design - This phases is both collaborative (involving many people) and iterative (cycles back on itself to test ideas and challenge assumptions). The outputs at this stage can evolve from paper sketches, to wireframes, to functional prototypes. The goal is to get evolve ideas in front of users as fast as possible.
Production - This is where high-fidelity design is developed and further validated with end-users by user testing. There is further work required of the design team to collaborate with the technology team to guide the prototype through development.
Not all UX work is scoped as an individual project. In larger companies, these distinct phases become their own work streams, where designers work on individual products for long periods of time. Also, some designers specialize in one or two areas. This is where you hear of distinct titles such as:
At Compass Digital Labs there are two distinct groups of designers: Product Designers and UX Researchers. At a high level, Product Designers focus on the design and function of our products, and UX Researchers work to understand the needs of our (highly variable!) customers. Together, these two design disciplines can work together to create solid products, and solve inefficiencies for our users. Although they have different focuses, both groups of designers are ultimately responsible for championing the user throughout the culture and work at Compass Digital Labs. To make sure we're all focused on meeting, and even exceeding, the needs of our customers.