What I Wish You Knew is a regular blog feature highlighting the ins and outs of different jobs and career choices. Today's post is written by UX Architect Chris McDowell. Fun fact: Chris and Laura met and became friends when they both participated in the Walt Disney World College Program in 1999!
My job title is a User Experience Architect, but I would say that I am more of a User Interface/ User Experience Designer. I evolved into this field as technology has become a bigger part of our lives. I say evolve because in college, I was a traditional artist (painting and sculpting). After realizing the challenges of the "starving artist" I tried to find a way to be successful using the creative side of my mind.
I love my job and the fact that I do what I do. Technology and building interfaces has some similarities to sculpting, as we really do not know the outcome until it's completely finished. We can modify designs and test them, but the overall experience is constantly changing and we try and hit that "sweet" spot for as many users as we can. I enjoy the puzzle-like challenges that keeps me focused, and ultimately helping people use technology in the workplace.
An art and a science
The biggest challenge I have is that “everyone is a designer.” It's one field that is subjective and you have a lot of individuals who believe they are experts without any formal training. It's easy for the everyday person to pick out a can of paint at Home Depot and design the rooms of their home. In a way, I think that transitions to technology. But most people are unaware that User Interface/Experience Design is a science that involves knowledge of Human Computer Interactions.
My typical day consists of meeting with stakeholders and users to determine the needs of the application. Once documented, research can be done, then we begin to design the interface. After a few rounds of designs and testing, we pass the "blueprints" over to the developers to build. Each application has components, so it's an iterative process for all aspects of the digital application.
What I wish you knew
That it's a science and a talent – similar to the way people can't just write a book or perform a root canal. It takes years of learning, making mistakes and researching what's acceptable or current across industry. Also, as technology changes, things that have worked ten years ago may or may not work now.
Back in day, the developer ruled the world because not everyone knew how to code. One day I would like my field to be accepted and understood. Again, as technology increases in our lives, it becomes more and more important to have an interface that is well designed. I think most people can point out bad websites and applications as they could be frustrating to use, but I don't think people understand why they are frustrating.