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A Day in the Life of a UX (User Experience) Designer

What do I do and how do I do it? - Part I

It's hard to write about yourself and what you live and breathe every day, but here's a shot. My design work pretty much comes down to really sticking to a process. And the best process that I've found for problem solving, which is essentially "what I do" (I'm just fortunate that the solution happens to be something engaging and visual for the user experience), is a process I learned way back in design school - it's called the I-D-E-A-T-E Design Loop.

Many designers⁄agencies use the word "ideate" as more of a verb - "to create an idea." Also, they often have their own snazzy names for the pieces of this loop, but they are all nearly identical. What's important is that there IS a process because this is what really helps us designers navigate a creative initiative through organizations or businesses with many different players.

It never ceases to amaze me how useful this cycle has been for not only design related problems, but many other types of simple daily problems, like... planning a trip or shopping around for the best deal on a car. It's all about focusing on what we're trying to accomplish, and coming up with a solid game plan to make decisions, take action, and step back to evaluate success.

I - Identify the problem.
D - Develop a design brief.
E - Explore possible alternatives.
A - Accumulate and assess the alternatives.
T - Try out the solution. OR - Test the alternatives.
E - Evaluate the results.

"Rinse. Repeat as needed." It's really that simple.

Ok, so "what does that all mean?" Let's explore each of these steps.

I-Identify the problem.

To get to the end, we have to know what we're shooting for. It's much easier to carve a path to that end if we write down or formally declare our ultimate mission, so that we can continually refer to it as we go along and ensure we're on track. I begin by finding out what my clients see as their design problems or issues.

Listen. Watch. Observe. I gather, absorb and digest what they have to share on insights, research or findings about user behavior, the usability experience, and feedback in order to see if the problems are actually problems and not just symptoms of a bigger problem, or sometimes not really the problem at all. This stage is also where good note-taking comes in very handy.

If I'm working on a team with other usability professionals, we share ideas and knowledge about other similar problems or projects we've encountered in our collective experience, to check for any similar patterns.

Then, Assess. I minimally assess the situation based on what I now know. I start noting areas of concern and trying to itemize the issues uncovered in the information gathering sessions.

For anything I don't understand, I ask follow-up questions and do further research. Dig. Scour. Search the marketplace. Ask around too.

Then finally, I Assess again (because what I thought I knew might not be quite spot on). We can then begin to hypothesize what might be the problem and move on to developing the Design Brief.

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