How Can User Experience Designers Ask Effective Questions?

I have so many questions. One of my favorites (and most self-defining) is: Who is this for? Now, I usually use an angry and aggressive tone when asking this question, because I do not understand why something is designed the way it is. For example, earlier today I decided to purchase a digital copy of Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. When it came time to complete the transaction, the familiar “add to cart” button was replaced with one that read “Buy Now with 1 Click”. This function enables Amazon customers to bypass a number of steps in their transaction. No need to go to the cart, confirm payment and shipping options, and press the check out button: a real time saver for regular and frequent customers. I was not interested in this function today, because I needed to be certain the correct credit card was charged. “Too bad” Amazon’s interface told me. There was no option to complete the transaction through traditional means. After 40 minutes of purchasing it with incorrect billing information, requesting a refund, exploring my account settings, and yelling in a public place, I have the book, but I don’t know how I paid for it. Obviously, this function was not designed for me.

Why should we ask questions?

This example illustrates the importance of User Experience (UX) design. UX is a field of design concerned with how products and tools, such as software interfaces, behave in order to ensure users can complete functions better with a more positive experience. In order to provide users with these products and services, a designer must first conduct research in order to gain a better understanding of what the users’ needs might be. In most cases, a portion of that data is collected through interviews. Designers must be skilled in the art of asking questions. Lacking this skill will affect every stage of the project because user input is an overarching necessity. They must also ensure that they are forming the questions in a way that will not alter the subject’s responses.

What kind of questions should we be asking?

The questions we ask should be appropriate to a step in the UX design process. Garrett Kroll provides a list of 100 example questions that designers should use throughout the UX process. He outlines six different stages: the kickoff meeting, stakeholder interviews, user research, user testing, design reviews, and stakeholder reviews. Some questions will be asked of the client, of your design team, and of course, of the end users.

When starting off the project, you want to ensure that your team is on the same page, you should ask “What does the project need to do?” Towards the conclusion of the project, a design team can give feedback when you ask, “How can this design fail?” Asking these questions of your peers enables you to work together efficiently, utilizing peer criticism.

It is also important to ask the clients questions in order to wrap your head around the project. “What have you tried that has or hasn’t worked?” These questions can reveal information about the clients and what they perceive the problem to be. It gives designers a starting point.

Most importantly, UX designers need to ask the users’ about their experiences with the product. Initially, you can ask users questions that will help identify current issues. “How often do you encounter the problem?”

Once designers have an iteration of a solution, they must test it out and ask questions to discover how it performs. Hamilton Hernandez outlines the process of asking questions during the usability testing phase. Question can be asked before the test takes place in order to learn more about the subjects and their past experiences with similar products. It is also beneficial to ask questions while they perform the test. Questions like “Why did you take that approach?” asked in the moment give important insights about the project’s functionality. Finally, you should follow up after the test and look for responses about the overall experience.

What is a UX Designer and How do I Become One?

Whenever someone asks me any questions about my future plans, my mind goes completely blank. I know I’ve put some thought into this and have some rough plans plotted out, but being asked to communicate them puts my brain into panic mode. It becomes difficult for me to explain why I want to enter the field of user experience (UX) design. As a deliberative person, I need to fully research and understand a subject before I feel comfortable conveying it to someone else. Following this logic, if I broaden my understanding of UX design, I will be able to explain my professional interest in it to others with more ease. This article serves to prepare me for conversations about UX design and my career goals by communicating my knowledge first in written form.

WHAT IS UX DESIGN?
In my experience, the general perception of design linked with aesthetic. Something is designed well if it is pleasing to look at. User experience design is concerned with how something is designed to function. Lindsay Norman, a product designer, distinguishes the goals of two fields within design, “UX designer: this is how this thing should behave. Visual designer: this is how this thing looks.” In UX, it is most important that the user is having a positive experience or completing functions in the best possible way. According to Vault, UX designers will “research, design, and evaluate the user experience of products and services” in order to accomplish this.

Currently, many UX designers work to optimize digital systems. Their work is increasingly being recognized as an asset to companies because its abilities to increase productivity, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce development time and costs. One UX designer I talked with shared that she uses analytics to make improvements to her company’s internal and external interfaces. Because of this, the company has been able to improve the functionality of these systems with while decreasing the time wasted during development. UX is a relevant position in today’s digital marketplaces and systems.

CAN YOU BE A UX DESIGNER WITH A COMMUNICATIONS DEGREE?
Because this field is growing, and fairly new, there is not yet one standardized approach to it as a career. According to the User Experience Professional Association,

The training and professional background of UX professionals is equally broad. Many have qualifications in closely related fields like human-computer interaction (HCI), information design or psychology. Others have used their backgrounds in computer science, project management, journalism, fine arts, library science, or business as part of their journey towards being a UX professional.

Those without a specialized degree are skill able to pursue a career in UX. Caroline White on Career Foundry states that it is more important to be able to perform the necessary skills than to have certification .

WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED?
When creating solutions, UX designers need to be able to create visual representations of their work, as well as implement them functionally. Lindsay Norman recommends that designers should be familiar with the Adobe Sketch application because it will enable UX professionals to quickly draft visuals. Other designers I spoke with value a well-rounded skill set in the Adobe suite, with an emphasis on XD. With this program in particular, designers can create mockups that convey functionality with its interactive tools. Outside of mockups, experience in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS coding will be necessary in order to implement software solutions. By cultivating skills in visual and computer programing, a designer will have the technical capabilities to fulfill the demands of the UX field.

The technical skills a designer possesses have no value if they do not know how to apply them. The life of a UX designer is one filled with constant learning. Regardless of formal education, designers must be self-motivated continually improve their knowledge of the field. Again, the UX is growing, new techniques and resources are constantly being added to the UX canon. Online courses such as Career Foundry, Neilson Norman Group, and Udacity give designers the opportunity to learn in a more structured program. For those who prefer to read, the Nielson Norman Group provides a number of online reading materials. There are also enough books on UX to create a library (with Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things at its heart). Auditory learners have the option to listen to podcasts like 99% Invisible and Mixed Messages to further their learning. It also benefits any UX designer to use social media to follow others’ work and make connections with other professionals. There is much that can be learned about the nature of UX through this continual discussion. It may seem daunting to have to teach yourself skills and principles in the field, but to those with a passion for UX, it is a pleasure.

HOW WILL YOU GET A JOB IN UX DESIGN?
Now, because I have no experience with attaining a job in UX, I cannot claim to have any practical or legitimate knowledge of the matter, but that is what research is for! When talking with a UX designer, she revealed that in many circumstances, entry level UX positions are looking for individuals with prior UX experience. The cycle of “need job for experience” and ” need experience for job” is perpetuated. I was able to talk through a number of strategies with her on how to triumph despite the cycle. She recommended going to graduate school for a degree in human-computer interaction. By taking this path, I would create a foundation in UX while creating a network with other UX professionals. For those not able or willing to receive extra formal education, seeking an internship in related to UX is the first step. Internships present designers with the opportunity to build up their resume’s and gain experience. A third suggestion is to gain employment in a different position, and then work toward a position in UX within the company. There is no one, set way to join the UX design career field, so each individual must approach their journey according to their wants and needs.

IN SUMMARY
User experience UX design is a field of design concerned with how products and tools, such as software interfaces, behave to ensure users can complete functions better with a more positive experience. Through my research, I’ve found that it is more important to exhibit mastery of relevant skills than having a certificate or specialized degree, however, it was suggested to me to pursue a degree in human computer interaction in order to gain a more solid foundation in the field and form a network of other UX professionals. I do not plan to go back to school just yet, so I will initially try to enter the field through internships related to UX. Alternatively I can acquire a position related to communications or design in a company I am passionate about and then work my way over to a UX position within the company. In the meantime, I will have to work at developing UX related skills. I am already familiar with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and XD, which can be used to prototype ideas, but I will need to use online resources to teach myself how to code in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript which will enable me to implement solutions. Overall, I’m going to have to learn continually by taking online courses, reading up on UX articles, and listening to UX podcasts. It’s going to take a lot of work on my part, but now that I’ve found a direction for my career, I feel motivated to challenge myself and take these first steps.