Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Walker McBain, and I’m a UX Designer. Currently, I am building a platform for engineers and contracting with a digital agency to rebuild client websites. UX stands for “user experience,” which means my job is to consider what’s best for the user and the overall user experience (ease of use, meaningful interaction, efficiency) of a website or product. At the same time, I’m also responsible for making sure that the product or website meets the needs and KPIs (key performance indicators) of the business or client.
Why does UX design matter?
It’s important to understand that you are not your user. UX is most powerful for any product that has a user. Does your product or site have a user? Yes? You need UX.
And, it’s more than making things pretty (though we’re good at that, too). UX includes research (competitive analysis, user surveys, determining information hierarchy) and wireframe mockups prior to design and development, which saves people so much money (and time) in the end. Once you’ve moved to the development stage, even small changes greatly impact timelines and your budgets. UX design intentionally builds a foundation for a functional and intuitive user journey, minimizing risk and helping design and development to go faster and more efficiently.
UX includes research (competitive analysis, user surveys, determining information hierarchy) and wireframe mockups prior to design and development, which saves people so much money (and time) in the end.
Who is doing UX design really well right now?
Instagram. Their app is the ultimate UX tool. They are constantly doing behind-the-scenes research, down to placement of buttons. Not only that, but they build new features off to the side to see if they work before placing them into the Instagram app – Boomerang is the perfect example of this. Instagram created Boomerang and tested it as a separate product. People downloaded it, used it, and loved it. So what did Instagram do? Put it directly into the app. UX design takes the risk out of trying something new by researching and testing it first.
UX design takes the risk out of trying something new by researching and testing it first.
How would you advise someone who wants to get their feet wet with UX?
First, head to Medium and search for topics like “basic UX principles.” Read, and keep reading. Another great resource is “Don’t Make me Think” by Steve Krug. If you’re super motivated, take a one-hour intro to UX course on Udemy, Coursera, or General Assembly. There are tons of resources at your disposal to help you make small adjustments that can change behaviors and yield better returns.
What advice would you give someone who manages a website?
Again, it’s important to remember that you are not your user. You may be the expert in your field, but you are not your user. Let’s say you own a stair building company. You stand at the top of a finished staircase and think the best way to use it is to walk up and down while holding the railing. A kid looks at that same staircase and thinks he can jump down it. A skateboarder knows he can use the staircase to do all kinds of tricks. You may be the builder, but different users have very different ideas. Use research to talk to your users, but don’t lead them. They’ll lead you.
Once a website manager has done their homework and is ready to level-up their UX, what should they do next?
As a web manager, you likely wear a thousand hats. Likely, professional UX design isn’t one of them, so hire someone. Be sure it’s the right person, though. A graphic designer will give you great graphics, colors, and photography, but they aren’t going to solve the problem of why users drop off your page. A UX designer’s main focus is how users are experiencing your product, so they’ll see things no one else can.
What’s your mantra?
Trust the process: research-design-iterate-repeat. Just because something works well today doesn’t mean it will always continue to perform, so don’t be afraid of change within the process. (If you’re a sports fan, you’ll appreciate that whenever I put ‘Trust the process’ on a presentation slide I include a photo of NBA player Joel Embiid, otherwise known as The Process.)
Can I have two answers? I’d also say keep it simple. It’s okay to be complex; it’s not okay to be complicated. Complex means the product has many components yet functions well. Complicated means the product has many components, but they are hard to solve. For example, you can have the best-looking tennis shoe website out there with beautiful typography and design, but if users can’t find the “buy now” button, all that effort is wasted.