UX design is a term that has many people scratching their heads. What is it? And what does a UX designer even do? Recently, students at VSA Future’s summer camp had the chance to hear personally from a real-life UX designer, Klaudia Zielonka. In her Global Speech, Ms. Klaudia discussed her unique path into this exciting and growing field and gave students an introduction to the creative brainstorming, design, and planning necessary to make digital products.
But first, what is UX Design?
UX Design is shorthand for User Experience design. It’s a term that has actually been around since the early nineties, coined by Apple cognitive scientist, Donald Norman. As Ms. Klaudia clarified, “I design and develop experiences that make people’s lives simple.” This involves working on all aspects of how a user interacts with a product, from the ease and pleasure of using a product to how well the product solves the user’s need. The products that UX designers create range from apps to websites. Think of the convenience you get when you’re able to filter your search results to find the perfect backpack on Amazon or the joy you feel when using an iPhone.
Ms. Klaudia discussed her own experiences working on a number of apps and websites, from the popular app Libby which is used to borrow ebooks and magazines from one’s local library (several students chimed in to say they had used it) to a shoe-selling website. Yet, UX design wasn’t something that Ms. Klaudia planned to do from the start. In fact, her journey into this profession has been a winding path that has taken her from NYC to Australia and now Germany.
How It Started
Raised in New Jersey, Ms. Klaudia received her undergraduate degree from Montclair State University where she studied business and communication. Initially, she was very undecided in her career and ended up interning at four different companies throughout college to explore her interests. Internships, as Ms. Klaudia explained, offer practical work experience in a variety of industries and are available to students as young as in high school.
For Ms. Klaudia, her first internship was at a beauty company where she worked in public relations, or PR. She explained how her main goal was to build strong relationships with top magazine editors in order to get them to write articles promoting her company’s products. To cultivate these relationships, she was responsible for organizing lunches and sending goodie bags to editors.
Her next internship was as an editor at the influential fashion magazine Glamour. There, she selected products for upcoming beauty stories and assisted with fact-checking and managing articles featured in every issue. Shen then interned at a fashion company, which included managing its website and social media accounts, before working at a hair product beauty company as an events intern.
Following college, Ms. Klaudia pursued advertising in NYC and planned media campaigns for leading companies like Starbucks, Pepsi, and Quaker Oats. After a couple of years, she decided to shake things up and move across the world to Sydney, Australia as part of a one year contract. She continued working for the same company but with a focus on radio and website advertisements. It was during her year in Australia when Ms. Klaudia began to perceive the gut feeling that advertising wasn’t for her. Filled with these nagging thoughts, she reached out to a bunch of people to figure what to do. When her one year contract was up, she had her answer: UX design—this time in Berlin, Germany.
How to Think like a UX Designer
Making both the geographical and career leap certainly wasn’t easy. To make that jump, Ms. Klaudia participated in a UX design bootcamp in Germany for one year, as part of which she trained with industry-leading mentors and studied user research, wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing.
Our students were then lucky enough to participate in a mini bootcamp session themselves in which Ms. Klaudia broke down the UX Design process into five steps which are listed below:
Step 1: Define the Problem
Ask questions! UX designers need to get all the necessary information about the project and understand how their product differs from competitors. Most importantly, they need to figure out
what value users get from their product. They might ask questions like, “what is the business goal?” or “what problems do customers have?”
Step 2: User Research
UX designers need to know who exactly is using their product. They’ll gather information about users’ demographics, needs and wants, behaviors, and frustrations. They typically do this through surveys and customer interviews.
Step 3: Draw Designs
This is where their design skills come into play. UX designers can either sketch by hand or do it digitally (aka wireframe) using software like AdobeXD or Sketch.
Step 4: Add Color & Animation
With the basic ideas down, this step fully brings ideas to life and gives a better idea of what the product will look like.
Step 5: Test Designs with Users
So, how do the users rate the product? UX designers test their products by either working with customers live or remotely. They’ll ask customers to do certain tasks and see if they have any problems using the application or website.
Ms. Klaudia made sure to point out that these five steps are flexible and don’t need to be followed to the T. One can always go back to redesign and tweak and then retest to get the best possible product.
Final Thoughts & Advice
As this week’s Global Speech came to a close, Ms. Klaudia recommended that everyone should do internships to get an understanding of what a job could be like. Most importantly, she told our students to stay curious and not to be stressed about picking the right career. You never know where life will take you!
Thank you Ms. Klaudia for teaching us about UX design!