How to tell if you are a UX geek (and what you can do about it)
3rd August 2012
Most people go through life opening doors, using cash machines, reading bus timetables and using a television set without a second thought.
And then there are those of us who notice that the door handle looks like you can pull, but you have to push. That it doesn’t make sense to have to type in an amount in cents if the cash machine only dispenses $20 and $50 notes. That if you don’t know which number buses go your way, it’s really difficult to know when yours leaves. That a remote control with 30 identical buttons isn’t helping you control the telly.
If you found yourself nodding throughout the previous paragraph, chances are you’re a user experience geek.
The term user experience (UX) is no more than two decades old, but the discipline has been around since caveman first made a bow and arrow. Did the arrow feel nicely weighted? Did your hand rest well on the bow while drawing the string? It’s what made Ogg choose Ugh’s products over Oomph’s.
User experience design has been a deciding factor in the success and failure of businesses since the beginning of manufacturing, and it is what’s behind Facebook obliterating MySpace, Google taking out Yahoo, Amazon becoming the dominant player in online retail, and Apple turning into the most valuable company in history. All these organisations have put massive emphasis on and resources into improving the user experience of their products and services, and their success is the reward.
So it appears that if you are a UX geek, you can have a career doing what you love, get paid for it, and have fun doing it. Mind you, you don’t have to have UX on your business card. At Reading Room for instance, every last person is responsible for the user experience of the websites and apps we build. Whether you are a project manager, a visual designer, an interaction developer or a technical developer, user experience is in everything you do.
How can you feed your love for usability, then? A good start would be to go to the various meet-ups where you’ll get to exchange ideas (and usually have a drink) with other UX geeks. There are regular events in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. If you’re in Canberra, why not start one? You could also attend a conference. The always excellent UX Australia is in Brisbane this year. This photo I took at the very first conference in Canberra in 2009 shows a panel in the hotel and what the attendees thought of it:
Are you feeling daunted by the idea of being surrounded by all these clever UX people? A really quick way to learn more about the practice is to read lots. Good starting points are Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug and A Project Guide to UX Design by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler. Even better if you can discuss what you’ve read with like-minded people. Many cities host bi-monthly UX Book Clubs, including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Brisbane.
If you’re more into service design, i.e. applying user experience thinking to the design of services and business models, there are get-togethers in Sydney and Canberra called Service Design Drinks.
So do you feel like you want to work in an environment were a lot of thought goes into what is being built? Don’t hesitate, get your UX geek on and talk to us about a job in one of our offices around the world.