This articles has been contributed by Romy Toma-Catauta.
People often think that user experience (UX) website design is optional, when actually it is a must-have for companies that want to thrive.
Generally, the biggest challenges that UX designers face are imposed by company culture, organization, workflow or methodology. Others are related to low access to data and poor internal communication, which leads to a lack of vision around the products and services they are working on. Aside from that, UX roles require continuous learning, improvement and good communication.
Let’s dive into several challenges that a UX designer will likely face during their career, and ways to overcome each one.
The Ever-Changing Landscape of UX Job Titles
One of the most common challenges relates to the ever-changing list of UX job titles. There are UX writers, UX researchers, usability analysts and information architects to name just a few. To position yourself in the industry it’s important to stay informed.
A good idea is to read a web design hiring guide to get a feel for the responsibilities of various job descriptions. It will help you create your personal brand and increase your chances of getting hired faster.
Conducting Research with Limited Resources
Conducting user research is always recommended, but sometimes limited resources can inhibit a designer’s ability to complete this important step.
The good news is that there are several ways to solve this problem:
- Online surveys are an inexpensive research method through which questionnaires are sent to multiple participants. Nonetheless, building the questionnaire and analyzing the results require a serious amount of time.
- Focus groups are informal discussions with users in order to assess their needs and ideas. Make sure there is demographic diversity and decide the key areas you would like to discuss. If you are wondering how to recruit participants for your focus group, this report from the Nielsen Norman Group will provide all the guidelines you need.
- Guerilla UX research is ideal when the team needs fast validation of several initial ideas by going to places where the audience will have time to listen and help such as in a cafe or a park. This type of research can also be done at work by asking feedback from colleagues who aren’t designers, engineers or product people.
- Parallel design is a method that requires the concurrent availability of the design team members. They create alternative designs in parallel and incorporate the best elements of each design to build a new generation of ideas.
Organisational Responsibility for The User Experience
UX designers shouldn’t view themselves as separate entities. Organisational boundaries can make it difficult, but UX designers should endeavor to work closely with web designers and developers to be mutually influenced toward a unified mindset to create optimal results for users.
Artificial Intelligence to Change the Role Of UX Designers
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the face of many industries, but what about AI’s impact on the design industry? Are UX designers afraid that they will lose their talent to advanced technology?
This study by Pfeiffer shows that creative professionals, in general, are confident that they will be able to integrate the AI-based software tools into their creativity, while 62% of design professionals believe artificial intelligence and machine learning will be very important to their creative jobs.
UX designers may even change their title to “Behavior Designers” who will provide data to AI algorithms through a set of parameters. For example, AI can be used to run A/B tests automatically, analyze the results, update the design accordingly and restart the process.
The Broad Role of a UX Designer
User experience influences the full life-cycle of customer experience, so it means more than a nice design and pixels, adding pretty colors and drawing some buttons. The goal of UX design is to improve the relationship between a company and its customers and also to improve their experience with the services and products that are provided.
Thus, the set of skills of a UX designer is complex: he or she needs to understand the business and its position in the market and to study the users’ pain points and goals to be able to create better experiences.
A practical way to overcome this challenge is to always come back to the tried and tested 4-stage UX process for solving problems:
- Define and validate
- Define and test
- Develop and measure
But remember, this doesn’t mean there is an exact recipe or perfect UX, just as Don Norman said: “Focus on results, not on perfect UX. What we are doing is part of a large system. We have to take into account all the factors, all the people that are part of the system. Using a system, trying to understand how it works, and trying to get it to do what you care about; that’s important. When you are doing UX design, think about what the person is trying to accomplish, how will they appreciate it, be happy with it. And if your UX isn’t quite perfect, does it matter? If they get the desired result? No, it doesn’t. It only matters when it gets in the way or makes it more difficult or frustrates them.”
Career Shift from Web Designer to UX Designer
Aside from the financial reward of making the switch into UX design, there is also the fact that UX design has a huge impact on a business. Regarding the monetary aspect, web designers in the US earn about $46,000 per year, while UX designers earn $74,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Actually, a great benefit when moving to UX design is having a web design background. Why? The answer is very simple: collaborating with colleagues will definitely be easier if that person who wants to become a UX designer has a web design background. Moreover, as UX design involves intense collaboration, communication plays a crucial role, so “speaking the same language” will definitely help.
To be able to understand why it is a good idea to become a UX designer, it’s important to first know what web design and UX design have in common: building interactive prototypes or visual designs, as well as doing user research and testing. Other aspects that the two disciplines have in common are creating an emotional design, solving problems and multidisciplinarity.
Enterprise UX Challenges
Working as an Enterprise User Experience Designer, you are faced with much more complex situations as enterprise accounts have very different needs. There will be more responsibility and pressure because design has to deliver scalable features and it should increase product development efficiency and efficacy by at least 25%.
Another challenge is dealing with the misconception that UX means only to improve the look-and-feel of a product, when actually it is more than that. Or, the end stakeholders believe they already know the users’ needs.
In addition, poor collaboration among designers, developers, testers and product managers can lead to a lack of communication and finally, to bad design and internal conflicts. While it’s ok to see things differently, a good thing to do to avoid complications is to integrate a focus on design thinking in the company, which will lead to a more collaborative environment and employees feeling more empowered. Plus, using the principles of design thinking will result in better design of products or services.
Consumer Psychology and UX Design
Today, consumers have so many options, which makes it difficult for UX designers to know what they really want. To be able to focus on user satisfaction and to make the decision process easier, UX designers need to employ consumer psychology.
Colors, spatial structures, as well as contours and shapes can trigger various types of behaviors, motivations and emotions and can influence consumer behavior subliminally. A UX designer who understands consumer psychology and who also knows the business side of the product or service will be more successful. But what can a designer actually use from psychology and bring to UX? There are several theories about emotions, motivation, perception and biases that are a great advantage in understanding the user more profoundly.
Based on the type of consumer that a UX designer plans to attract, he will incorporate specific colors and structures. Although users have general preferences such as neutral, structured and curved designs, there is still little proof that UX design and psychology are directly related to increased customer satisfaction or profit.
However, there are multiple psychology principles that all UX designers should know about:
- Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception states that users group separated objects to perceive them as a whole, subconsciously
- Psychology of Persuasion explains that viewers have to be convinced before taking action on the website
- Hick’s Law mentions that users want to find what they need on a website extremely quickly
- Psychology of Colors is the science of how human behavior is influenced by color
- Von Restorff Effect is also known as the “Isolation Effect” and states that distinctive items are more easily remembered than the ordinary ones
- Psychology of Shapes explains that we form subconscious associations between shapes and certain qualities.
Working in Scrum Teams
There are various approaches to integrating UX design within the Agile methodology: running a design sprint happening in parallel with the development sprint, a separate design sprint along with a development sprint and a mixt, integrated sprint that includes developers, UX designers and testers. This study by NNGroup shows that Agile UX works perfectly if management understands and takes into consideration the value of UX. As part of the integrated scrum team, a UX designer will face several challenges: organizational, communicational and the lack of time.
Under these circumstances, one of the most important recommendations for UX designers and developers is to have and maintain a healthy relationship by sharing responsibility, ownership and learning from each other. For instance, UX designers should require web developers to not implement anything without first doing thorough user research and at the same time, developers should not give UX designers direction of their work.
Receiving Negative Feedback
As a UX designer you need to get approval from design managers, CMOs, CEOs, product managers and sometimes even from your non-designer peers. The most common challenge is that UX designers receive feedback that sometimes is rather subjective even if it comes from design professionals.
It can be frustrating to get feedback based on intuition, but don’t make any changes to your design. At least, not until you ask them why they think that. It may sound like a ridiculous question, but it actually helps you get rid of vague opinions and start a professional discussion.
However, you should also need to make a strong case for your design choices and engage in conversations. Also keep in mind that when your design is discussed and colleagues express their opinion, they all try to achieve the same goal as you: to create a thriving service or product.
Design for the Future
UX design is undergoing a revolution right now and though it’s quite difficult to predict the future, there are a few directions in which it will be heading. One of them is designing for accessibility. Companies have been more aware lately about this gap and as a result, there are already products and services that help people with disabilities have a better user experience. The challenge for UX designers will be to put themselves in the shoes of those users with disabilities, interview them and discover which their main needs and issues are.
Considering the rise of mobile and wearable devices from recent years, as well as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, another direction in which UX design could also be heading is design-agnostic user interfaces. As UX designers will create with a multitude of devices in mind, trying to adapt to this future variety, it will be crucial to test carefully and ask the right questions in order to obtain accurate and effective answers.
To overcome all these challenges, whether you’re defining your role within the company you’re working for right now or whether you’re making decisions about your future career, it’s always important to research and stay informed. As now you’re aware of the most common challenges for a UX designer, you will be able to identify them much more easily and take appropriate action right away.
About the author: Romy Toma-Catauta works in the marketing field and is passionate about writing on web design, business, interior design and psychology.