March 30, 2023

College to Corporate: Entering the World of UX

In our opening talk of the series, Shamika discussed using UX methodologies within her research on Black futures - but what exactly is UX? The second event in our series features UX Designer Bri-Anna Lewis whose impressive resume includes designing at IBM, being a mentor at ADPList, teaching UX bootcamps at the University of Minnesota, and starting her own design company Opportune Design.

Bri-Anna opens her talk explaining that the role of UX designers is to make sure what you're interacting with makes sense and is worth everybody's time. This is needed everywhere, so UX skills can be applied across industries whether in academia or otherwise. To better understand UX, we have to understand user experience as a whole. In general, user experience is making sure people leave with an enjoyable experience after engaging with a certain product.

A UX Designer represents the "who" - the person who makes sure the user has an accessible, enjoyable, pleasant experience. UX gives a voice to users from all backgrounds by asking questions like: Who has the problem? What is the problem? How will we solve the problem? What will the solution achieve? Once we break down the problem, we can start thinking through specific features: What features are required to accomplish these objectives? What will the product look like and how will it function?

But, UX Design is not about just making something functional... it is also about making something delightful and meaningful! The ladder image above shows the different steps UX designers have to take to ensure everyone can climb up it. But... it is also important to ask: who can't use the ladder? This is why accessibility is important! No matter what interface we design, there will always be situations where people's experiences because of disability and we have to consider this when designing. So what? What's the big deal? Why should we even care? Because people matter - if the experience is bad, people are not coming back. Having a mature UX framework helps us mitigate risk when designing products.

The cool thing about UX is that it allows you to take a variety of different pathways from research to design to development to content creation. UX shows up in a wide range of industries from gaming to fashion because in any industry, people want to have good experiences! With the tools in UX constantly changing, it is vital to develop your core skills and competencies to allow for more flexibility.

With only 3.4% of UX designers being Black, it is more critical than ever to support the development of emerging Black UX professionals. As Shamika's talk emphasized, lack of representation leads to the creation of biased and harmful technologies - so let's work on changing this!

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