UX Design Dream Team

The perfect mix of UX Experts and Software Architects

I am lucky enough to work in the perfect design team with a lovely mixture of talents and specialities. This perfect design team consists of UX Designers, as well as, Software Architects. It is not commonly seen to have Software Architects and UX Designers working together, but why shouldn’t it? It doesn’t make sense to me any other way. The attractive and highly usable interface between application and software that makes using the application so worthwhile depends heavily on the architecture. This is absolutely critical. Whatever capabilities the architecture has underneath it will impact the user interface. Having Software Architects involved in the design process can help flag these concerns before the design is handed off to be developed. The architect can determine if the user interface is even feasible based on the backend infrastructure. On the flip-side, as well, Architects can architect out a solution for an other wise difficult user experience, and by difficult, I mean the backend infrastructure to support it, before it is handed off to engineers to figure out. Having the two together creates a lovely balance. And no one person has to know it all.

We have all kinds of talented individuals that make up our team. There are content strategists, front-end engineers, interaction designers, ui designersusability researchers, visual/graphic designers, information architects, ux architects, and software architects. And often, a single person may cover several of these roles, but an amazing UX team should consist of all these areas in one way or another.

The content strategist is in charge of the message and UA being portrayed to the user. This may seem like an easy task, but it can be a hard balance of giving the user enough information to be helpful without being lengthy. Content should be considered an important part of the product, be it web, mobile or any other medium. A content strategist will be responsible for shaping up the ‘tone of voice’ of the product. They set the tone of the product by carefully planning the content. The content may not be limited to text. It refers to whatever element used to communicate with the user. A content strategist might even have a call over the design element that the visual designer created, because it communicates something to the user. It is important to convey the right things in the right way to the user for a consistent ‘tone of voice’.

The visual designer handles the visual aesthetics of the design. They are the expert for color combination, typography, texture, graphics, etc to convey a message. This should go without saying that visual design plays a very important role in any design. It is the first impression and the visual aesthetics that carry forward the experience of the product.

The interaction designer is in charge of handling the interaction of the users with elements on the screen. Unlike visual designers who usually deal with static assets, interaction designers create animation inside the application. They deal with what the interface does after a user touches it. For example, they decide how a menu should slide in, what transition effects to use, and how a button should fan out. When done well, motion becomes an integral part of the interface by providing visual clues on how to use the product.

The user interface (UI) designer is concerned with the overall feel of the product and how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out. UI designers are also typically responsible for creating a cohesive style guide and ensuring that a consistent design language is applied across the product. Maintaining consistency in visual elements and defining behavior such as how to display error or warning states fall under the responsibility of a UI designer.

The front-end engineer is responsible for translating the concepts from the wireframes and visual mockups into a working prototype. Front-end development is when the product jumps into the first phase of life after much conceptualization and designing from other members of the UX team, and for that matter, this can be a vital part of the Experience design process. A front-end engineer brings together the 3 forms of an application, namely content, presentation and behavior. They generally are a rockstar in HTML/CSS/JS based techniques and use these techniques in building out the working prototype.

The usability researcher is asking the questions, “Who are our users?” and “What do our users want?”. Typically, this role entails interviewing users, researching market data, and gathering findings. Design is a process of constant iteration. Researchers may assist with this process by conducting tests to tease out which design option best satisfies user needs. Helping to keep the very basic usability issues in mind can help the team move in the right direction. Usability researchers are responsible for conducting usability tests and other usability related tasks and will have a strong understanding on the working of the product, from a user’s perspective.

The user experience (UX) architect is someone who understands each stage of an Experience design process and who will be able to connect the dots seamlessly across each phase of the Experience design. They will make sure that the UX vision of the product doesn’t get blurred across each phase. The primary job of this person will be to be involved in each phase of the Experience design process, collaborate with the experts of the respective phases and make sure the product gets transitioned between them smoothly. They will set and ensure the proper standards and processes are being followed across the entire lifespan of a design including development.

The information architect focuses on a number of things such as the target audience, the technologies related to the website, the data that will be presented through the website, and the results of early usability tests regarding the site ideas. The information architect will have the challenge of organizing the information in a huge data-driven application with complex scenarios into the screen flows, wireframes, and interaction patterns to be followed.

Finally, the software architect is a computer programmer or computer expert who makes high-level design choices and dictates technical standards, including software coding standards, tools, and platforms. The software architect will evaluate technologies and make the decision of which ones will work best to achieve the solution desired with the least amount of risk. They understand the interactions and dependencies among components and can determine the best infrastructure for the problem.

All together these roles can create an amazing design team. As I said before, not one person necessarily covers each specific role, sometimes they span multiple roles. However, if there is a good balance and a group of individuals with a strong passion and a great attitude, it will make a huge difference.

How to be Successful in a Tech field

1. Network
It’s so important to network with other people in your field. They are not only a  great help at keeping you fresh in what’s going on in the current market, but they can be a great resource in helping you to find other opportunities. Conferences are great places to network with people in your field, but you can also network locally, with local meetups and organizations.

2. Keep Learning New Things
Don’t fall stagnant in your career. Technology is a constant moving and forever changing environment. You’ll never learn it all, but you should try. Go to conferences, take some training, read blogs, whatever it takes to keep you in the know on the latest trends and new technology.

3. Find a Mentor
Mentors are great at helping to guide you through your career. They’ve already been there, done that, and they can offer a lot of great advice. Like I said before, you can’t learn it all, but having some great mentors can really help enhance your knowledge. They can direct you in the best routes and prevent you from making the same mistakes that have already been made.

4. Don’t be afraid to work a little extra
When you first delve into your career or start a new job, you will find that it takes a little bit of time to get up to speed on a places procedures, methodologies, and sometimes even the technology being used. It is important to invest extra time in getting up to speed. Work those extra hours. Use your personal, after work hours to try to get up to speed. If your job allows a remote working environment, be in the office as much as possible anyways, if you can. The investment you put in at the beginning will profit you immensely in the end.

5. Speak Up
People won’t know your opinion if you don’t speak it. You may think your idea isn’t important or fear it may sound stupid, but it often promotes innovation and collaboration. Even if you are new, share your ideas! Sometimes a fresh perspective is exactly what everyone needs. And speaking up will get you noticed!

I Believe in Empowering Women, but I’m not a Feminist

I am a woman in the technology field, and I am all for empowering more women into technology fields or science fields. There certainly are not enough of us, but I refuse to call myself a feminist. I believe in equality for both sexes. A feminist by today’s standards seems to be a way to bash men and as a mother of two boys, I can not support that. It should be about being a decent human being and treating one another with respect.

I hate these new terms being thrown around, “manterrupting”, “bropropriate”. Why do we have to victimize ourselves against men? It’s hard to be taken seriously when we are throwing around made up words where their only purpose is to bash men. How can we take a stand for equality when we are drawing a line between men and women ourselves?

I think to be in this field, especially if you are looking to grow in your career, you have to have a strong backbone, that goes for men and women. You need to have a strong, supporting argument if you want to make an impact. You also have to have the confidence to speak it and keep pushing on the subject if you stand firm in your opinion.

The fact is people interrupt people. It’s disrespectful, but it isn’t always meant to be. Sometimes people are just passionate about their view and want to get that across. Unless someone directly says, your point isn’t worth listening to, I don’t think we should be reading so much into it. The fact is that people of both sexes can be rude and impolite.

Finally, I don’t want to be referred to as a feminist because I enjoy being feminine. I can have it all. I can be smart, well-groomed, trendy, a super-mom, a geek/nerd, I can be all of it. I don’t need to hand in my heels and red lipstick because I want to viewed as one of the men or because I’m in a technology field. I’m just going to do me. I have never been one to conform to labels. I hate labels. And I think that is what we really need to rid ourselves of to start having equality between the sexes.

Source: Kathleen Edison’s illustrated guide, inspired by Jessica Bennett’s article
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