Helping UI Designers become UX Designers
There is a recurrent discussion about hybrid UX/UI profiles
There is a recurrent discussion about hybrid UX/UI profiles: whether is a valid trend or it is a trick for not very experienced professionals to increase their chances of getting noticed.
This article does not intend to extend this discussion but instead, sharing my experience in helping professionals moving from UI to UX.
Whether people prefer to keep their role titles as “hybrid”, is not the subject here.
Okay. Let’s start.
When requested to help any professional to migrate to the UX world, it is very tempting to think academically and recommend a plethora of readings that will cover all sort of researches, countless ideation methodologies and prototype techniques, tools etc.
Although all this information will definitely add a huge value to any professional, starting with this approach solely can be overwhelming to UX aspirants. Eventually, you can lose their interest and consequently, lose talented new UXers.
Over the years I learned that empathy (a fundamental UX concept) can make a whole difference when engaging people in this new world.
Background indicates the approach
UX does not require any specific background as it deals with a multitude of disciplines on daily basis: a graphic designer may feel more comfortable with sketching whereas a psychologist would likely take over a focus-group.
Given that, empathize with your pupil based on their background.
Empathy leads to engagement
Knowing their backgrounds, their way of working experience will indicate where to start their new journey, creating a more exciting and engaging way of learning.
Let’s consider your UI Designer has been exposed to a traditional waterfall design process, where he was mostly solicited to add branding and life to finalized wireframes.
He’s familiar with wireframes although might not be sure how the UX team has got to that concept, that layout.
One step back in the process is your starting point
1. Identify their comfort zone. Now, one step back.
Bring the UX aspirant along to work on the process, starting from the step right before where they’re familiar with. In this example, the prior step of final design would likely to be sketching.
2. Teaching time
Ask them to sketch out layout ideas before opening any final design tool. Explain the benefits of sketching (or any specific step you are working on). Talk about the expected outcomes and how they will feed into the next steps.
3. Questions are triggers. Use them to connect the process.
Once they are engaged in the activity, questions will start to come up: “Why do we need a contact form?”, “Why are we designing a comparison table?” and so on.
These questions are the perfect triggers to present them the prior step of the process: Information Architecture.
Show them how the pages are structured and organized. It will inevitably bring up some other questions: “Why are these pages organized in such way?”, “How do we know the labelings are reliable?”. Well, here is your trigger again. Time to present them the Card Sorting, Customer Journey, Personas, Interviews notes etc.
I believe you already got my point: Engage UI Designers one step before the activities they have more affinity/familiarity with and work on getting the right questions. The natural curiosity gives you the right engagement to present all process steps, even if it backwards.
Some benefits I have observed
- This approach is efficient in engaging UI Designers in the design process once the starting point is chosen based on their affinities, making it easier for them to relate to.
- Connections between steps, how one activity feeds into the subsequent is very clear.
- Finally, what I consider the most valuable outcome: It sets up a correct UX mindset and UI Designers start putting themselves in user’s shoes.
So, no readings?
Of course, it is essential to recommend good readings but you don’t necessarily need to follow an academic, linear sequence. Books and articles can be suggested as appropriate according to what your future UXer is working with.
Will it always work?
I've had great surprises with this approach, witnessing respectful UXers coming from UI background, and I’m very proud of it.
But obviously not every UI Designer I mentored wanted to continue exclusively as a UXer. In general, when it comes down to research, it’s a deal breaker. Understandable :)
But still, as mentioned, it helped to set up a UX mindset and, working alongside UI Designers who have the basic knowledge of design processes, that want to understand and solve user’s problems is amazingly rewarding and an enriching experience for everyone.
In any case, it's a win-win situation.