We all know the rate of change today is fierce. As technology leaps forward, students of Human Computer Interaction may be intimidated by the breadth of topics in which they are expected to demonstrate expertise. If one is planning an academic career, it may be possible to define a narrow area of deep knowledge. If an industry position is desired, a broad understanding of UX (user experience) principles and the software development process may be the best preparation.
When I think about UX, I picture a half dozen or more “cogs” that are gently pieced together throughout the development process and come to work smoothly – even beautifully – as appropriate adjustments are made. These cogs vary among projects and companies, but in general include user research, interaction design, content strategy, visual design, information architecture, usability, and user interface. Companies vary widely in the maturity of their UX and agile methodologies. Mature teams have the roles all figured out, and joining such an organization means you will probably represent a certain “cog” of the UX process. On the other hand, if you join a team that is just discovering UX and agile methods, or is a small shop, you will not only be jumping around the many roles of UX, but also advocating its value (which really means advocating for the user).
Change is constant, it’s accelerating, and it’s hard for most people. Humans increasingly interact with technology, and the demand is greater than ever to understand peoples’ needs, objectives, and tasks at the interface. As a student of UX, or a new employee trying to explain and advocate for UX, the challenges may sometimes seem overwhelming. The surest path to success is to ground what you do in user data, empathize with the users, and work to solve their pain. That will get the UX cogs turning — perhaps even smoothly.