Being a UX designer is no easy career path. If people disagree they're probably either lying, not working hard enough, or just a downright genius (and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m certainly not that). But, realistically, if you don’t find your job difficult then you're not pushing yourself to do the best you can. And, if that’s the case, it’s perhaps time to consider finding a new career path, which drives you to always push yourself.
In my world, if you don’t challenge yourself and the status quo, from a users’ point of view, you're not giving them the best opportunity they need, to be able to experience the website or app to its fullest potential.
Personally I love to learn. I read articles and books, listen to podcasts, and watch videos all about my industry & profession. I go out of my way to do this at least once a day (if not many many more times). I feel that I don’t always absorb information easily (I blame all those creative juices), so I take my time. I like to think about things I hear or read, and decide how this fits into my life/career or a particular project or scenario.
I’ve recently been listening to a great podcast called “User Defenders” by Jason Ogle. I’m only on episode two, but I’ve already come across an interesting and thought-provoking nugget. During one of his podcast interviews with Josh Tucker, Josh mentioned a book he’s been reading called “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation”. This might not seem relevant to UX and design, but he read an excerpt from the book that caught my attention and did completely resonate with what we, as designers, should be doing.
Paraphrased, the Disney animators spoke about how actors on screen have an advantage immediately to a cartoon, because they can interact with the other cast using emotion and expression. Animation has to find out where it fits in reality and how to connect with the viewer.
My interpretation of this is, as designers, we need to think about the elements of a website or app as “characters”, each of them serving a purpose for the user or “playing a role” and creating a connection to indicate a function. This means each “character” of the site or app should have a relationship to one another and should be identifiable as part of the same cast. This touches on both UI and UX - the relation can of course come from colour and style, but we should also think about the messaging and motion to ensure it flows like a well-written script. For some, this may seem like a tenuous link, but for me, it completely resonates and makes sense.
Let’s put it into context a bit. The incredible Netflix original Stranger Things, for example, is so well put together from a consistency and time period point of view. The style of the show is early 80s themed, so the cast have the 80s hairstyles, clothing and accessories (those bikes!). The houses are decorated to fit in with this decade and even the music though created in modern times for the show (by synth band Survive) leans on familiar 80s sounds and themes. All other music is taken from 70s and 80s bands, pulling you closer still to the era. And, the directors have gone to great measures to create a style of cinematography that nods back to the great movies of the time. Nothing feels out of place. You can build up a clear narrative with all characters interacting seamlessly as part of a well-crafted cast.
Curiosity, compassion, consistency and empathy. That little additional consideration is what can set you apart from the crowd. Be it TV, movie or website, these principles stand true.