Since switching from the title ‘Web Designer’ to ‘User Expe­ri­ence Designer’ I find myself explaining what I do more often than I expected. Making matters worse is my constant need to abbre­vi­ate my title to UX Designer, further confusing people. (I will be using this acronym through the course of this article.) An executive at Backcountry started the year off with a list of points to help our team excel throughout the year. Among them was one that stuck out…

“If I don’t understand what you are saying, you aren’t communicating well enough.”

When applying this to my recent troubles, I decided it was time to document the issue.

So easy a 6th grader gets it

I volunteered to chair the Women’s Leadership Coalition (WLC) at Backcountry this year. Recently the WLC hosted 20 6th grade girls to talk about STEM careers for females; more specifically their visit was to discuss technology. I was among those sharing insights on their personal ‘tech’ careers. This gave me a perspective on how to explain my field. It forced me to step back and explain UX Design to kids. Kid’s don’t want fluff, buzzwords, or acronyms. They want a simple explanation they can relate to.

Taking a page from The Design of Everyday Things, I called upon the basic’s of how user experience is everywhere we are. I asked the 6th graders how they knew where exits in the building were or how many times they had tried to push a door that you had to pull because it wasn’t clear. I then transitioned this to the web.

What does a UX Designer do?

I find myself explaining UX Design as a “web designer that uses more data.” The problem is that doesn’t do the role justice. I’m not communicating what all UX Designers are responsible for on a day to day basis. I believe that UX Design, like the world of the web, is in a state of constant evolution.

At Backcountry, we tend to look for people who have a decent amount of skills across the board. We lean on Peter Boersma’s T-Model, which leans on eight different disciplines to define UX Design:

  • Interaction Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Usability Engineering
  • Visual Design
  • Information Design
  • Copywriting
  • Computer Science

Wow that’s a lot for one person to know! What’s important to note is that the T-Model is used because people can’t be an expert at so many different disciplines. Therefore UX Designers require a knowledge of each discipline, combined with an expertise in one area. At Backcountry, we pair the T-Model down quite a bit. Below is an example of my personal T-model. Note the one expertise on my T-model is visual design. I began my career in graphic design and have evolved.
UX T-Model by Lauren Gray

A Simple Definition

At the end of the day, UX Designers are designing human interactions. Whether you are breaking that down into smaller models or talking about something as simple as interacting with a door, UX design centers around human interaction. Good human interaction goes unnoticed; it seems natural, like opening a door.

Followup Questions

  • How to you define UX design?
  • Do you agree with these skills defined to make up User Experience?
  • If not, would you have more or less? Why or why not?

*Note: The T-Model outlined above does not account for secondary considerations (such as those arising during technical or content development) that may influence decisions during the UX design process. Also, this model does not describe a development process, rather, it seeks to define the disciplines necessary to be considered a UX designer.