A sneak peek into the life of an experience designer

Earlier I have written an article about how experience design benefits the workplace. The topic has intrigued me and made me curious about this profession. In this article, I will write about the person behind the experience design, the designer. What does an experience designer actually do? What are typical tasks, and which skills does an experience designer need? And am I an experience designer as well?

Before I get into the article, I want to quickly tell you what experience design is. To quote what Michah Spieler said: “It is an approach that centers around the experiences of people to the design and features of your products, processes, environments, and strategies. Experience design arises out of the users’ needs, feelings, contexts, and mindsets to design experiences that centers around them.” To sum it up, experience design is the process the design teams follow when they are creating a new product or service that is centered around the user/consumer.

What does an experience designer do?

As an experience designer, your work is centered to make products, technology, and experiences usable, enjoyable, and accessible for humans. Mostly, experience designers work as a part of a wider product team and they are there to voice the opinion of the user or customer. It doesn’t matter if you are designing an entirely new product, adjusting the old, or adding something new, the experience designer has to consider what is the best outcome for the user and the experience that comes along. As an experience designer, you think more about the entire experience, instead of only making an appealing label.

What are the typical tasks of an experience designer?

When it comes to the everyday tasks of an experience designer they will not be the same for everybody. Just like every workday of a store owner doesn’t look the same, neither does one of an experience designer. Besides the fact everybody does something different, often there are some general tasks an experience designer can be expected to do during a workday.

  1. Conducting user research
  2. Creating user personas
  3. Determining the information
  4. Designing user flows and wireframes
  5. Creating prototypes
  6. Conducting user testing

Number five tells us an experience designer also creates prototypes. This doesn’t mean they are responsible for the final result of the visual design. They will just test their ideas with the audience and will let professionals finish the final product with their notes. 

If you look at the list above, you could easily say that I am an experience designer without ever noticing. After looking up this information I realized I am almost weekly working on one of those six items. For example, earlier on in my studie, I worked on a project for RTL. We had to create a new digital strategy for the new platform they were going to create. At the beginning of the project, I conducted all sorts of research, one being user research.

We made persona’s, wireframes, used models to really get to know the company, created prototypes to show the client, and tested these prototypes with the target audience. Without knowing, I have been working as an experience designer without even knowing it. If I think back, I realize, I always had the potential user or customer in mind and thought of the best ways to make it as usable, enjoyable, and accessible as possible.

Which skills does an experience designer need?

Because experience design is such a wide range of assignments and projects, a designer needs a great and various set of skills. Besides the technical and design skills which were already mentioned in the tasks, an experience designer also needs some ‘softer’ skills like empathy, curiosity, critical thinking, continuous learning, and great communication skills. These skills are necessary because as an experience designer it is important that you can collaborate with not only your team but also clients, stakeholders, developers, fellow designers, and the audience. 

Without noticing this has something I have been doing once again. Within my current and past projects, I have learned a lot and grown even more. I was critical towards myself and my teammates on how we could execute this project the best way possible and communicated about this.

To conclude, an experience designer is someone who focuses its work on the user or customer. The designer wants to make the experiences usable, enjoyable, and accessible to everyone.  This doesn’t happen within 5 minutes, there is an entire process that helps the designer reach the best possible result. Experience designers aren’t always professionals, because without even noticing you might have been an experience designer as well.

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