Experience Design

What Exactly IS User Experience Design?

It’s something many folks in my profession struggle with—explaining to other people exactly what we do. When people I don’t really know (like my father’s poker buddy, my tailor, the lady making polite chit-chat while she bags my groceries…) ask me what I do, I respond, “I help build websites.” It’s simple. People understand it. But that is really selling us short (and I’m short enough as it is).
I adore Karen McGrane’s assertion that “On a good day, I make the web more awesome. On a bad day, I just make it suck less.” There are those for whom this broad-stroke statement just doesn’t suffice. Say, like my mother.
I had a breakthrough with her the other evening while she was expressing her intense frustration at her current banking website, which had just (ironically) completed phase one of a redesign. She couldn’t find the login button. There were no confirmation messages, so she wasn’t sure if the payments she sent had gone through. There were more steps to link accounts than there had been before.
“THAT is what I do!” I said, getting excited as I could see understanding slowly dawning on her. “I make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen by thinking about and researching what a user needs and what tasks they want to perform. Then I help translate that information into decisions about the design, process flow and elements that appear on the page to make things easier, faster and more intuitive on the web. If you finish looking at a site and didn’t have to think about how to accomplish something, that’s the result of good user experience design. If we do our jobs correctly, you’ll never know we were there.”
Her response: “It seems like every site I visit could use some of that.”
So now she finally gets it. And she wishes there were more of us.
You and me both, mom.

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Natalie Kurz

For the last 10 years Natalie Kurz has helped clients navigate the rapidly changing digital landscape by guiding them through the process of creating a cohesive user-centered online presence. Her work has included branding and voice definition, digital and social media strategies, integrated marketing campaigns, mobile application design, copywriting, user interface design and Intranet development for clients in the financial, health, consumer product, education and advocacy sectors. She’s had the pleasure of working with industry leaders including Express Scripts, Answers.com, Stifel Nicolaus, Protective Insurance, Northwestern University, Washington University, State Farm, Jiffy Steamer and Purina. She holds a masters degree in journalism from NYU.

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