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I recently came across a poster on UX careers, where the bottom of the poster lists some specific skills and their prevalence in UX jobs. I found it somewhat disturbing that usability testing was only a claimed skill for 57% of UX professionals.

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So what skills make the difference between UX and Design professionals? What skills should every UX professional strive to have to make them effective at their job?

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It depends on the definitions everyone is using...which vary wildly. In general, UX is design. Design isn't necessarily UX. –  DA01 Dec 19 '12 at 17:37
    
Also, I cropped the large infographic to show the relevant part you were referring to. (Infographics like that are really large ads, so I tend to not like posting them everywhere) –  DA01 Dec 19 '12 at 17:40
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That infographic is terrible. The data comes from a survey about web design, yet they just remapped it to UX because they "believe these skills are representative". What? You can't ask "What should web designers know?" and then answer a different question with the results. That makes no sense. Web designers are not UX designers. There's a difference. Also, UX designers are not "designers". In fact, "UX" is such a vague term it's impossible to say "this is UX", and the same really goes for design. –  Rahul Dec 19 '12 at 18:07
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I think you need to be as specific about what you mean by 'Design' as you mean by 'UX'. Designing a user's experience can take many forms, and different skills. Designing the UX at Disney's Magic Kingdom takes a lot of different skillsets (and employees) than designing the UX of Netflix. Somebody that classifies him/herself as a UX professional usually focuses on the jobs/projects that match the skills/experience they have, and generally works with or brings in expertise in any area necessary to accomplish the design. –  Shash Dec 20 '12 at 1:22
    
Yes that infographic is terrible. It suggests UX only applies to web software and not other kinds of software, or coffee makers. –  obelia Dec 20 '12 at 2:30
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Unfortunately some companies are too cheap to invest in usability testing. This is not to say that they don't beta test or provide multiple options for a particular layout or solution. It's just that some companies have limited resources and/or do not see the need to invest in usability testing.

I work at one of these types of companies. It's not that they don't see the value in the user experience, it's just that it's pretty difficult to talk management into conducting these types of test. This is especially difficult when people are "widget minded". Sometimes it's hard for people to see the value in something when it's not shipping products out the door. Of course most of us know that a great user experience will produce more sales in the long run, but it much harder to prove.

The most important UX skill is to be ale to put yourself in the user's shoes. If you are at a company that doesn't have a budget for user testing, be creative and resourceful. Don't let other people's restrictions get in your way. Upload screen shots to clicktest.com andfivesecondtest.com where you can get some decent feedback from users who may not be familiar with your product. Show it as many different user groups as you can within your own company. That means everyone from the more advanced/expert users, all the way down to those who have trouble with email and other basic tasks. You should be able to get some decent feedback from watching these users use your product. (all of this is assuming it is some type of digital user interface)

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some companies are too cheap for usability testing? I'd say a lot of them. ;) –  DA01 Dec 20 '12 at 1:48
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I don't see a grand difference between Design and UX, but I do see a difference between designing for yourself vs. designing for users -- namely, it's real easy to create something that pleases yourself, without that design being something in the best interests of your users.

UX to me implies a bit of a butter zone between coding, design, and psychology. You have to have some idea of:

  • what people want, whether those people are members of your company or users of the service (needs assessment)
  • whether what they want is even a good idea (usability research, either done through your own testing or other people's pre-existing work)
  • what you want to provide them (interaction design)
  • if it's even possible to do what you want to do in the first place (development / feasibility analysis)

Note that nowhere in that list does it mention visual design or coding the front-end yourself. It's implied that you better be good at making those four things happen -- the actual skill set you employ in doing so is a little less important.

More to the point, this is what happens to designers who can't figure out how to use UX to justify their decisions (and more to the point, stop others from making bad decisions):

Image credit goes to theoatmeal.com

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The issue you describe of designing for yourself and designing for your users happens when there is not a clear identification of and focus on who the users are and how the design meets their NEEDS, not wants. When doing UX on DoD projects, I never had project stakeholders say, 'We're not building what YOU want' which came up far more often when building an online video platform, where I am a more obvious user. The focus on the user needs is the grand difference within the continuum of design vs visual/graphical vs UI vs interaction - all of which a UX pro may need to do the job well. –  Shash Dec 20 '12 at 0:35
    
A good visual/graphic design is also very much focused on the user. –  DA01 Dec 20 '12 at 1:50
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Generally and anecdotally, I've found that people that call themselves "designers" are more concerned with aesthetics and traditions that are derived from print and the study of graphic arts that predate the the personal computer. Of course today "designers" now have significant knowledge of interactivity and usability and have much exposure to concepts of UX, but IME usability is not as pronounced a concern for "designers", whereas usability is foremost for those who've adopted a field or title with "UX" in it.

Again, this is just a general and anecdotal observation. Definitions, semantics and job titles are changing and thorny, and generalizations are always problematic.

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First, a caveat. This is an industry with extremely fuzzy terms for roles and job titles. What is a UX designer in one group, might be considered the UI designer in another. What is considered the UI designer in one group, might be considered the lead UI developer in another. Etc. So, grain of salt and all that...

Secondly...umm...shoot...another caveat. ;)

Design as a broad term, and in an ideal process, permeates all team members. UX is design. UI is design. DB design is design. Coders are design. BAs are design. Etc. Again, idealistic, but it's something to strive for.

As such, I think it's hard to draw a solid line between 'Design' and 'UX'.

If we narrow 'design' a bit to perhaps 'graphic design' and 'ui design' or maybe even 'interaction design'. I think that makes things a bit easier, but still, there's no clear lines between these. There may be a LOT of overlap in some situations, and none in others.

I think it's probably easier to do the reverse. What tasks can you toss into which buckets? In your example, I think it's fairly easy to toss the 'user testing' into the 'ux' bucket.

Icon design? graphic design.

Form widget design? Interaction designer.

Again, all will still play a part, but there are likely defined tasks that go with each role.

So, in summary, I wouldn't say a UX professional has to have direct experience with user testing. But user testing, as a task, would likely have to go with the UX professional.

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