So, What Exactly Do You Do For a Living?

Posted by Taylor Haney on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Here is another excellent UX and Design post for you by Hilary Basch, User Experience Designer at Communispace. Hilary takes a look at the intersection of psychology and technology and what exactly a user experience is at its roots. 

Hilary Basch HeadshotAs a User Experience Designer at Communispace, Hilary focuses on integrating the voice of the customer into the design and implementation of easy-to-use interfaces for Communispace's community platform. She’s found that by combining her technical chops with her artistic sensibilities, she can speak the language of both the engineer and of the customer. When Hilary isn't spending her time advocating for a better user experience, she can be found baking cupcakes, solving Rubik's cubes, painting landscapes or going for runs around the Charles River.

You may be astonished by how many friends, family, and even coworkers sheepishly (and repeatedly), ask me this question. Undeniably important and simultaneously ambiguous: a good user experience (UX) is something we innately know we need, but can be hard to craft and even more difficult to define. When I try to explain my job to curious inquisitors, I often find myself referencing bad UX. A bad experience is easy to understand and identify: pushing a door that’s meant to be pulled, changing your address when you move, reading a menu with a tiny font in a dimly lit restaurant, reasoning with a cable service provider… the list goes on.

It’s easy to sell people on why a good experience is important. If a mobile app has half the functionality of the “full site”, would you use it? If an airline loses your luggage, would you think twice about flying with them again? A bad experience can erode a customer base, and likewise, a delightful experience could build one. Now, more than ever, the competition in the experience landscape is fierce. Consumer tolerance for brands that are out of touch with their consumers has evaporated, and these brands are seeing this change directly reflected in their business revenue.

So, the billion dollar question: how exactly does a brand go about the very daunting task of defining and implementing a good user experience?

User experience is an amalgam of product and technical knowledge, business goals, and user needs. By communicating with engineers and product managers all the way from strategy through development, a UX designer can help influence the evolution of a feature. By appreciating business goals, we prioritize and help steer feature evolution. And most importantly, by truly and actively collaborating with and listening to users for input on design and functionality, we empathize and then we build a better product as a result.

communispace blog

From my current role as a UX designer at Communispace, I can attest that we practice what we preach. Not only internally on our agile product team, but as a company, with a mission built on bringing brands closer to their consumers through our online community platform. While most UX designers have to struggle with how to proliferate UX in their culture, Communispace gets it: we offer user research a service to clients as a way to compete in the experience landscape. We teach clients the value of feeling the heartbeat of your consumer while making business decisions, and we in turn, do the same for ourselves.

Simple, right?

Truthfully, I struggle with this popular dinner-party question. What do I do for a living? Sometimes, I don’t have the luxury of plodding through my philosophy on user experience design. Sometimes, I’d rather not make the innocent inquisitor go cross-eyed at my musings on the fascinating intersection of psychology and technology… while they were simply just trying to be polite and make light conversation. I’ve come up with a shorter answer; a one sentencer that seems to be widely understood and respected. Any user experience folks who know what I’m talking about, feel free to use this line in your own life, and proudly: I work in technology, and I try to make things better.