How TED prototypes inspiring user experiences: Q&A with UX Architect Michael McWatters

Michael McWatters, UX Architect at conference non-profit TED, talks usability, prototyping and spreading great ideas in Justinmind’s latest Q&A.

It’s one of the most recognisable digital brands of the last 30 years, a non-profit devoted to the dissemination of good ideas and an engine of inspiration for well over a billion online video viewers. So how does New York-based TED create online experiences that match the innovation and inspiration of its conference talks? Justinmind spoke to the non-profit’s UX Architect Michael McWatters to find out what it’s like to build user experiences for a global community speaking over 100 languages, and how prototyping helps him stay on track.

Tell us what an average day looks like for TED’s UX Architect

On any given day, I might be sketching on a whiteboard with a colleague, writing a project brief, developing user flows, mocking up a user interface, or testing prototypes with users. Because we’re a UX team of two, we do it all. That’s why there really is no average day — and I love it.

You studied Fine Arts — how did this background contribute to a career in UX?

I learned the fundamentals of color, composition, pattern, and repetition, skills that transcend fine art, and are applicable in any design role. But I also studied architecture, industrial and graphic design, experimented with tech, and was a few credits short of an English minor. These other disciplines helped me become a critical, curious thinker and a better communicator, skills I think are essential in UX.

There was no such thing as a degree in UX when I went to school. The closest one could get was to study HCI, and that was considered much more technical than creative, so it didn’t feel like a fit. Ultimately, I wanted to make things for an audience of users, not just an audience of observers, so I began to focus on design jobs after my masters.

I think a broad, multidisciplinary education grounded in a creative practice like fine arts helped prepare me for the broad, multidisciplinary field we now call UX.

Read the full interview here!

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