Shine or Die — A UX Designer’s New Year’s Resolutions

Honestly, all I want for 2018 starts from — to survive.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

We’ve lived in a new world that everyone is a UX expert to some extent for quite a couple of years. Yes, we’re all immersed with digital experience from swiping alarms on smartphones in the early morning, completing your daily tasks on multiple devices throughout the day, to your favorite app time before going to bed. The immersive and prevail experience has shaped everyone to the Ph.D. of UX.

Moreover, that’s talk about the basic economics: supply and demand.

There has been a steady demand for UX (or so-called product design, service design, design strategy, etc.) talents in the market, which is a blessing for designers. However, the supply has been increasing due to the following but not limited reasons:

  • Keen interest in both the academic and the industry produce more and more educated or self-taught UX designers;
  • Along with the design toolsets become powerful than ever, the technical barrier (if there is still any) profoundly drops;
  • Best practices and products are unveiled every day, along with their design process and systems, which makes entering UX field in general easier and easier at a speed that has never been seen

Umm, I’m not an economist, but I can see what will be coming…

So, what’s the next? Changing your titles to product designer or designer slash developer or simply just unicorn 🦄 … probably do very little help.

Here is a survival kit I’m envisioning for my future (2018) self, which will come in a couple of hours soon… and I’d love to share and hope this will help me, or lives in my position, find a way.

The kit includes the following:

1. Equip yourself with in-depth, unreplaceable knowledge of selective industries

“The most valuable skill is the ability to learn new ones.” — that’s one of my favorite quote from the Awwwards Conference 2017, and I’d love to add something on top of it: we have to learn quickly, analyzing, comprehending, and practicing things, and then become experts of the field.

Be a good designer and dive deep into specific industries.

We are no longer in the dot-com boom, the rising of social media, or the release of the first iPhone in 2007. We’re in an era that so many well-established and amazing products or services are already built and distributed. You’ve got an awesome idea to improve the email mail box experience, or a cutting-edge concept of online dating, or a new transportation app? Umm…

Even there have been lots of great designs out there, as we approach the end of 2017, I still see lots of exciting new products coming along, and many of them are built with in-depth knowledge of specific industries.

For example, FinTech.

How design and technology have been collaboratively powering the financial services has been extraordinary. Intuit, Wealthfront, WiseBanyan, Betterment, Acorn… just to name a few. All these great products cannot be created without designers who have acquire profound knowledge of the financial industry.

More examples to come:

I do see the combination of general UX design skills and extensive knowledge of the given industry, in order to analyze, comprehend, and solve complex problems with thoughtful solutions, will be the #1 must-have regarding with UX designers’ survival.

2. Apply your UX Design skills to the organizational level

UX may be dead, but the UX Design skills to understand and solve problems via tangible and feasible solutions will always be there. Applying your high-level UX skills to organizations, team formations, workflow, service process, will significantly increase the value of UX design. There have been different naming convention of that kinds of skills, like Service Design, Design Strategy, Design Thinking… etc, but you’ve got the idea.

More examples to shine:

  • United States Digital Service, a startup at The White House, using design
    and technology to deliver better services to the American people.
  • 18F, An office within the General Services Administration, specializing in digital service delivery
  • GOV.UK, Government Digital Service, Part of Cabinet Office
  • FutureGov, a digital and design company for public services, based in the U.K. and Australia
  • IDEO, a leading global design company committed to creating positive impact on not only products and service, but also organizations and the society.

3. And finally, let’s be futuristic

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
— William Gibson

There have been lots of new technologies and fields that UX Designers can explore and adventure: Design with Data, Virtual Reality, Conversational Design, Voice Interfaces, and Artificial Intelligence.

With these emerging technologies, our role as designers will be shaken and challenged, and then transformed. I’d like to share an example of Design the Artificial Intelligence, in China.

It’s a common question that we’re faced: Will designers be replaced by AI? Which I see as a false statement. The better way of thinking is: How does AI impact and transform our work as designers? And I believe a case study from Alibaba AI Design Lab lights the torch. Alibaba is well-known for its record-breaking $25 billion sales in just one day in 2017, but what are the drivers to make it happen? Little do we know, that Alibaba came up with their home-grown Artificial Intelligence that can generate 8000 customized banners per second, which counts 170 million banners in total during 2017’s Singles’ Day sale.

It looks like the AI has replaced Graphic Designers’ roles in this case, from the surface, but the underneath truth is: Designers have worked closely with Engineering and Algorithm teams, to design the AI that powers and accelerates business.

So, in this case, I do not see AI replaces designers. What I see is how designers adapt the latest technology and design the AI, and that can be UX designers’ one way of survival in the future.

P.S. This is such a fantastic case study, if anyone is interested in more details, please leave a comment below, I’m more than happy to write it up.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Finale, or an overture?

Today, our roles as UX designers are shaken due to the flexible market values, challenged by technologies, but also powered by all the new opportunities opening up along the way. Shine or die? I believe, for us designers, we expect not only just to survive, but to shine and thrive, right? I think it’s an open book and the stories depend on ourselves.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please don’t be shy leaving comments below. Happy New Year! 🎇

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