08 Dec Industry Insights: UX Designer
User Experience design (or ‘UX’) has graduated from a nice-to-have to a must-have for forward-thinking businesses. They recognise the direct correlation between a positive user experience and high conversion rates, retention and advocacy, and they know that savvy digital audiences won’t settle for anything less.
Here at Mint Talent, we’ve seen a growing demand for UX Designers across a range of industries. We sat down with Jyllian Thibodeau, a UX Designer with over 10 years experience across User Experience and Games Design, to hear her thoughts on the future of the discipline.
How would you describe User Experience?
UX is the narrative around how you interact with a product. It’s the story you tell when someone else asks you about a product.
How did you get into User Experience?
I got into it by accident actually. It used to be more common for the engineers to also design, and I’ve always been a pretty lousy coder, so I assumed it wasn’t a career option. I was working in IT and I ended up with most of the user-assistance tasks, training people up on how to use the software properly. That led to a discussion about how we could improve the design of the software to avoid these problems in the first place. I had already done some of the baseline research, so I jumped into the process and never looked back.
Best thing about the industry you work in?
The variety! There are so many different types of products and industries you can do UX for, and so many different elements of the process you can work across. Personally, I like working in a small company because I can do the research, design and development— you’re in it for the long-haul, for better or worse. I find that within larger companies, you tend to be more specialised, and with consulting, you hand off work more often. Both of which can be great— but for myself, I prefer the end-to-end approach.
Most interesting project you have worked on?
I worked in video games for about eight years, and did the research and design for Rock Band and Dance Central. There are all these extra UX components to games, far beyond creating a pleasant customer journey— there are parts of the experience which will be challenging and even unpleasant, by design. What are people feeling when they hit these points? And were they feeling what we wanted them to be feeling? For example, you’re supposed to feel a bit defeated before you experience triumph— are either of those feelings enough, too much? That was really interesting.
Do you have a favourite website/app that you think has a great User Experience?
I’m very fond of the game Monument Valley. It’s a tablet experience, very tactile, simple, and elegant. I like how it onboards the player to explore by trying increasingly more complex things and building on skills. There’s very little text, and you can give it to pretty much anyone and they can figure out how to play it easily. It’s really soothing and pleasant as well, and the narrative is really broad so it can suit anyone.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Natural patterns are a big one. Anyone who is in UX has probably heard about desire paths. Essentially, desire paths are user-created trails which represent the shortest or preferred route – often ignoring an original, purpose built pathway. This translates into product or digital design, and we’ll often ask why users are cutting corners. It shows that they’re not using the design as it was intended, but they’ve found a better way. We need to figure out why they’re taking this different path, and take those learnings into design.
The digital space is always evolving with new technologies and trends, how do you see this affecting your role?
I think we need to move with the times, whatever they may be, and continuing to find ways to facilitate our goals, rather than focus on our processes. We’ve been through a century of making technology visible and prominent in our everyday lives, and it’s done nothing but complicate— now it’s more powerful than ever, but it’s shrinking into smaller components and automated processes. A decade ago, I could use my laptop to keep a calendar of birthdays, look up nearby restaurants, and message my friends— now, my mobile proactively points out that a holiday is arriving, and asks me if I want to organize an event. Design is moving away from providing the tools and toward providing the service.
What's something people may not know about you?
I never graduated college. I was studying Philosophy and working full time at a radio station and realized that there wasn’t much more I could do there that I couldn’t do out in the real world. I was 5 years in with 1 semester left and I’ve never regretted it.
If you weren't a UX designer, what would you be?
I’d like to own a café/movie theatre in the mountains. Hospitality and UX are pretty closely related anyway.
Tea or Coffee?
Tea. If I drank as much coffee as I did tea, I’d be a mess.
You’re stuck on a desert island - what 3 things do you take?
A sheep I could make yarn from and chat with, Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Galapagos’ (for the irony), and a Gameboy.
What’s your morning routine?
Get up earlier than I need to so that I don’t have to rush, and spend time hanging out with my birds. I’m not a morning person, so I try and make it feel like, by the time I leave the house, it’s more like “afternoon”.