Putting 'UX' knowledge to use!

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Putting 'UX' knowledge to use!

The rapid growth of smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, smart devices and interactive platforms will continue to drive the need for professionals in the user experience industry, suggests Rauf Adil 

As mobile app development has begun to gain prominence, the field of User Experience Design (UXD or UED) has come to the fore. UX is a broad term used to explain all aspects of a person’s experience with software use, including the interface, graphics, industrial design, physical interaction and perception. The field of UX is about making products and services intuitive, easy-to-use, visually appealing and interactive even for a lay person or a person with minimal technical knowledge. It is about making a product or service easy enough to use so that a first-time user can figure out the features, navigation, the different options and functionalities without having to be trained, without having to read a user manual or seek external help.

It is about reducing the barriers to adoption of products and services in the market. It is about customer acquisition and retention based on visual appeal and ease of use. It is about achieving the business or personal objective in using a product or service with minimal help. In the end, UX will have to achieve its objective: customer satisfaction, loyalty and social referral.

While the field of usability has existed for decades, the profession has greatly matured in the last 10-15 years. The long-term prognosis for the industry is also great: there are work opportunities all year round and new technology coming out all the time.

What you need

Did you know that UX professionals can work in any industry? For example, a multiplex may use a UX professional to get feedback from its customers on what the multiplex is lacking, where they need to improve, etc. A major misconception is that to become a usability expert, you need to be a computer programmer. You do not require any knowledge of programming or computer software development to become a user experience professional. Diplomas, degrees or academic programmes in Visual Arts, Design, Fine Arts, and Multimedia are more of a help in preparing students for a career in User Experience. Those with creative skills and those that help deal with human psychology are much better placed to become UX experts than people with logical (technical, engineering, and mathematical) skills.

Career paths

Within the UX space, there are different career paths one can take — user experience researcher, user experience designer or a visual designer. You can become a visual designer, user experience specialist, user interface designer, usability expert/usability engineer and user experience management professional amongst many. These are some of the popular career paths to follow in this field for which there is a good and growing market demand, both in India and abroad.

Educational qualifications

A professional Bachelor’s degree is sufficient to become a user experience professional. However, there are certain academic areas that prepare a user to be better positioned for a career in this field. Degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Arts, Multimedia, Industrial designs prepare students for appreciation of design, use of colour schemes, visual appeal, user reaction, etc. Similarly, people with degrees and diplomas in management that focus on market research have a better grip on defining, working with focus groups and gathering key user input and user feedback statistics that help define the best user experience.

Opportunities in India

Opportunities include taking up a career in UX or related disciplines (visual design, usability) in businesses that build mobile applications, enterprise mobile applications and solutions, web-based applications, media and entertainment companies and those that help customers abroad in building and implementing software, web and mobile solutions.
Many multinational companies (MNCs), global mobile handset makers, media companies and auto manufacturers are  now customising their products to better place them in the context of adaptability to the Indian subcontinent. A large part of this effort centres on defining and building the user experience with enough elements of localisation and catering to the comfort of the local user. This creates a very potent area for careers in this field.

Growth

Currently, the user experience field is being driven by mobile apps, mobile solutions, enterprise applications that are being re-written for usage on mobile devices such as tablets, cloud computing and web paradigm for websites and web apps. These areas will likely drive the evolution and adoption of user experience as a discipline over the next five years.

In the near future, dashboard panels in automobiles, navigational systems, industrial control systems and home appliances with smart phone interfaces will also evolve and require a good degree of solid user experience to make them user friendly and help position for mass market adoption. The areas where user experience will play a crucial role in defining the market success of products are vast and unlimited. Interactive visual display panels, ATMs, advertisement billboards and the likes will have touch, visual and voice-based two-way interaction with potential customers and this will require sound visual design and effective user experience.

Yet, there are challenges...

The key challenge is to find talent. It is also hard, especially in India and emerging markets, to find institutions that offer training and preparation for imparting  education and training in this field.

The prospects of growth are huge as this field is still in its infancy in India and many emerging markets in the world. Companies have only recently started recognising the need for user experience as a vital element in the successful market adoption and growth of their products and services. Business enterprises will strive to make the ‘UX’ of their product or service better than that of their competitors and this will result in a huge boom. The rapid growth of smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, smart devices, navigation systems, interactive industrial systems, display panels and consumer electronics will help drive big growth in the UX skills requirement in India in the coming years.

(The contributor is director of Mobility Practice, Virtusa Corporation.)

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