In recent years, the role of the User Experience Designer (known as UX design for us tech folks) has become a critical part of success for product companies. But the meaning of UX design is still abstract for many - an irony considering the fact that, on average, we spend nearly 7 hours online a day. And the software you interact with online? Chances are, a UX designer has thought tirelessly about how to make your experience as seamless, frictionless and ultimately enjoyable as possible.
Here, our UX Designer, Sacha Stephan, demystifies the world of UX design - and provides meaningful advice and recommendations for those considering entering this evolving field.
Let’s take it from the top! Tell us about your background and how you got into UX design.
A lot of people assume I come from a graphic design background. In reality, I went to school for media and communications back home in Melbourne at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. There, I majored in film production and theory and, at one point, I wanted to be a film critic or documentary filmmaker!
Ultimately, where I’m at today is much different from that job I envisioned - but my fascination with how audiences interact with various media and materials has remained, and it’s the crux of what I do today. Plus, I had no idea that UX design was a “thing” back in 2011 - it wasn’t part of the common vernacular like it might be today in design, tech or marketing courses.
How did you learn the ropes of UX design? What ultimately led you to where you are today?
After a stint working at a TV station as a creative producer, I started working at a digital agency. I was really interested in speaking to our clients, and learning about what they were trying to communicate to their audiences. From there, I focused on continually unpacking what the intended message is and how it translates into the way a digital experience is ultimately developed. I started learning about the principles of user experience design, and then I applied it to my role and the projects I was completing. You might find a lot of UX designers out there like me who are self-learners and self-educators: some of the key qualities of UX designers are progressiveness, adaptability and flexibility since the world of tech changes so quickly. Continuous learning and hunting for the latest knowledge is key for strong UX design.
UX design is a relatively new field. What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
Some who aren’t familiar with the field think “design” is all about making things pretty. But, primarily, your goal is functionality and usability. There’s a common misconception that UX design, graphic design and web design are one and the same, but they require their unique skill sets (although these skills are highly complementary.) In essence, my design folks and I often get bucketed or grouped together - but we all work towards creating highly specialized skills that are tied to the intention of a user. Designing a website versus designing a product, for example, have different user goals.
Who’s someone to watch in your field? Who do you look up to?
I get inspiration from many different places! Kat Holmes is the SVP at Salesforce (previously Google) and she’s a thought leader when it comes to accessibility and inclusivity in design. As a designer, unlearning bias is one of our biggest challenges, and she has excellent insight and advice on this. I also consistently read the Shopify UX blog - they have a team of extremely talented designers and they distribute great content. Our VP of Product & Growth - Christine - is a role model for me; the way she approaches problems and thinks about so many different ways to approach a situation is a constant source of learning for me. There is no shortage of inspiring leaders to look up to in UX design.
I get inspiration from virtually any conversation where people are talking about how they can demystify a process relating to how something is done. UX is ubiquitous if you’re aware of its core principles.
The ability to make an impact quickly is one of the best aspects of joining a fast-growing company like Heyday. What are you proud of so far?
For the past couple of months, I’ve focused on the first iteration and ongoing optimization of our self-serve version of Heyday that recently launched on the Shopify App Store. This is an exciting challenge; our goal is to make any merchant feel like they’re empowered by Heyday’s AI chat, and that it invisibly supports their own customer experience goals - from selling to supporting. We’re just beginning to realize the power of democratizing AI technology like chatbots. The more we remove the high-tech, challenging concepts to make chatbots easily accessible by every type of merchant and the types of customers they serve, we will all benefit from better experiences.
Want to work with talented people like Sacha? Check out our current opening for Senior Product Marketing Manager.