Usability Experience Specialist - Is this what I want?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by MrCheeto, May 6, 2010.

  1. MrCheeto macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2008
    I'm wanting a full-on career, not just a job. I want to be able to influence ideas and help to create a better product, whatever it may be.

    When I look at certain products, I see flaws and shortcomings like red flags, yet nobody else sees them? I feel like the only person with sight in a blind world when such things are so enormously obvious.

    How can I, basically, get paid to point these ideas out to the product designers? They lose sales and go through revision after revision until such flaws are uncovered, and I could save them all of that trouble!

    So far, Usability Experience Specialist seems to be the sort of career I'm looking for. However, can I work for multiple companies? Is there something closer to what I want?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    I highly doubt that you'd be able to get paid for unilaterally telling a company how to "improve" their product. What happens when they say "We acknowledge your opinion, but X% of the consumer focus groups we queried seemed to like it this way."
  3. MrCheeto thread starter macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2008
    Right...but I doubt too many too many wearers of Dupont shoes were happy with the unmorphability of Dupont's material, which I would have pointed out right away. Or MacBook Air owners that have had their notebook overheat because the vents are placed precisely where a soft surface (bedding) could block them. I also don't think there were a bunch of fans of the iMac G5 spitting discs out to bounce around their desk.

    These are "D'oh" factors that should have never happened. I honestly can't believe how blind some people can be when such things are so mind-numbingly obvious.
  4. jpyc7 macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Bing search for "usability experience" brought 11.5 million results.
    Bing search for "human factors design" brough 28.4 million results.
    Google results may vary.

    I think that means you should be looking into a "human factors design" career. I think you could be a consultant for more than one company, but not two competing companies. As long as each company has a different product category, you won't raise conflict of interest flags. You'll undoubtedly have to sign various NDAs and may have "waiting periods" after a contract ends to work for a competitor. This is just my opinion, with no basis in direct experience.
  5. MrCheeto thread starter macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2008
    It wouldn't be the first time I had been legally bound to secrecy XD
  6. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2005
    Manchester UK
    I'd bet that companies do know when their products are lacking. Personally, I see hundreds of flaws in the software that my employer makes. I am in a position to get them fixed (QAT Lead) but there is just so little resource around when shipping date is coming up so anything not absolutely necessary just gets left over. It's usually an executive decision that stops these being fixed, the sign off deadline is more important than a few UI fixes (not my opinion).
  7. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'd say learn product design and engineering, then get a job in an R&D dept.
  8. MrCheeto thread starter macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2008
    Sure, I considered R&D, but I wasn't sure if I could earn the same aw-thorih-tie.
  9. nadyne macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2004
    Mountain View, CA USA
    My company divides user experience (UX) into two subfields: research and design.

    UX researchers use many different methods to determine what kind of usability issues exist. You're talking about a heuristic evaluation, where you apply your expertise to identify issues. This is but one of many tools in your arsenal. There are also usability studies, field work, cognitive walkthroughs, surveys, and literally dozens of other methods.

    There are plenty of different paths into UX research. Personally, I've got two undergrads (one in CS, another in maths), and a MS in human-computer interaction. The CS undergrad isn't necessary, and the maths one is just because I'm a geek and love it. But the MS is totally necessary -- we rarely will consider anyone who doesn't have a relevant MS.

    UX designers generally have an advanced design degree. They use a variety of methods to design software or hardware: paper prototypes, wireframes, high-fidelity prototypes, clickthroughs, and more that I'm sure I'm forgetting because I'm not a designer myself. :) Designers tend to be expert users of Photoshop or InDesign.

    One thing that both researchers and designers do is help to prioritise issues and their fixes. While an issue might be obvious to you, that doesn't mean that it's easy to fix, or that it's of such a high impact that you can justify holding up the release to fix it.

    There are some consulting companies that do UX research and design for multiple companies. However, in my opinion, that doesn't give you the opportunity to have the same long-reaching impact. You just come in, do a study or two, and then you're out of there. You don't get to work with the team to ensure that your findings are actually acted upon.

    If you want to learn more about user experience careers, I'd recommend seeing if you've got a local chapter of SIGCHI. In many places, members get together once per month or so for presentations to learn more about their field and hear what other professionals are doing. I'm in the SFBay Area, and the local SIGCHI chapter is BayCHI, which has an awesome ongoing calendar of presentations that are very beneficial to me as a professional.

    I'd be happy to answer more questions about UX. My blog is go ahead, Mac my day which is mostly focused on the products that I work on, but I sprinkle in UX-specific stuff as well. You can email me from my blog, or send me a PM here on MR. :)

Share This Page