Hello, I am Karen. I have decided to take a challenge to discover myself. I decided to go back to college and better myself in the Cyber Security field. I am logical, well-organized, and am quick on my feet. For the past 20 years I have been involved in the service industry as a manager/general manager. My journey as a General Manager has taken me as far as it can in the industry. Recently, I have decided to create my life and make it more enjoyable. This has not been an easy decision, but has thus far been very rewarding. New adventures to enjoy a meaningful new career along with a great understanding of how design is all around me all the time.
While having my college degree put on hold, due to the circumstances of COVID-19, I got restless and wanted to do something now. I was so involved with my studies, but now there was just time to be alone. I came across Kenzie Academy in which I wanted to explore something new. During the enrollment process, we talked about UX Engineering. I heard the word engineering and I was excited that it would help me learn new languages to broaden my desire to be involved in IT. This was very misleading due to the fact the conversation was about design. I don’t have an art bone in my body. Design was something that had never crossed my mind nor did I see myself being the creative type of person. Some research later, I talked again about UX Design. I knew how to problem solve, I knew empathy, research is captivating, and the need to help users (which I always have) seemed interesting. As stated previously, I am a very logical thinker, black and white, right and wrong, there are rarely gray areas in my life. Intrigued by this new adventure, I decided to go for it.
Through the UX design process I have learned about discovery, synthesizing, and wireframing. I have enjoyed the research, the interviews, the creating, but the best has been feedback. I don’t take the things I am designing personally (not yet anyway), my greatest joy comes from the feedback. My only desire is to have more given. I had to learn not to recreate the wheel, but to know it is ok to keep things the way users have adapted to them. I have read more than I ever thought I would due to the fact that I can’t get enough knowledge. There is so much more for me to continue to learn and it makes me excited every morning to know that I am going to learn something new and put it into practice.
When I started I didn’t realize the different entities involved with a “simple” design concept. I have learned the true need for User Research. Figuring out a problem and helping develop it into an ethical need for the user. The problems aren’t alway obvious and some can be wicked. Yes, we as designers, are to help the user by building a clean and easy path to the happy trail, but most of the time the problems are bigger than what goes into the settings menu. Through interviews (asking the right questions), observing, and empathizing we can come up with a good solution. The interviews are very interesting because I had to learn what questions to ask, how to ask them, and make sure I made the interviewee comfortable to know I wasn’t going to judge them. This was a new thought process because I have always known how to help people and put their interest ahead of mine. To actually know how different users feel about certain things, what their issues where, and truly listen to their frustration points. When researching we also need to take a look at the competition whether it be direct or indirect. Knowledge of what is already out there will allow us to develop a solution while not reinventing the wheel. Being more involved and diving deeper to know the users needs is so important. From the research there could be many problems to face, but as designers we don’t have unlimited time to create solutions for all of them. This is where the need to break importance down and try to figure out the most relevant problem. Remember that research is only a start to the needs of the user, it is up to the designer to create a usable solution. We need to put our bias and feeling to the side and remember that through our research we are solving a problem for the users. Though this has been a quick start to me becoming a good designer, I truly believe in the real world I will be able to conduct more research to be able to target true users in which I will be able to provide correct solutions.
I want to know the why’s of the problem to create a good solution. Once the results of “why” are in, then we head into discovery. I enjoy this part because discovery is where the solutions thrive. In order to fully understand the ultimate problem we must develop “How Might We?” questions. This was a difficult challenge for me because I don’t think I really understood how the process was supposed to help. So with this process I headed straight into extra learning. Taking the information from the user research I composed HMW questions that were very broad and mostly what I thought. Then I finally did some more discovery to realize I need to keep the user at the forefront, again having to remove my bias. I started throwing around questions in my head as if I was the user and didn’t understand things. This was so impactful that my second go of HMWs I finally nailed it. A clear unadulterated view of what my users were trying to tell me from the beginning. I have always been used to solving solutions on the go, there was never a need to have to reanalyze my decisions. Think quick and make the correct decisions for the company at that time. Not only was I problem solving but now I had a new way to develop the solution. I realized through the HMWs that there are multiple solutions and it was up to me to create the best one for the current target of users. Discovery allows a group of people to throw ideas around and bounce things off each other. It was more difficult in a school environment due to the fact I was the only person on my team, I look forward to when I can be in a group and listen, observe, and feel as my thoughts are just as impactful to help the users.
With all the added information it was time to start sketching. I was completely terrified of putting something on paper so others could see my ideas. It was not about thinking my ideas weren’t good. My fear was that I would only be able to do crappy stick figures and everyone would make fun of my non animated characters and objects. Design, the word alone is about creating something. In my head it had to be something beautiful and miraculous. Wow, this has probably been the most challenging part of the process. I was so fearful of not getting the sketching down, I added extra pressure to myself by making the sketches perfect. I would sketch and then go back and resketch to make sure everything was readable and organized. It took me a while to understand that sketches were just an abstract design to get the basic thought process down. Once I develop this new insight from research and looking at others I finally got the process down. As I stated before I don’t have an art bone in this body, but it has been truly inspiring to know I have developed the desire to continually sketch and show different ideas that just pop into my head. It’s not because I have become this great artist, but I have learned the basics of the line and circle. My art feelings and process is starting to shine through.
I used to walk out the door and knew the grass is green and the sky is blue, but now I see everything in between. I notice shadows, the birds, the butterflies, and the colors on the flowers that are blooming. For the first time I am noticing my surroundings, the beauty that is right in front of me. I kept hearing that design is all around us. It could be a street sign, why the traffic lights are set a certain way, or why a company picked the logo they did. Before this course I would take it for granted that these things were around, but now I thrive on the new things I see. I want more all the time! My thoughts and seeing things in a different light have completely opened my eyes/mind to different solutions to problems.
With the basic steps of the process down, I thought I was ready to hit the wireframing head first. I was excited to show the sketches come to life. It didn’t matter that they were grey and white (knowing I am more comfortable with these 2 colors), I enjoyed the process of wireframes and how you see the start of a finished product. Working in pixels is much easier than sketching. Know that the pixels would have been my first choice but then I probably would have been frustrated with the amount of time I would spend and then have to redo. We have mainly focused on Whimsical which is a low-fidelity wireframing tool. No color, no typography, and no animation. I am comfortable using this tool since I didn’t have to jump right into learning hierarchy, typographics, iconology, and color.
The wireframing wasn’t a one time thing. Yes I did the sketching, the discoveries, and the synthesizing. I wanted the best app I could manage to think up, not completely following the HMWs or focusing on the single problem. I wanted to give the users everything they wanted. But I still had a broad scope of what needed to be accomplished. It was a detailed oriented app and was too large for a mobile. Website yes, but that will be in a different time. So back to the sketching I went, feeling more confident with output I was ready to show off my sketches. It has also taught me that the first designs are never the best designs. After three tries of developing this stellar app, I feel I finally got it right. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I just had to tweak it and make it more user friendly. I look forward to learning the ins and outs of high fidelity (which I am currently teaching myself Figma).
While getting my hands dirty I realized that sketches aren’t the only thing I have to understand. The knowledge of hierarchy, typography and color schemes will prove just as difficult. After reading some articles it is important to know your users to develop a psychological approach on color and to figure out the effect they have on the users. While doing my class assignment I wanted it to be unique and used colors that are relevant to the app. After tackling color, which was not an easy task for me, I headed into typography. What kind of font is best, what fonts compliments each other, and how each font affects the users experience. I am now engulfed in this world of design which will only create a greater desire for more knowledge. It can only get greater with these new experiences.
This has been a huge challenge for me because I didn’t realize how involved the thought process is during these phases. I will continue to learn from other applications and websites, which will allow me to learn more about the designers. What were they thinking, why they chose their solution, and what could have been done differently to reach the solution. With this knowledge of the whys and hows I can become a true human-centered designer.
Prototyping was a struggle for me as to how I should make the additional screens, using InVision was simple once I figured all the kinks and worked through them. I enjoy the process, but really just thought I would be making the key frames and someone else would do the rest. Again, I have learned from my incorrect thoughts of what designing an app looked like. I didn’t realize during the user testing and prototyping I should fill in a name in the field so the user felt as if they were actually using the app. I went in as someone who had solved a problem and it was just a formality to see if it worked. Boy, was I wrong on many levels. Since teaching myself Figma I am enjoying the prototyping phase. The ability to jump directly into the prototype and just connecting the frames is such a simpler process.
I have learned so much about the process in just 3 short weeks. After seeing others prototyping modules I know how the process works and am looking forward to recreating my InVision frames. I look forward to the next 3 months with the case studies, high fidelity framing, and diving deeper into the design process. I have always been a good student trying to learn the most I can, but this definitely has been a new kind of learning. One that isn’t easy but also one I won’t want to walk away.
In close, this has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Though it has taken me out of my comfort zone of black and white, it has brought me so much more. It doesn’t matter that I can’t draw because UX design is about problem solving. One of my greatest skills is finally being put to use for a good cause. I have learned more about me and how so complex I truly am during this journey.