User Experience Design — What is it?

This question seems to come up often. Not just from people who ask me what it is when I tell them what I currently do for a living- “You’re a what?” or “What kind of designer?” or more often just a puzzled look from people like deer in oncoming headlights.

However, this question was posed to me by a past boss (well, he was the manager of the department I worked for when contracting with HP, so he was kind of a boss for me). His question was “What is User Experience Design?”, to which I gave him some pat answer about how UX folks look at software (which I was doing at that time) and figure out how to make it a more engaging and user-centered or user-friendly experience, whether it was a website or mobile app, or software you use on your computer.

His response – user experience design is much more than that, and it mean something different to different people. The problem is I gave him the answer I thought he wanted to hear, since I was hired to do software design (both interaction design and user experience design), and wanted to show I knew what I was doing. However, my mind and heart always believed it went way beyond that.

There’s been a lot of talk or words thrown about in regards to user experience design, or even user-centered design. And as I mentioned earlier, most people think it falls into software or web design. To some degree, that’s where it is needed a lot — there are too many websites and apps that just don’t work. Not just little small company sites, but huge sites that belong to mega-corporations.

But I believe that UX touches everything we do, or at least it should. When people say to me “A what?”, my answer is that we, as user experience designers, find ways to make the things people use everyday easier, simpler, and more engaging. That can be an app, a website, a device, a product, theme park attractions (and even the theme park itself, which is the main attraction), vehicles, a coffee cup, luggage for your motorcycle (I mention this because I designed aerodynamic luggage for motorcycles), and other everyday things we encounter and use all the time.

I believe in all that. My desire is to be doing any of those whenever and wherever needed. My brain is always on go, thinking of the next cool thing or how something can be made better, whether it’s something as simple as a stapler, to something as big as an attraction at Disneyland. I want to be known as an Experience Inventor.

The problem is people see my resumé, or my profile on LinkedIn, and peg me as someone with a lot of IT experience and think my goal is to be a user experience designer in IT/apps/software. And to be honest, there have been a number of jobs I’ve had that are IT based. But there’s also film work and video production which were my first loves, but I had a knack to change with the times as interactive multimedia and then the web surfaced, and I survived and adapted.

Yes, I know IT pretty well. I like working in IT, and doing user experience design in app development. The majority of my friends I have known for a long time all think  I should be an Imagineer – they’ve seen the entertainment robot I built when I was 15 (and had a pretty good business running at Sea World, local malls, and parties in La Jolla), my video and animation work, my photography, graphic design work, and currently my full-size interactive replica of R2D2 that I’m working on.

The bible says “I can do all things through Him.”  To me that has always been true. I have no other way to explain how I’ve been able to learn things quickly, adapt to jobs I’ve never done, succeed in everything I’ve attempted when I probably should have never attempted things in the first place. I’m an inventor, creator, designer, entrepreneur, problem-solver and more.

I’m Greg Schumsky- Experience Designer  Inventor.

And thank you for taking time to read this post.


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