The First Year in Review

I have not been keeping up with this at all, have I? Then again, I can't believe it's June. So much has happened in the past few months that it's hard to believe the year is halfway over; with that was also my one year anniversary as a UX designer in title. Time flies when you're having fun.

That's the thing that hasn't changed for me at all in the past year. I love what I do still; I walked into work one day to find a set of wireframes on my desk with the ask for UX feedback, and I woke up fairly quickly after that. Though I consider myself an interaction designer, but in the past six months alone I've switched hats so often that I didn't realize exactly how vague the role of being a designer actually was.

So if I had to do a recap of the lessons learned in that year, my list would look like this:

  1. Tools are just tools - I have gotten pretty speedy with Illustrator (a good portion of my time just goes into making sure my file is organized because it makes me a little crazy and because I don't want to subject someone else to an unorganized file if they need it), but Photoshop? Totally different ballpark. The thing is, I don't really need Photoshop per se. There's so many excellent tools out there for design and prototyping: UXPin is one I'm fond of, and the intern on my team turned me onto Indigo Studio for building click through prototyping. But above all, nothing beats a whiteboard or the wonderful duo that is Post It notes and Sharpies (leftover habits from Palm).
  2. Try something new - Some of my projects this year took me all over the country to study users out in the field, and it was my first time in a research position. I came back feeling much more educated about our tools and how the users see them. Granted, the tools they were using were ones I was unfamiliar with, so it was an incredible learning experience for me. We had a short offsite to analyze the findings and came away with some powerful findings that I think will really help build a great product than if we hadn't done the research ourselves. I learned a lot about how to conduct research in the field, and in the end I was leading research sessions myself - the senior designers presented on two of my trips and then I took the lead on it. It was also a fun exercise in practicing what I preached; if we were asking people to do things on the iPad, why shouldn't we do it ourselves? Taking endless notes on the device during my research sessions helped me to see what the pain points of using a tablet could be for an extensive period of time. Though... I think there are some large difference between what I was doing and what the users would do on their applications, but the lesson is still there
  3. Immerse yourself in your field - I'm a mobile designer. Okay, so that means I should probably soak in all things mobile, and I do. I take a special interest in changes in mobile not just from the platforms, but also what people are doing in applications. It feels like just yesterday that the basement level nav panel (see Facebook's app on all devices where you can tap the icon on the left to open the panel) was created, and that wasn't truly established on any platform (correct me if I'm wrong, but I certainly don't remember it being native on iOS or Android). That keeps me up to date and able to try new things in my designs.
  4. Do or do not, there is no assuming - I know, that's not the exact quote and I wish I could have made it work in its original form but alas! The point here is that if an idea strikes you, try it. Don't kill it before you've let it bake for a bit. I had a bunch of personal things I wanted to try - my Android Music Player design, for example - and even though I knew the service layer may not exist and the aggregation would probably not be feasible, I still wanted to make the concept real to see what it would look like. I actually plan on going back on iterating on it since I haven't looked at it in a while, but I wonder what I'll see differently this time around. Had I not gone through with it, I probably wouldn't have taken the time to actually play with Android's design guidelines and also indulge in a creative exercise that was great practice for me. 

I'm probably missing a great deal of other lessons, but I also have things that I have to get done for tomorrow. This list will continue to grow, but having crossed that benchmark has taught me a lot about how I want to develop professionally and how much further I have to go.

But it's nice to have also learned that even all this time later, I absolutely made the right choice in being a designer.