“Unlearning” being solution-oriented: Reflecting on my UX journey

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Growing up as a first-generation American to immigrant parents, I grew up wearing many hats.

I was a translator — translating mail from English to Chinese for my parents to the best of my ability since Google Translate didn’t exist then. I was their secretary — filling out important forms and taking phone calls for them. I was my siblings’ tutor — finding creative ways to teach them basic math; to this day they still remember learning how to add and subtract using jelly snacks. I was the tech guru who taught them how to use their smart devices so that they can stay connected with the world around them.

Simply put, I was “professionally” trained to be solution-oriented — to find a way to solve any problem that was thrown my way quickly, even if it’s unconventional.

You’re probably thinking, “Good for you, but how does this relate to UX again?”

UX design, as defined by the Interaction Design Foundation, “is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.” As UX designers, we have to wear many hats to create those meaningful and relevant experiences, especially with how the current job market defines UX roles. We are researchers — we conduct user and subject matter expert interviews, competitive benchmarking, and observe behavior to understand what the user needs that other companies may not offer. We are designers — we combine practices that are transferable from other disciplines like architecture, interior design, and graphic design, to create visually pleasing experiences that are confined to the pixels of a screen.

Most importantly, we’re problem-solvers — we define the user’s need and find a way to meet it.

With that reasoning, it made sense to me to transition into UX design, since I was accustomed to finding creative solutions to problems; however, this was the hardest habit to break as a UX designer.

Although UX designers are essentially problem-solvers, we’re not supposed to be solution-oriented. UX designers have to design with the user in mind and curate the experience to the user’s needs and behaviors. If we were to design with a solution already in mind, we would not explore other options that could better meet the user’s needs. We would not be ideating and creating divergent concepts to converge on later.

I had to remind myself not to get ahead of myself to think of a solution that I think the user would like because I’m not the user (even if I do use such a product or service).

UX Designer who challenges the status quo by building creative solutions through design. Check out my portfolio: https://wheretiffgohes.com