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What is a UX Designer? (And How Their Skills Will Impact Your Website)

A qualified UX Designer will focus on that "sweet spot" where USER needs and BUSINESS needs overlap. Is your website meeting both needs?”

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by Eric Sharp

I’ve tried awfully hard to explain what a UX (User Experience) Designer is in the past.

Clients and prospects hoped I’d make the complicated uncomplicated, but I failed.

My muddled response typically involved a smattering of acronyms, industry jargon, and incoherent whiteboard drawings. It wasn’t pretty (even though I used colorful markers).

After disappointing them, and myself, it was time for enlightenment.

The Sweet Spot every UX Designer aims for

My UX exploration sketch in October of 2012

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” and this wisdom drove me to find a response that was both practical and accurate.

After much thinking, research, and sketching, a simple Venn diagram finally saved my sanity — and I decided this was my new answer:

UX is where user needs and business needs overlap (“sweet spot”), and a UX designer is the one responsible for ensuring the website meets both those needs.

How’s that for uncomplicated? Let’s go deeper.

What is UX (User Experience)?

User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its service, and its products. If you have 5 minutes, sit back and watch this video — it’s both educational and visually entertaining!

What the #$%@ is UX Design?

How UX pertains to your website

When it comes to your website’s user experience, this individual (the UX designer) has the most important role in building your website.

They will have influence and decision making power throughout your website’s strategy, information architecture, usability, user interface and content.

You could say a website’s user experience designer “holds the keys” to your site’s ability to meet both user needs and business needs. They will anticipate that sweet spot where:

  • users consistently get what they want (in a positive and engaging way)
  • the business achieves its goals (in the short & long term)

This sweet spot (where user and business needs overlap) reveals the million dollar question for every user experience designer: “What type of website experience will satisfy both needs fully?”

Let’s expound these two parts (users needs & business needs) along with the skills and responsibilities required to be a professional user experience designer.

User Needs

All smart UX designers know that empathy for the user might be their greatest asset

Seeing your website through the lens of an actual user is fundamental to being a UX designer. If they assume your website’s users think and behave like themselves, your website is already heading in the wrong direction.

8 UX skills needed to accomplish a website's USER needs

  1. Understanding of the Web’s constraints - Every medium has constraints
  2. Psychology - They don’t need a Ph.D, but they should understand how people think and behave online
  3. A knack for qualitative & quantitative research - They should know the benefits of each method & constantly reference user personas
  4. Information Architecture (IA) - How to structure content
  5. User Interface (UI) design - How to prioritize information & interactions
  6. How users arrive through various channels - Search engines, direct traffic, referrals, etc.
  7. Usability - UX design is not just usability, a common misconception
  8. Details, details, details - However, they must see the forest for the trees

More about website data

Business Needs

A UX designer should also see your website through a business lens.

Your website is an investment, and all good investments require some business savvy. Their modus operandi should be inquisitive, data-driven, efficiency-boosting and ROI focused.

UX Designer meets Business Needs

If users are happy, but your bottom line doesn’t see results, your website's UX designer has missed the mark.

8 UX skills needed to accomplish a website's BUSINESS needs:

  1. Budget management - The lion’s share of strategy & execution is properly allocated to critical features
  2. Sales funnel competence - How the website plays a role in the funnel
  3. Data-driven design - Not “I like green and circles” opinions, but evidence based decision making
  4. Product/Service insight - What’s most profitable? ancillary?
  5. How positioning is articulated - How & where this gets communicated
  6. Conversion analysis - What conversion elements generate the best contacts/leads/sales
  7. Analytical - To ensure systems are put in place for stakeholders to measure KPIs like these
  8. Healthy competitive spirit - A desire to beat the competition never hurts

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What if they don’t design in that “sweet spot”? (Gasp!)

What if your user experience designer caters towards the user but neglects the business’ needs? Or vice versa? How will it impact your website?

This myopic approach will create an endless loop of problems such as:

  1. Short & meaningless website visits - bounce rate is high, page views are low
  2. Confusing navigation - usability issues will soar without clear hierarchy & menu systems
  3. Anemic & uninspiring content - a 80/20 strategy to content is the DNA of a lead generation website
  4. Many small details, compounded together, make your site look amateurish (e.g. links say “Click here”, rather than being specific)
  5. Data isn’t being generated - your website should generate a mound of data & relayed to multiple systems (such as a content management system)
  6. Low conversion rate - a consequence of improperly designed calls to action

Who’s designing your website?

As the wise Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Your website’s UX designer doesn’t need building bounding powers, but they certainly should possess the skills above to boast influence and make critical decisions. Once your organization understands the importance of this “sweet spot”, it’ll be easier to place this design responsibility in the proper hands.

The goal of a designer is to listen, observe, understand, sympathize, empathize, synthesize and glean insights that enable him or her to make the invisible visible.

Thirteen Tenets Of User Experience

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