Contrary to popular belief, people with creative skills and skills that help deal with human psychology are much better placed to become UX experts than people with logical (technical, engineering, and mathematical) skills.
As mobile app development has begun to gain prominence, the field of User Experience Design (UXD or UED) is slowly coming to the fore. UX / User Experience is a broad term used to explain all aspects of a person’s experience with the system including the interface, graphics, industrial design, physical interaction, and perception. The field of UX is all about making products and services intuitive, easy to use, visually appealing and interactive even for a lay person or a person with minimal technical knowledge. It is about making a product or service easy enough to use, so that a first-time user can figure out the features, navigation, the different options and functionality without having to be trained, without having to read a user manual or seek external help.
User experience design is about reducing the barriers to adoption of products and services in the market. It is about customer acquisition and retention based on visual appeal and ease of use. It is about achieving the business or personal objective in using a product or service with minimal help. In the end, UX will have to achieve its objective: customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and social referral.
While the field of usability has existed for decades, the profession has greatly matured in the last 10-15 years. The long-term prognosis for the industry is also great: there are constant opportunities and technology coming out all the time.
What you need to become a UX expert
With mobile apps taking the world by storm, user experience is now a hot career option. But not many know what it entails:
For example, did you know UX professionals can work in any industry?
For example, a multiplex may use a UX professional to get feedback from its customers on what the multiplex is lacking, where they need to improve.
A major misconception is that to become a usability expert you need to be a computer programmer. You actually do not require any knowledge of programming or computer software development to become a user experience professional. Diplomas, degrees or academic programs in visual arts, design, fine arts and multimedia are much more of a help in preparing students for a career in User Experience.
People with creative skills and those skills that help deal with human psychology are much better placed to become UX experts than people with logical (technical, engineering, and mathematical) skills.
Career paths within the UX space
Within the UX space, there are different career paths one can take - User Experience Researcher, User Experience Designer or a Visual Designer. You can become a Visual Designer, User Experience specialist, User Interface Designer, Usability Expert/Usability Engineer and User Experience Management professional. These are some of the popular career paths to follow in this field for which there is a good and growing market demand both in India and abroad.
Educational qualifications required to become a user experience professional
Any professional degree is sufficient to become a user experience professional. However, there are certain academic areas that prepare a user to be better positioned for a career in this field. Degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Arts, Multimedia, Industrial designs prepare students for appreciation of design, use of color schemes, visual appeal, user reaction etc. Similarly, people with degrees and diplomas in management that focus on market research have a better grip on defining, working with focus groups and gathering key user input and user feedback statistics that help define the best user experience.
Opportunities in India in UX
Opportunities include taking up a career in UX and related disciplines (Visual design, Usability etc.) in businesses that are building mobile applications, enterprise mobile applications and solutions, building Web 2.0 based applications, Media & Entertainment companies and in companies that are helping customers abroad in building as well as implementing software, web and mobile solutions.
Many multinational companies (MNCs), global mobile handset makers, media companies and auto manufacturers are customizing their products to better place them in the context of adaptability to the Indian subcontinent. A large part of this effort centers on defining and building the User Experience with enough elements of localization and catering to the comfort of the local user. This creates a very potent area for careers in this field.
Growth in the User Experience field
Currently the User Experience field is being driven by mobile apps, mobile solutions, enterprise applications that are being re-written for usage on mobile devices such as tablets, cloud computing and Web 2.0 paradigm for websites and web apps. These areas will likely drive the evolution and adoption of User Experience as a discipline over the next five years.
In the near future, dashboard panels in automobiles, navigational systems, industrial control systems and home appliances with smart phone interfaces will also evolve and require a good degree of solid User Experience to make them user friendly and help position for mass market adoption.
The areas where User Experience will play a crucial role in defining the market success of products are vast and unlimited. Interactive visual display panels, ATMs, advertisement billboards and the like will have touch, visual and voice based two-way interaction with the potential customers and this will require sound visual design and good user experience.
Challenges in this field
The key challenge is to find people who have been trained and have been academically prepared for taking up User Experience related work. It is also hard especially in India and emerging markets to find institutions that offer training and preparation for imparting the education and training in this field.
The prospects of growth are huge as this field is still in its infancy in India and many emerging markets in the world. Companies have only recently started recognizing the need for good User Experience as a vital element in the successful market adoption and growth of their products and services. Every company in the market will strive to make the UX of their product or service better than that of their competitors and this will result in a huge boom.The rapid growth of Smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, smart devices, navigation systems, interactive industrial systems, display panels, and consumer electronics will help drive big growth in the UX skills requirement in India in the coming years.
Author: Rauf Adil, Director - Mobility Practice, Virtusa Corporation (a global information technology (IT) services company providing IT consulting, technology and outsourcing services)
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