5 Ways Knowledge in UX Has Shaped My Personal Life

[Design In-Sanity]

Hey hey hey there!! How have you been?

Welcome to yet another article from Design In-Sanity, an OMG-I-can’t-believe-I’m-posting-regularly blog where I bring you design hacks, thinking hacks, mental well-being hacks and other hacks to turn you into a professional hacker!! Nah! To unleash our SUPERPOWERS!!! Yeah!!

Today’s article isn’t about sharing any tips or news or any whetstones for sharpening your skills. I decided to take a break from the Tip Stall, and share something personal.

It’s about sharing a gradual realisation on how certain aspects of my life have changed in the past three years, courtesy of my newfound knowledge in UX.

Ta-daaaa! No, wait, it is a franchise of the Tip Stall. And I believe there are some souvenirs that you can collect.

So, shall we?

01. Increased Empathy

I guess empathy had been flowing in my veins since long before I stepped on board the UX bus. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get a ticket, right?

Understanding what people need is the first step to a good user experience design.

This includes the end users, the client, the developers and even your team members, if you’re working in a team.

But I’ve realised that lately, I’ve grown quite a surprising amount of patience — not one of my qualities when I was young(er). I’ve been a good listener for many years (and this I’ve been told by many 😌) but now I put more effort into listening to people, and in trying to understand their PoV. Or their problems. Or anything that they want to share. This isn’t only about clients anymore. The circle has grown to include family, friends and a lot of other acquaintances as well as strangers.

I don’t just put my thoughts out there without hearing the whole story or without thinking through it. It really helps in easing out situations, conflicts and whatnots! And I quite like it! 😊

02. Better Analysis

We all know the general (sexist) notions about women and decisions:

“Women can never decide on one thing.”

“Women are bad shoppers; they take the entire goddamn day!”

“Women make really bad clients! They never know what they want!”

While I wouldn’t disagree, I won’t even agree. The generalisation is just…uh-uh…not okay!

Here comes the part where I brag about myself. Ahem!

  • My shopping ends in a record time of 5 minutes or 7 at the most. That’s excluding the time spent in the queue at the cash counter.
  • I can precisely guide anybody through what they should buy (name anything in the shop) while giving a detailed explanation of why they should choose Product X over Products A, B, C, D…W, Y and Z.
  • I know exactly what I want when it comes to website or product designs. I just get thoroughly messed up when it comes to selecting food because I want to eat everything on the menu. 😒

Well, I’m not the only superhero. I know many other women who are just like this.

Can’t tell about how they do it but I can tell you my secret. (Psst…it’s something to do with analysis.)

Designing a good user experience requires a hell lot of analysis. I’m sure every UX-nerd out there will agree.

Why place it here and not there?

Why this font and not that?

Is this readable enough?

Oh my gosh! Wait! The people who are going to use this are not acquainted with this kind of lifestyle!

Damn! It doesn’t suit the brand’s personality!

Is the contrast good enough? Does it hurt the eyes? The brain?

Did we check for accessibility?

Y’know, the list is pretty long. Longer than this above 👆.

So, the more you are into analysing things, the more your brain starts using it for everything. It comes to you like second nature.

For example, when shopping, my brain quickly processes everything:

  • who am I buying it for?
  • does it suit their personality (or mine)?
  • which colours do they like?
  • what style do they like?
  • will they like the texture?
  • is the price within budget?
  • which colour combo goes well?
  • which texture combo goes well?

Etcetera, etcetera.

I don’t need to brood over every point individually. It’s all under a big scanner. It’s like JARVIS and FRIDAY working together.

Someday I hope to train my brain like Sherlock’s, especially the Mind Palace trick. What? Always aim big!!

03. Improved Focus

The importance of focus need not be given an introduction for worshippers of good user experience. I think. Am I thinking right? Hope so.

Being in charge of quality check as well, I need to scrutinise every work looking for at least one fault. And the amount of focus that it demands might have turned me into another Dr. Strange had I stepped into Kamar-Taj instead of all the companies I have been working for.

Anyway, the point is that life as a UX researcher has taught me to focus sharply on what’s necessary, and to cut the clutter out.

Something that would have been very helpful when I was in college!

Of course, I have to shut the world out with my headphones sometimes. But now I know exactly what I should keep and what I should chuck away. This applies in:

  • daily work process, for both office and personal work
  • life, as in people
  • emotions; never letting the useless stuff pull me down anymore!
  • desk
  • hobbies
  • fandoms
  • no, not my wardrobe and my collection of shoes; I love them all 🥰

Hope you got the idea!

To be honest, life’s more sorted now. In my head, at least. 😇

04. Heightened Observation

There was a time when I used to win prizes for “Observation & Memory” games in school. That used to be in standards 1 to 4, or something like that.

As I grew up, I started losing focus, thus obscuring my observation power. Life is full of distractions, especially after puberty! Reading Sherlock Holmes and watching detective movies got me into cultivating the power of observation every now and then but it wasn’t consistent. It was triggered by the rush of the stories, and didn’t last forever. (I know, nothing lasts forever. Zip it! Please!)

But then UX came into my life, like a teacher — a good one, not the homicidal secret agents who manipulate people into becoming versions of the Black Widow. (I love her!)

With a thorough practice, my observation power started coming back to me. And this time I didn’t need Sherlock to lend me a pinch of his brain cells.

As we all know, designing a professional user experience requires a through observation of many things, that include but are not exclusive to:

  • the user flow
  • accessibility
  • colour
  • readability
  • contrast
  • requirement (let’s not forget why we got hired in the first place)
  • user psychology
  • business goals
  • interaction

And there are many more on the list.

Like meditation or exercise, when we practice something regularly, our brain adopts it. It employs the new…umm…let’s call it “gift” in every sphere it thinks necessary.

So, what’s new in my life?

Better observation, and hence better analysis, in everything.

05. OCD in Alignment

Well, umm…it’s a bit embarrassing. No, on second thoughts, it’s not. Everyone has some kind of OCD. Some have more, some have less. Some notice it, some don’t.

I’m basically Monica, and I don’t mind. 😌

One new addition to my list of OCDs is my freaking adherence to alignment. It’s been there for a few years now. It’s good and it’s bad.

The good thing is that I don’t needs rulers or grid lines or measuring tapes to tell exactly if something is out of alignment. It applies to both digital and physical stuff. This helps me a lot in:

  • quickly checking design work
  • creating my own work
  • arranging things on my desk or drawers or table or in the room — you get the idea
  • planning interior decoration (as in what goes well around what)
  • fixing things on the wall

Idk…maybe there are more instances. Just can’t recall right now.

The not-so-good part includes the same things in the list, only toppled over the edge of OCD. 😬 Sometimes it helps because it makes everything around me look neat. At other times, it makes me late and look like a creep.

Well, everything has got its good and bad, and I try to get rid of the bad part when it gets too much. But it tends to stick like a gum under the sole.

Yeah. That’s it. That’s all I had to say for now.

Conclusion:

Being a nerd in user experience has improved my cognitive skills, and has actually made my life better. It has also made me a better person.

It’s strange how something that we associate solely with designing products (both physical and digital) can also shape someone’s life.

You know why?

Because that’s what user experience is. It’s all about attending to people’s emotions. And isn’t it emotions that shape our lives, with a considerable dash of logic?

Sleep over it. 🙃

‘Bye-’bye my dear reader. Talk to you in (hopefully) a few days!

Take care! Love ya!

Oh! And keep that creative spark in you burning, gorgeous! You’re doing a great job!!

Oh-Oh!! And love yourself, buddy. Laugh a lot. It keeps your heart, lungs, skin, mind and the whole system of yours great. Live your life like a Queen or a King or Loki.

🤐

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