Attention all my beautiful black people — a career in User Experience (UX) design is where it’s at.
Let’s be real for a minute, most of us want solid jobs with a nice salary. Many of us also believe you have to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or finance person to get an awesome paycheck. False. It’s time we start challenging ourselves to venture outside of what has historically been seen as a “good job.” I graduated with a psychology degree and I’m making the same entry level wages that people in those fields are making.
First, let’s start with a basic definition, “UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use and delightful to interact with.” You might see other titles associated with UX, such as UI designer, product designer, UX architect or UX researcher. These aren’t all the same thing, but they all have overlapping responsibilities and are heavily intertwined. Here’s an awesome infographic that helps break down the intricacies of this field.
Let’s get into why you should check out this field and why it’s an excellent fit for us black folk.
1. This industry is super lucrative
The tech industry is booming, every business has or is building a digital presence, and this trend is not slowing down anytime soon. Likewise, there’s an enormous demand for UX designers and there simply aren't enough good designers, meaning the barrier of entry is low. People assume that you have to be some computer wiz who knows six coding languages to start a career in tech. Let me be the one to tell you that this is far from true. You can become a UX Designer without having a technical background at all.
Furthermore, as a UX designer you get access to almost all of the same perks as a developer in the tech industry. By perks I mean competitive salaries, flexible (or unlimited) vacation time, location independence at many companies (yay for traveling!), conference budgets to continue learning, food, liquor and more liquor at the office, and much more. Also, once you become a UX designer you automatically become seen as one of those cool creative people.
2. We’ve been code-switching since day 1
We all know why we code-switch: To make our listener (usually caucasian) respect, understand and not feel threatened by us. Doesn’t mean we like it, but we do it. What we're actually doing is thinking about our user’s experience. We are thinking about how our listener will perceive us, which is what a UX Designer does every day. When designing the user experience of a product, you must be constantly thinking about how the user will perceive, judge and interpret your product. You then make adjustments to your design to promote the best understanding between the user and product.
As a minority in this country, you are eye-to-eye with various struggles every single day. We’ve experienced a range of aggressions and oppressions, which has allowed many of us to be able to empathize and identify with forms of struggle. Being able to empathize with others is an extremely important skill that every great UX designer has. Building empathy for your product’s user base will allow you to create products that eliminate struggle and pain.
For example, remember how frustrating it was to watch stories on Snapchat? You had to keep your finger held on the screen for what seemed like an eternity just to watch someone lip-sync the latest Drake song. Well, Snapchat listened to their users’ feedback and made the design decision to eliminate the need to keep your finger on the screen. This created a much more enjoyable user experience and probably increased their user engagement metrics.
4. We know how to season our food
Chicken tastes better with salt, pepper, paprika, Lowry’s, etc. We’ve been throwing down in the kitchen for centuries. We know how to turn an otherwise grotesque dish (read: chitterlings) into something edible. If that’s not a superb example of creativity, I’m not sure what is. Fostering creativity is a major key to being a great designer. This does not mean you have to be a world-renowned artist, and I’ll be the first to say that I can’t illustrate for sh*t. However, creativity doesn’t just mean making beautiful art pieces, it also means creating experiences in a way that others don't. Or thinking outside of the box to design a solution when you’re up against a dozen constraints. It also means finding creative ways to effectively communicate when you can’t just explain something with words.
Finding what makes you creative is the first step to designing innovative and delightful user experiences.
5. We need stuff designed FOR black people BY black people
This point is probably the most important and merits its own blog post, but in short, we as black people deserve to have products designed for our own unique needs. There’s no better way to do that than to actually do it ourselves. It’s extremely difficult to convince a board of white stakeholders (men usually) why it’s not okay to use a policeman icon to symbolize help or care in an app designed mainly for black people (yes, this really did happen to a friend of mine). If we were designing our own applications, there would be no need to explain.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to at least do a quick Google search on UX. Getting started might seem intimidating at first, but there’s a ton of resources to help you out. Many UX designers (including myself) are heavily self-taught and they succeed at this by constantly reading and absorbing content.
Here’s a few links to get you started, and if you ever want to chat more about UX feel free to hit up your girl on Twitter.