Introducing Ian Fenn
Ian is something of a legend in the UX community, having worked as an independent UX consultant for almost 20 years, for clients such as BT, Virgin Media & the BBC. He's an experienced writer and teacher on designing effective portfolios, helping designers land the jobs they've always wanted.
His upcoming book Designing a UX Portfolio, published by O'Reilly Media is due for ebook release later in 2015 with the print publication due in 2016. You can sign up to be notified of when it is available at lobsterbook.com.
I’d like to start with a little background. How did you become a UX designer?
My first job was as a computer operator, managing mainframes and dumb terminals. Very 'War Games'. But then I managed to move into radio production and presentation. I worked as a radio producer and reporter for five years or so. Then the web came along and I realised that I could get a role doing both computing and editorial. And that was that. I started at a small digital agency then joined the BBC. That was almost 20 years ago.
Your upcoming book focuses on designing a UX portfolios. Many designers are moving into UX from more traditional fields like graphic or web design, yet their struggle to present their work. What are the most common misconceptions about UX as a discipline?
The most common misconception is that designing a user interface makes you a UX designer. You may have created a user interface that will lead to a user experience, but 'UX designer' is shorthand for somebody who works with a team to ensure the end design is user-centered. They use tools such as usability testing, contextual enquiry, etc., to ensure that user needs are met. The user interface is just the end result.
You must deal with a lot of younger designers starting out their careers. What’s the one skill you’d advise younger designers to improve upon?
Communication and facilitation skills. Over the past five years or so we’ve seen these skills become much more important. Roles where you conduct research and then sit in front of a wireframing tool are becoming less common. The role of UX designer is now more about helping teams to arrive at the right design - and that means facilitating and communicating well.
UX designer, UI designer…. As an industry, design seems to be obsessed with defining and specialising these roles. Are they all same?
No, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart – and that’s why having and maintaining a UX portfolio is really important. A UX portfolio allows you to clearly explain your skillset regardless of job title, and that can help you avoid the wrong job and get yourself into the right one.