I come to User Experience from the path of Human Factors. To me, both terms point to the same job which is human-centered design, and I can’t for the life of me understand when the great schism took place, but it clearly did, and here we are.
I love human-centered design because it combines disciplined problem solving with open-ended solutions. Every task is different, and therefor every interface is different. Creativity is built into the job, and to me that’s wonderful.
I also enjoy being an advocate for the user. I find it highly rewarding to spend my days trying to make someone else’s day better.
I majored in mechanical engineering, and hopefully it shows that I’m capable of understanding complex problems and working them through to solutions. I’ve also taken coursework in cognitive psychology, human-computer interaction, sensation & perception, and behavioral research methods.
I like user research. Whether it’s background ethnographic user understanding, job-specific user feedback, one-on-one usability testing, focus groups, or questionnaires, I can do it. I can plan the study, create test materials, run the study, process the data, and I can write a formal report. I’m good with numbers and analytics and trying to find the truth behind the data. Additionally, and more importantly, I’m good at summarizing research data understandably and providing it to the team so that we all can make an informed decision.
I can code in html and CSS, but not well enough to be a developer.
In the past I’ve used Axure and Adobe Muse to make interactive prototypes. But if you have a different kind of software that you use, just let me know and I can learn it. One of the bonuses of being an interaction designer is the ability to quickly learn and understand new interfaces.
I think that my best skill is usability insight. I can see user problems without necessarily being told about them. It’s one thing to conduct a user test where the user says “I need X.” and then just giving it to them. It’s another thing to look at the usability problem, see an issue, and ask the user “Do you think that X would be a good idea?” and have them respond, “Yes! That would be very helpful. Thanks.” I’m good at finding opportunities like that.
I can work fast and responsively. I can work slow and methodically.
In my career I’ve done the grunt work, I’ve done the design work, and I’ve also done the higher level tasks as well: managing customer opinions/expectations, managing subcontractors, generating requirements, writing contracts and SOWs, and giving presentations to large groups.
A good thing about my human factors background is that many of those tools and analyses that you learn there are independent of user research. User research is great but it’s also a luxury which isn’t always present, because sometimes your task has a user already and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you’re trying to go somewhere where nobody has been before.