#TechTuesday: A Day in the Life of a UX Designer

shutterstock_250828138.jpg

Discover the three best practices that can help UX designers succeed. By Cindy Lee (Visual UX Designer, Polyvore)

For any designer, putting the user first is critical. Even the smallest of details, like a cheerful pop of color or an inviting font, can spark inspiration and lead to higher engagement on a site or app. UX design, in particular, is integral to striking the balance between product functionality and delighting the user.

At Polyvore, our UX design team works hand-in-hand with our product and engineering teams to ensure that the experience of our 20 million community members is never compromised. If you’re considering adopting a community-first approach, or wondering what this role is really about, here’s a look into a typical day for a Polyvore UX designer and three best practices for succeeding in a similar position.

The Importance of Face-to-Face Interactions

I start my workday with standups, which are 15-minute meetings with the various teams I'm working with. Each team is comprised of a PM, engineers and a UX designer. Everyone shares what they worked on the day before, what they'll be working on that day, and any blockers that need to be addressed. These meetings serve also as a gut-check to ensure the team is on track and running like a fine-tuned machine.

After these quick syncs, we'll do review designs to walk the team through any detailed interaction flows and or high fidelity visual designs. We try to create fresh and interesting ways that help keep the community we're designing for at top of mind.

For example, our team recently created physical copies of a comic book that walks through different user scenarios. The design team passed these around to engineering and product teams to keep on their desks for inspiration. Physical reminders are a great way to keep your goals in people’s minds long after the meeting ends.

Before you can engage your community, you need to engage your team in a fun, personal way.

Around 10 a.m., I'm at my workstation catching up on discussions that happened over email and making sure to take care of any urgent requests that might have come through via Slack, our internal messaging tool. After taking care of the general housekeeping things, that's when the fun begins!

I dive into the designer sandbox of tools and get started on my projects. The apps I use on a daily basis are Photoshop, Illustrator, InvisionApp and OmniGraffle. I'll usually get in a good two hours of work before lunch, but the whole time I'm accessible to the team in case they have any questions or just want to run some ideas by me.

The open floor plan, sitting co-located with the engineers, and most importantly the culture of getting things done make it super easy to get real-time feedback on my work. I swivel my chair around several times throughout the day to collaborate with other designers and/or engineers, and those face-to-face interactions make it easier for all of us to do our jobs.

Additionally, I'll check in with the insights team, our rockstar researchers who partner with our community management team, who have a direct pulse on what's happening with our members and work with them to get their perspective and get real validation from actual users. It's a vital process that helps us design the best experience.

When lunch rolls around, everyone at Polyvore’s HQ heads to the dining area, and our design team usually splits up to eat with people on other teams. When I’m catching up with other team members at lunch and at other fun events like happy hours, it’s easy to learn more about my engineering counterparts and their work styles.

Different people have different working styles -- some prefer things to be spec’d out completely “I want this 23 pixels tall,” whereas others would rather look at a mock. I learn so much about others’ work traits, hobbies and how best to work with others through these activities, and it’s made a huge impact on how well we integrate design to provide the perfect experience for our community while making working with engineering really fun.

The Importance of Iterating and Constantly Thinking about the User’s Needs

After lunch, once a week the UX team will get together for a casual working session. It's a time used to flex our creative thinking. We'll help each other get unblocked, talk about interesting trends in design, and share new tips and tricks that might help others.

Getting feedback from other designers is often drastically different from a product manager or executive’s feedback, and, for that reason, we hold these working sessions together once a week to iterate and learn. We think that keeping these meetings informal, collaborative and highly creative is a great way to get the best ideas flowing.

We talk about some interesting design trends we've been seeing lately include: big type being the new small type, ghost buttons, bright pastels and grid layouts and how we can implement them into our products. Lately, we’ve noticed other social networks using geometric shapes for user profile photos, so we’ve been discussing how that would look across our product.

It’s important to discuss whether these design trends are just passing fads, or if they can stand the test of time. If the latter, we look to see how we can personalize them for our community and make them our own.

Beyond feedback from the internal team, I also prioritize finding out what the community is saying about different designs. After every launch or design change, my team and I make it a point to report the community’s design feedback and implement their thoughts into future iterations. We can determine if a launch is successful when there isn’t a huge difference between the user feedback gathered during our testing phase and the comments we get after the launch. The UX designer who is point person for that team would collect, synthesize, and report to the broader team via Google doc or quick presentation.

Throughout the day, we’re also taking motion design into account. When most designers think about design, it’s static. They aren’t necessarily thinking about what happens after a user taps, double-clicks on a button, or what happens when you swipe the screen on the app.

It’s essential to think about these effects before you begin iterating to get a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the design. And not to mention it’s a great place to add little delighters that make our members happy.

The Importance of Leveraging Community Feedback

With the team’s most creative ideas and iterations in hand, I meet with the PM and tech lead to discuss what various implementations will look like and what user research we have to back up these decisions. We have an amazing in-house research team who bring users onsite and the designers will supplement that feedback with guerilla testing like going to the mall, cafes, or any place where it's possible to get feedback from a diverse demographic on design and user experience.

What I try to avoid is going down too far down in one direction without getting user validation early on. If it isn’t possible to get community feedback or conduct cafe studies, you can always ask friends that you think are the target audience and get their thoughts.

What may seem like a small design change can actually empower the community to embrace creativity and create their own content. The Polyvore community reacts positively to little “delightful” touches. Take a heart icon, for example. Hearts are usually more geometric and sterile, but I like to make the edges bubblier, cuter with more character. Beyond the style, I also like to use orange-red tones, because they’re happier and warmer than blue-red tones. These subtle design tweaks have been well-received by our community, and I’m always thinking about other ways to incorporate their preferences into the product.

In the late afternoon, I’m focused on individual projects. One of my recent projects involved updating our company identity to reflect the creativity of our users. Through a Polyvore typeface, I refined our visual branding with a serif font that lends itself well to fashion, a high-end font that has flair and character. These small design details make a huge difference in how people perceive your brand and interact with the product, because first impressions really do matter.

As the day comes to a close, I’ve had a healthy mix of collaborative meetings and individual project work. No one day mirrors another, but every day is completed with these three principles – engage our community, delight them every step of the way, and have fun while doing it!

What influenced your decisions when designing your UX?

Photo credit: Bartosz Budrewicz via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Cindy Lee is a Visual UX Designer at Polyvore where she focuses on mobile, web and branding design. Prior to joining Polyvore, Cindy was the Lead UI/Visual Designer at Kontagent and a UI/Visual Designer at Cisco. Cindy received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Advertising from the Academy of Art University.