What exactly does an experience designer do?

Digitization is changing our working world from the ground up. Therefore, new job descriptions appear. But what is hidden behind the designations? We want to make this tangible in “And what do you do?” Today: Ann Eckert, experience designer at Publicis Sapient.

What exactly does an experience designer do?

BASIC Thinking: Hi Ann, you work as an experience designer at Publicis Sapient. Describe for us in four sentences how you explain your job to friends and acquaintances.

As a digital business transformation consultancy, Publicis Sapient helps established companies achieve sustainable competitive advantage in an increasingly digital world.

In order to open up new potential for added value and growth for our customers, we work on existing digital platforms, services and products or develop them from scratch, always focusing on the user experience.

As an experience designer, I bring the users’ perspective into our projects using different methods, outline possible solutions as wireframes or prototypes and test them with the users to further improve them. To do this, I need to understand both the specific user requirements and the respective context in detail.

Everyday work as an experience designer

What does a normal day in your job look like and how do you start the day?

One of the first appointments of the day is usually “The Day”. As part of this short daily meeting, we as a project team discuss who there is a need for coordination with, e.g. where a lack of information is blocking us, or what new details there are that affect the whole team.

Then I start my tasks. In my current project, I work together with a colleague who focuses on the customer experience strategy, so-called user journeys. To do this, we conducted workshops and interviews with people from the target groups. We are currently gathering the knowledge we have gained from this.

There are phases where we work intensively together to discuss and classify results. In other phases, everyone works on their own and informs the others about the progress. We use online design or whiteboard tools that allow us to work on the same document at the same time, and not just since we started working from home.

Our work is based on an agile mindset. We openly share project status with the customer and involve everyone involved closely in our thought process. After all, it is the experts whose expertise we depend on for the success of the project. Therefore, on many days there is at least one coordination meeting or one work session with our customers.

The tasks as an Experience Designer

What tasks fall within your field and how do you personally define your job as an experience designer?

As an experience designer, it is important for me not only to meet the needs of the users, but also to surprise or challenge them in a positive way. Therefore, I see it as my job to think beyond user requirements, to inspire users with unexpected interactions or possibilities and to anticipate future needs.

It is important to align these user needs with our customers’ goals, because not all user needs fit a customer’s vision and strategy. Some typical tasks for experience designers are: Developing a deep understanding of customer requirements through workshops and work sessions.

To carry out ongoing user surveys, primary or secondary, which may have a different focus depending on the project phase
To “match” customers’ user needs and business requirements, i.e. to align them, and to visualize them using wireframes (sketches) and prototypes (clickable screen sequences).

Validating these wireframes or prototypes in user tests or deriving indications of potential for optimization based on usage data from existing applications. Collaborate across disciplines with interface designers and developers for detailing and implementation

Integration into the corporate structure

How is your position integrated into the company structure? Say: Who do you report to and who do you work with?

In general, we have pleasantly flat hierarchies at Publicis Sapient. First of all, I always feel committed to the project team because we organize ourselves, plan our tasks and availability and define together what we can achieve.

Each project or client account is managed by a management team to whom we report. For us, these colleagues are the first point of contact for all project-related challenges. From a professional point of view, we have established a system of personnel managers and managers.

My personnel manager continuously discusses the goals I want to achieve with me and supports me in my professional and personal development. The human managers are the first point of contact for everything that cannot be clarified directly in the project. I take on this role myself for some of my colleagues and draw a lot of energy from it.

The job description as experience designer

The role of the experience designer is different in every company. What perspectives are you missing that are fundamentally part of the job profile?

Right now I’m really enjoying working on a client project for which we can do extensive user research. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In-depth user research is often the first to be discarded because it is considered too expensive or time-consuming. There are also ways to perform similar investigations quickly and without much effort.

However, these options do not always apply. For example, certain target groups are difficult to approach on the street. Online recruitment via user research tools also has weaknesses. We always try to get at least an approximation to our target group and to gain relevant insight.

Fun and gratitude at work

What do you enjoy most about your job and what are you especially grateful for?

As an experience designer, you come into contact with a large number of professional areas, which you have to familiarize yourself with. This motivates me. I find it extremely exciting to keep immersing myself in new worlds, to exchange ideas with experts from other fields, to understand their ways of thinking, perspectives and needs.

My job is to continuously think about complex relationships, for example to understand processes that we need to take into account when finding a solution, or to decode dependencies in product configurations. I enjoy finding out which circumstances we can change and which are fixed.

This works best in a team. Experience design often works at the interface between different “professions” and roles. Of course, we’re not the only ones working on the user experience, we’re just the ones with it in the title. At Publicis Sapient, we work in interdisciplinary teams that combine a wide range of skills.

What unites us all is that we think and act user-centred and solution-oriented. Exchange of knowledge and experience is very important for everyone. For me, these are ideal conditions for being creative. I am especially grateful for this inspiring work environment.

How do you actually become an experience designer?

In the digital industry, there is often no longer the classic education. How did you get your position?

In my opinion, it is the exact opposite in experience design. Various educational opportunities have been established here in recent years. I started about twelve years ago as a career changer.

While studying international information management, I came into contact with topics such as human-machine interaction and usability, but I did not acquire any knowledge of design methods or interface design.

I then got involved through an internship in the Usability Research department. I gained initial experience with a wide range of applications and quickly realized that I would rather design solutions myself than “just” uncover optimization potential.

After a few years of “learning by doing” in a start-up, I got the chance at Publicis Sapient to deepen my knowledge in an international consulting company with a diverse team. To this day, I learn something new with every project. In recent years, there have been more and more young colleagues who had “User Experience Design” as the core of their studies and already bring valuable knowledge with them.

Tips for career changers

What advice would you give to a newbie or interested career changer who also wants to become an experience designer?

Don’t hesitate, just do it! We are always looking for talent. Newcomers and career changers often worry that they don’t have a large portfolio to show for themselves. That shouldn’t be a reason not to try. Of course, screenshots of specific services or products are impressive in the application.

However, a good interview will always aim to understand how to proceed, how to identify the core of a problem and develop ideas for a solution. If you can argue for your approach and back it up with concrete examples, much has been gained. Getting started is easier than you think.

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