A Conversation with Facebook Product Designer

 

The Product Design team at Facebook is located at their headquarter, Menlo Park, CA. Scott, Product Designer at Facebook, was very willing to speak to me and explain his opinion on the exploding UX field. We had a phone conversation for about an hour, discussing how his job looks like at Facebook. I had learned a lot more than I expected and this conversation had brought me into a real situation where how UX designer works in the real life.

As UX design is fairly a new field in the industry, it is important to understand what it is. UX design not only includes HCI skills but also extends itself by addressing all aspects of a product from users’ perspectives. UX designers combine their research and design skills together to understand the user needs and create designs that people want to use. However, if you want to become a UX designer, what kind of degree should you have? It is not until recent several years when some schools started the programs explicitly pointing to a UX design degree. Before this, most of the UX designers come with a degree in HCI, graphic design, communication design, computer science, and interaction design. Moreover, one could come with a background in psychology, anthropology, education, information science, or education. Designers in the traditional industry, like graphic designers, interaction designers, or user interface designers were the first group of people who started doing UX work. They not only needed to rely on their design skills, but also developed new skills with software and technology. Nowadays, more and more people are transitioning into the field from various backgrounds. To me, with a background in education, I sometimes have concerns about my qualifications when looking at UX designer job descriptions. However, I could develop and train my software and design skills by learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Photoshop, Sketch, etc. In order to prepare myself with more experience in UX design, I should not only learn things from classes, but also practice my skills and look for UX projects I’m interested in to finish on my own. In this way, I could use the school years to transit myself into a qualified UX designer in the near future.

 

User research in UX design is essential before the actual design work starts.

As introduced by Scott, design process at Facebook includes 6 steps – data research, whiteboarding, design, prototyping, testing, and ship. Although UX design may needs a lot of design work, a large amount of research is very important before the actual design phase. It is very critical for UX designers to discover any user issues or needs before a new product is created. To discover what kind of product is in necessity, or what the problem an existed product has, is the key to success when UX designers design or redesign a product. During my conversation with Scott, he mentioned that as product designers at Facebook, they don't work with customers directly. A lot of meetings and discussions need to be done before any design is created. His day at Facebook is usually packed with meetings with different roles and teams in the company. There are more than 200 product designers working on one app at Facebook. Majority of the time they are conducting user research and analysis on what kind of design needs to be created. While working with the Facebook marketing partners, product designers need to have meetings and conduct user testing with them as well.

 

UX Designers need to work with many other roles in the organization and should always keep a good relationship with them.

UX designer plays an important role in the design team at a tech firm. However, there are many other roles that a UX designer needs to collaborate with while working on one or multiple projects. The most important roles are engineers and product managers. Engineers help UX designers to make their design function in a web browser or on a device. If UX designers create prototypes, wireframes or user flow diagrams, engineers turn the design works into codes to test browser compatibilities. Product managers manage a project from the beginning to the end. Although they need to understand user behaviors as well as designers, they also focus on prioritization, business modeling, metrics, stakeholder input, project management, and scope planning. At Facebook, Product designers not only work with engineers or product managers, they also work with content strategists, product marketing managers, regional product marketing managers, client solutions managers, technical program managers, executive researchers, data scientist, quality assurance, etc. Therefore, understanding the importance of teamwork not only ensures the cohesiveness of the products, but also maintains a harmonious work environment.

Thinking about the future of UX design, we expect to see UX evolve as technology and Internet continues to affect our lives. The job title or job tasks may also continue to be changing as technology grows. As future UX designers, we should be aware of constant changes in technology and be always ready to learn and to adjust ourselves to fit in the field.

Menglu Gao