A day in the life of a UX/UI designer

By Aart Balk
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A day in the life of a UX/UI designer

Hi, I’m Aart Balk, senior UX/UI designer at Acclaro. As a UX/UI designer on the Acclaro product team, my main focus is on My Acclaro, our Translation Management platform.

My work there encompasses the complete design spectrum, from research, wireframes and prototypes, to quality assurance and product marketing. I also design materials for the marketing team, such as emails, landing pages, corporate info sheets, digital assets and, yes, PowerPoint presentations. And lastly, on rare occasions, I’ll put some thoughts on paper and write a blog article — not my strongest skill, but I’ll give it my best.

Is there such a thing as a typical day in the life of a UX/UI designer? It would sound more exciting to say there isn’t. But, generally speaking, my activities do follow a certain pattern, with some variations and surprises thrown in to keep things interesting.

Morning in lockdown

I live in England, and start off my day by walking over to the study to greet my adopted pet spider, Charlotte, who made the window of my study her new home. Lockdowns create interesting, new relationships, don’t they? I eat my peanut butter sandwich and drink my coffee while I read the news and ponder the state of the world I have woken up to.

Once convinced that the apocalypse has not arrived, or not yet at least, I happily exchange my worldly concerns for the daily turmoil of going through my email.

The work — and the day’s playlist — begin

There are usually a significant amount of emails to go through since my colleagues in the U.S. kept working for about five hours after I shut down my laptop yesterday. I delete any spam and flag the emails I need to react to. Now, the actual work can begin. That is after I put on my headphones and decide which playlist is appropriate for my current mood.

I start with quick and easy-to-answer questions and comments. Those usually concern new or updated comps and prototypes I recently posted for review. I use Sketch and InVision to create prototypes and collaborate with colleagues on design projects for My Acclaro. If the updates are small, I do them immediately. I save larger changes for later in the day unless they are needed urgently.

Reviewing & prioritizing new requests

Next up are the requests for new stuff. Marketing has a lot of that, especially with regular updates to materials and branding. I evaluate the requests, ask questions for clarification of the jobs or confirm receipt. For our marketing department, these requests range from relatively simple, such as images for social media or blog posts, to more elaborate and complex, like the creation of a new design for our e-Books or corporate PowerPoint decks.

I can’t share specific details about what we’re currently working on, but I can guarantee it will be amazing. With so many things going on, I again prioritize the quick and easy tasks to get them out of the way. Later in the day, I spend an hour or two focusing on the ongoing projects that require more attention.

I follow the same strategy for requests from our product team and take care of quick updates first. We are constantly rolling out new features for My Acclaro, so there’s a lot going on from a design perspective. I quickly add a screen to a prototype on InVision to show how a user might interact with the page and change the labels on some buttons.

Then, it’s time to read through the requirements in service GitHub tickets newly assigned to me. On one, I add some comments about the problem we’re trying to solve. On another, I decide I need to do some research first and ask for additional information to fully understand the issue at hand. Ideally, I talk to end-users to ensure my understanding of the problem.

Workflows and prototypes

Once my need for information is satisfied, I’m ready to work on a proposed solution. More complex features involving multiple steps in a user journey usually require a workflow or schema of some sort. As a designer, those help me think through the big picture. They also help developers understand user flow and underlying technical requirements.

Once I have a workflow, my next step is to create the first draft of a clickable prototype in Sketch that will show how the proposed solution works. When it’s finished, I post it to InVision and invite colleagues to comment on it. That kicks off a process that continues until we are satisfied we have a suitable candidate for development. Whenever possible, we try to present our prototype to end-users to get their feedback.

Lunchtime break

By now, I’ve changed my playlist a couple of times depending on my mood and need for concentration, and lunchtime has arrived. I do a quick check on Charlotte, have some toast with Edam “imported from Holland” cheese and enjoy a little break with my lovely fiancée. Then, I’m ready to get back to the remaining part of the work day. I try to get some more work done before my U.S. colleagues come online, because various meetings are on the agenda for later in the afternoon. The blessings of Zoom.

Afternoon meetings & a progressive rock energy boost

I start by meeting with the product team. We go over the current state of the sprint, discuss progress, hold ups and brainstorm potential new features for our platform. Afterward, we have a meeting with stakeholders to keep them up to date on our progress and present new solutions and feature proposals. Our stakeholders are closely involved in our product design and today our discussions are fun, lively, passionate and lead to new ideas.

With a little time left after meetings, I wrap up some loose ends before the day finishes. I relax with some ambient noise on the headphones. But then I decide I need a pick-me-up, so I venture into something more energetic with Tool and The Mars Volta.

Then finally, I say goodbye to Charlotte and hello to the evening.

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