Through this interview series “UX STAR”, we provide a learn-from-peer approach for the UX space from diverse perspectives and make UX more understandable to the public. We invite UX practitioners and professionals, instead of focusing on UX theory or knowledge itself, to share their insights about UX, the inspirations they got along the way, and how a local community is engaged in different regions.
We welcome Onkardeep Singh to this interview, organizer of User Experience Meetup — For Beginners in London, sharing his insights and experience about User Experience (UX). Onkardeep has worked in the UX industry and is an expert in user interface design. Besides being an organizer of the community, Onkardeep works also as a Senior User Experience Designer at Three UK.
Getting into User Experience (UX) was a natural progression
It has been already 10 years ago since Onkardeep landed his first UX job as a UI/UX Designer. At the beginning of his UX career, he was mainly involved in the development of site-wide user interface design including sitemaps, wireframes and functional documentation. Back then UX wasn’t well established and many of his clients didn’t realize the value of having UX person allocated to a project. Driven and extremely devoted about being a UI/UX Designer, he continued to pursue this UX career path taking on positions such as Usability Specialist, Visual Designer, and Senior UX designer.
“In many ways getting into UX was a natural progression for me as it combines the three things I am passionate about. As a UXer, you have to combine business, technology, and creativity. When I found out that there’s actually a role which brings all of the three elements together I knew that’s exactly what I want to do.”
Onkardeep vividly remembers the first time he ever heard about user experience. During one of the projects, he worked with a controller to create wireframes for a dashboard. When he found out that creating wireframes is also part of UXer, Onkardeep was taken back by surprise. He felt astonished that there is actually a company that specializes in creating only wireframes to enhance user experience and establish a solid user experience. “Looking back, I can definitely see the logic behind it and its connection with UX”. Soon after, Onkardeep couldn’t wait to learn more about it. He directly started to look for training or certification possibilities.
From creating wireframes to establishing the UX career
We asked Onkardeep to share his perspective on how he would describe UX to the general audience. For Onkardeep, a simple and straightforward way to describe UX is by using an analogy. “I like to compare the work as UXer with an architect since everybody knows that the architect is responsible for drawing and designing the plan of a building. UXer needs the same set of skills as an architect but then has to apply it with digital products”.
Onkardeep feels very lucky and grateful for landing several UX positions throughout his career. He passionately shared he enjoyed every day of it. He never would have thought that at the beginning of his career creating wireframes would lead to a successful career in the UX industry.
His passion for business and technology became already clear early on when he started out with a university degree in Management Science. It was still somewhat an unexpected opportunity when Onkardeep received to work as a UI/UX Designer. In hindsight, he realized it’s actually a suitable step for moving into the first depths of what he is currently doing.
“Back then I didn’t even know UXer is a possible career path. The UX field had not been clearly defined yet and you had people coming from product design, graphic design, business backgrounds, and other differing backgrounds”. Fast forwarding to the present, people can actually study and work towards becoming a professional UXer.
Onkardeep further explained, “The UX roll itself is evolving constantly”. With the evolution of technology, the industry is rapidly fast and has increased the demand for UX design.
“I want people to learn more about UX because we are working more and more with digital products. Everyone is heavily relying on them too, which makes it increasingly important to educate people in this area. UX plays such an important role in the uptake of creating better products”.
The limit motivated Onkardeep to Built the UX Community
During his career in the UX industry, Onkardeep was asked numerous times about his UX job. Many people were interested and eager to learn more about UX and what UX career exactly would entail.
“There were a lot of product owners and other people in technology interested to further incorporate UX in their profession”. Encouraged by the high demand of people wanting to learn about UX and the limited courses available further persuaded him to start his own UX meetup in London. From his own experience, many of the courses available were very expensive at that time.
Onkardeep further pointed out that his motivation to set up these meetups is to deliver content to people that help them on top of the courses they’ve already done. He felt there was not enough differentiation between content in the existing courses, training, and workshops. In a way, this has limited the diversity of thinking about UX.
The meetups have grown into a tight and engaging community for people to help, learn and inspire each other. Additionally, attendees can join free networking on the Slack channel available. Onkardeep enthusiastically shares, “It is the perfect opportunity to meet other like-minded people, pick up real-life charity projects to add to your portfolio and keep the discussion going after the meetups.”
The meetups are specifically targeting for those completely new to UX. However, for those who are already familiar to UX, there is General Assembly course. It is valuable for those who want to stand out from other designers to get additional UX skills.
When we asked Onkardeep how he would describe his community, Onkardeep without any doubt says “I think ambitious is a good word to describe the community in one word. Everyone I meet is really like energetic and wanting to create a change for themselves, whether they want to apply it further into their career or they are just passionate about learning something new. I think ambition is really nice to see because often people end up working doing the same thing for many years. What’s cool about this community is that people are really wanting to learn and they’re ambitious to do things with that learning. That’s truly amazing to see.”
Learnings and Challenges Along the Way
“I have always been pushing the boundaries on what’s possible and what’s technically feasible in order to create a better experience for the customers. This has been a rewarding experience for me. However, this doesn’t come without challenges”. Having such broad and a vast amount of experience in UX, Onkardeep shared some of the learnings and challenges.
“One of which is the comprise you have to make between the business priorities, technical feasibility, and the user experience. The key is to bring these elements together and find a solution that works best for everyone. Based on my personal experience in the different projects I worked on, this always came up. Knowing where to push further and where to settle is one of the important learnings”.
Onkardeep further commented “Some of the skills that I have developed over the course of being a UXer working in the digital, technology and branding space, I’ve also applied in volunteer projects for smaller charities and NGOs. I like to help them because obviously, this is always the problem that the resources are tied, money is short, especially in the voluntary sector with nonprofit organization”.
Curious whether there were any challenges in regard to the UX meetups and the next step for the community, we asked Onkardeep to share this with us.
“Of course, there is always some logistical challenges such as finding a venue space, speakers, find the right date to hold the events, the number of events as well as finding some funding”. Onkardeep further explained, “It’s harder to organize the actual physical events since there are more costs associated with it. I would like to increase the amount that we are running, but hopefully, over the course of the year, this can be done”. A great solution can be running more webinars. “It’s a convenient and economical way to educate a large group of people, but also grow the community by getting more people involved”.
At the same time, Onkardeep realizes that having a large community, it will become increasingly more difficult to get everyone engaged in the community. Therefore, focusing on building a level of trust among people in the community is an important ambition.
Q&A Talk with Onkardeep
Q: What do you like to do when you are not UXing?
I play a lot of racquet sports. I mainly play badminton, squash and table tennis. I like to play as much as possible, at least once or twice a week. And then, just meeting friends, going to the countryside as much as possible, getting outside, it’s a bit difficult in the winter in the UK, but it’s nicer when it gets a bit warmer. I like to travel and see new places and experience new cultures. Also, there’s the community work and some volunteer work I am involved in.
Q: If you could give an aspiring UX junior any advice, what would it be?
There are a lot of people going through design training now, and it’s exponentially increasing. So, try to differentiate yourself from others. If you’re doing a course and a lot of other people are doing it, try to bring something else to your skill set through some other training, webinars or meetups that will help you to build up some level of differentiation. It will help you to make you stand out amongst the other designer.
Digital skills are also very important, especially nowadays, when we want to ensure that messages are given clearly to people. Obviously, there is countless software available, like content management — that can just be plugged and played and set up quite easily. However, if someone can help with that, and also bring the UX hat to it, you can quickly and easily create things that can also be used for smaller charities and NGOs which don’t necessarily have the funds to undergo the full design process.
Q: What is your favorite quote about UX?
I think Einstein made some very interesting quotes about simplicity. One of the quotes about this was as followed “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I think that’s a really nice quote because UX is also about making things simpler. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do. But if you take out too much of the complexity, then it stops also serving its purpose.