Icebreaker introduction — What does a UX designer do

What do UX designers actually do

Note: So this is a speech that I did on a Toastmaster night where I stand in front of a life audience and do a 5–7 minute icebreaker talk to introduce myself and what I do. I decided to challenge myself by trying to explain what UX designer does to an audience that has no design background because as all designers will agree, UX is hard to explain.

Hello everyone, I am Tim. This is my 2nd toast masters night, and last time I was the time keeper and I shared some interest stats with time average. I was told I was the first to do that. This is something that you kind of have to do when you have a statistics degree.

But what I have in my degree has apparently nothing to do with what I do as a living now. I am an User Experience designer working for the Digital Insurance team.

So I work as an User Experience designer, does anyone heard of that phrase? Does anybody know what we actually do. You do? okay you may leave now. (hahaha) Can you tell me what you think they do?

The way I define UX is that it is a systematic process to think about how you want users to experience your product or service.

So how do we design an experience? I want you to imagine a scenario, in this case we are going to create booth to introduce a Toast master club to fellow HSBC employees. You are going to be an event planner, and you want to let people know what the club does and why they should join.

Now how are you going to plan for the events. Well, you going to have to think about a lot of things. In general, there are 3 things that people cares about:

  1. What is toast masters?
  2. Why I should care/join?
  3. How do I join?

But first things first, when people enters the room, they need to know they are in the right place, entering the right room. Maybe a big toast masters logo or flag so they know they are in the right place.

Next thing they might have in mind is “what is toast masters”, and maybe we need a whiteboard and have a few bullet point explaining what it is.

Maybe we should have some a laptop playing videos or pictures of past events so that people can imagine how fun it would be to be part of the club.

Maybe they are interested now and wanted to join the club, so we will need an area where people and sign-up and fill in the form or whatever.

Maybe they still have questions or are uncertain about how things work, so we are going to have people like Chih and Janet to stand there and explain to people, answer queries.

Even better if!

Oh wait! To make people feel even better and have a great experience, maybe we should prepare some snacks and drinks. Perhaps we should have signs outside the lobby pointing to the right direction so its super easy to find this room? Perhaps we can also set up a toilet sign as well? Or maybe thats too many signs?

So that was easy to imagine, right? Now I want you to imagine the same scenario, having a booth. But in this case, no one is standing around explaining how things work. Now this becomes slightly more challenging isn’t it? Now it becomes a help yourself exhibition and everything has to be self-explanatory and ultra clear. Otherwise, people will come in, be confused, and leave.

There is actually a lot of similarities between building a website and creating a booth with no one standing around. On a website, the user has to figure out where things are and how things work on their own. In the previous example, we talk about having a logo when people enters the room, same principle applies online, when you land on the website you need a clear logo of toastmasters so that you know you are in right place.

And then in a logical order, you are going to want to find out what is ToastMasters, why you should join and how to join, right? So the way we organize information on the website, or what we called information architecture has to mirror how you think, we call this your mental model. If the design doesn’t match that model, you will have a difficulty finding what you need.

You might wonder, how do we know what is the users mental model? The truth is, we don’t! We do what I call “Guess it and test it”. We kind of have a vague idea of how people think, but we are not our users, so we find out by testing. Through testing, we continue refine the design until what we have matches what users are thinking. We call this User Testing.

If you are interested for seeing how user testing works, come talk to me after this and I can see how I can arrange you to witness one. Also, I actually have written some articles for user experience beginners on Medium, feel free to check it out at timchan171. Thank you! (clap)

The beauty of showing up and doing a speech on a toastmaster night, is that you get to have other experienced public speakers to evaluate your speech. Now I was told the good thing about the speech was that it was very structured, but apparently I didn’t give enough eye contact to the audience, so audience in the back will feel left out. Now that I know where my weakness is, I can focus on addressing it for next time.

  1. NEVER ever use untested jokes in front of a live audience. I did and it fall flat, luckily the speech I prepared was long enough and I memorized it, so I can quickly talk about something else.
  2. Practicing reading it aloud is not enough — Because I was unable to see myself on my own performance, I wont be able to catch my body language, and I believe I wasn’t using my body enough and the energy level of the speech was not as high as I wanted it do be.



Hong Konger in Vancouver. Previous Product Design Lead @ HSBC. I give you the no BS truth about the UX industry and help you climb the design ladder.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tim Chan

Hong Konger in Vancouver. Previous Product Design Lead @ HSBC. I give you the no BS truth about the UX industry and help you climb the design ladder.