Wishing to pursue a career direction in UX design, I often wonder what it’s like working as a UX designer at a big tech firm like Tencent that makes products for a large and diverse group of users. I’m also curious about how senior UX designers differ from entry-level/junior UX designers. Therefore, I reached out to a senior UX designer at Tencent, and here is our conversation.
- Could you please tell me more about yourself, and what your responsibilities are as a UX designer at Tencent?
I am a senior UX designer at Tencent. I’ve worked for ten years on product design, including desktop platform, web, mobile, and more. I’m currently working on the UX design of the commercialization of information flow in Tencent’s PCG section.
- How did you become interested in UX?
I studied Physics in college, but I love drawing since I was small. I learned Photoshop and did some design work in my junior and senior year, and then went to work in Shenzhen. At the beginning of my career, I was an editor in OPPO. I was exposed to many web design works in my job and picked up some design skills. Later on, the company established a new team to create the company’s official website and named me as a design lead of the team. After 4-5 years of work experience, I finally joined Tencent’s interaction design team, which was my dream job at the time.
- As a UX designer at a big tech firm, have you encountered any challenges? How did you solve it?
I think the biggest challenge is to find a breakthrough point in the design strategy and sell the strategy to every stakeholder, including your boss, PM, UI designers, developers, and even marketing and logistics people.
To make your design strategy persuasive, it’s important to start from the product dimension and the user dimensions. It means that you need to understand why we are making this product, this function, for whom, at what time, what location, and under what circumstances. In this way, you are able to design the core of the product and all details in it.
- Are there any tips about communicating your ideas to other stakeholders?
When presenting our design strategies, we need to stand on other people’s points of view to better explain our design thinking. For instance, if we are communicating our ideas with a PM, we need to talk about how this design solves the users’ pain points, and how it may improve the KPIs of the product; you may even propose to design some usability tests and questionnaires to make sure the design direction is right. In the case of communicating with developers, we can say how our design solution is relatively easy to realize, how to guarantee the logic is rigorous, the priority of functions, etc.
- What skills/techniques should entry-level UX designers have?
There are 4 main areas that incoming UX designers should pursue.
- Thinking. It includes product thinking, user thinking, logic, visual, and developing thinking. It would help you design, communicate, and observe.
- Horizon. You need to read and view a lot to build up your UX design knowledge, which includes interaction prototypes, user psychology, platform standards, and design flow. One day, those will become yours.
- Skills. This area includes prototyping tools, design software, usability testings, coding languages, and documenting tools. Mastering those tools will boost your efficiency at your work.
- Mind. It’s essential and crucial for UX designers to have empathy and curiosity, otherwise, they can hardly design innovative and user-centered products.
- What differentiates junior UX designers and senior UX designers?
For junior designers, the most common design method is to keep looking at competitive products, and then design by referring to competitive products’ functions. They usually are only able to design/redesign a segment of the product. On the contrary, senior UX designers often have their own design methodologies. They can use them to build up a new frame, test out, and at last make a product that is useful and unique. They are able to build out a complete product based on their own logic, even without a PM.
- how do you collaborate within design teams?
Currently, I am using two tools in my team: Dida and Figma.
Dida is a to-do-list app that helps manage tasks. The app supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and web, which allows every team member to install and use conveniently. More importantly, it allows team members to share their to-do-list with others for free so that we can see each others’ tasks and progress and allocate tasks.
Figma allows us to collaborate online simultaneously. It’s also convenient for remote discussion since you only need to send a link.
- What advice can you give to an incoming UX design professional?
I would recommend starting your early career in a big firm instead of a small startup because you can learn more about design methodologies, design standards, and business operations in a systematic way. It will help you build up a strong foundation even if you decide to pursue autonomy in a startup later on.
Recruiting-wise, storytelling is crucial in a designer’s portfolio. Tell your works as a story rather than simply showcasing prototypes and design sketches. Moreover, it’s often a lot easier to land a job by networking or reaching out to a recruiter than sending out bulk applications online.