The Normal Abnormality of UX: An Interview with Pablo-Alejandro Quinones

I recently spoke with Pablo-Alejandro Quinones, who works as a UI Designer at TheLathe (part of Greyhealth Group [ghg]), a “digital design and development company focused on helping healthcare organizations utilize technologies to connect patients, caregivers, and professionals.” We talked about the early days of UX, the importance of communication, and inspiration boards.

[Please note that Pablo’s answers in this transcript are not verbatim; the interview was recorded by hand.]

Where do you currently work and what is your job title?

I work at TheLathe, which is part of a larger group of agencies called Greyhealth. I used to be a UX Product Designer and now I’m a UI Designer.

What is your educational background?

I have a PhD in Information Science, and a BA in Psychology.

What interested you in UX?

’UX’ didn’t exist when I was doing my undergrad degree. It was called “human factors” or “human computer interaction” (HCI).  I was in a dual degree program where you sort of had to do HCI as a second part of the degree…[it was like] an ‘accelerated master’s’…As for how I got into [UX], I was working at a research lab at Carnegie Mellon’s HCI Institute. People only started using ‘UX’ as a term around 2005.

What does a normal work day look like for you?

The only thing normal [about the work day] is how abnormal it is. I have a short list of what I’ll work on that day—if there’s something needed urgently, I’ll work on that first.

Have you ever had to advocate for UX? Have you ever been in a situation where clients/higher-ups felt that improving user experience didn’t need to involve any users—they thought all decisions could be made by the so-called “experts?”

Definitely. One of the places where I worked was run by engineers. The engineers didn’t have experience with UX professionals; they thought they knew what UX was. I think it’s really common in companies who don’t have a UX team. They just don’t have experience with UX.

I noticed that there can sometimes be a disconnect between programmers and UX Researchers/Designers; have you ever had this issue?

Yes, I had to try to explain things to [the programmers]…It depends on the programmer and where the focus is. UX professionals’ jobs are to go back and fix something. It’s definitely a challenge in the field. I’m lucky that I’ve done some development.

It’s something I’m concerned about; even though I know the basics, I feel as if I should know more programming in order to succeed in the field.

It does help to have programming experience. Know some HTML and CSS, know the basis of object-oriented programming languages. Another one of the challenges is that UX people, when we design something, might have programmers say ‘I can’t do that.’ You should know the capabilities of the languages.

But it’s not only the programmers. Sometimes it’s the project manager—as it is for any field…everyone has to communicate well with each other; you should understand what everyone does [in order to communicate better].

Do you have any advice for aspiring UX professionals? Can you recommend any resources that you think would be valuable to seek out, remain on the cutting edge of the field?

Have an inspiration board of sorts. Whenever I see a website I like, I take a screenshot of it…Say you’re in a brainstorming session and you have to come up with a conceptual design. If you don’t know where to start, it’ll take more time, will be more difficult.

As for resources, I had a time when I was trying to design a mobile version of a site…I went to UX Patterns [e.g., Pttrns] and looked around, made an assessment of what to use.


Thank you, Pablo, for taking the time to speak with me!