Why architects make great UX designers

User experience design requires technical curiosity and user advocacy -- a natural for architects (even the kind who design buildings for a living).
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Architects may be ideal candidates to be user experience (UX) designers. In this context, Gavin Johns, a licensed architect, says architects -- the ones that design buildings, that is -- have the chops to serve as software designers. "As an architect, you have been trained to shape the world according to millennia of design discourse. Giving form to culture is a skill that calls on all the senses and requires a deep understanding of how people interact with their environment," he points out.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Perhaps the type of architects we talk about here on these pages -- enterprise architects -- are also experts at understanding how people interact with their environments. They are ideally suited for roles as UX designers. This kind of thinking is desperately needed in the emerging digital world, Johns says. "By questioning the new environments created through software, we have the opportunity to shape our world through a different medium."

So, taking the broadest definition of architect there is -- to include both building as well as enterprise architects -- let's takle a look at Johns' eight reasons why an architectural mindset is well suited for UX design:

"Your design process is identical," he points out. "You understand to design anything properly, you must first understand the problem." You know how to bring together the right parties to evaluate and plan the final product.

Architects also know how to be advocates. They give voice to the requirements -- and know how to read the intentions -- of the people involved in the process.

Architects also bring "a fresh and relevant perspective," says Johns. "UX designers are digital architects and we can all learn from each other."

Architects also are technically minded. "Not just 'I-know-lots-of-software' technical, but 'I-know-how-things-go- together' technical," says Johns.

Plus, architects know how to "design for people," Johns also points out. This is true of architects as well as UX designers. "You have the user's best interest at heart -which requires consistently hearing and understanding them."

Finally, architects know how to "push innovation," he says. This is ultimately the role of the architect, as it is the UX designer. "You still need to work collaboratively to push innovation, defend design decisions, and try new things even when they're uncomfortable for most people." Well said.

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