Susan Rits is a User Experience (UX) Designer who worked at Time Warner, Fox, and Google. She is founder and CEO of Zazum, based in San Francisco. Jay Woodruff interviewed her in March.
Give us your Tweetable definition of a UX Designer. UX designers live to wipe out tech rage—we make using software a pleasure.
How’d you get into this racket? I moved to NYC out of grad school planning to be a playwright. But I got to Brooklyn about the same time as the Web did, and it sucked me in. I loved the combination of art and technology, and being one of the first in the city to know anything about designing and building websites. I had a lot of work from ABC, CNNfn, Time Warner—I designed the first NY1 website ever—and Fox, and tons of other places.
It was while I was redesigning the CNNfn website (a.k.a. Money.com) and doing user studies that I began to understand what user experience was all about: helping people use the website without getting frustrated or lost. Not blaming the users when the interface is so bad they can’t make it work. Then I read a book called Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, and everything gelled for me.
What do you tell civilians you do for a living? Commercial artist. Most people blanch when I say User Experience or UX.
Caged death match, UX vs. UI (user interface), who prevails and why? Always UX. Think architect vs. interior decorator. The right color paint isn’t going to hold the wall up. Always go with the UX person. They’re UI on steroids—they think through the process instead of just how to make the buttons look good. And they can usually make the buttons look good, too.
What’s the weirdest real digital job title you can think of? Technology Evangelist—what you have to have if you don’t have a good UX designer.
What advice do you have for a 22-year-old contemplating a future in UX design? Study the masters: Krug, Alan Cooper, and, of course, Steve Jobs. In fact, just study Apple and you’ll understand why UX is so very, very important.