And what it has to do with car design?
Many attempted to answer this question. Some answers are good some less. But most are over complicated.
UX Design is the design of Software (apps, websites, systems).
UX Designer to a software is what an Automotive Designer to a car.
Here is what Wikipedia says about Automotive Designer's role (in the description below try replacing all the 'car' words with 'software'):
“Automotive design is the process of developing the appearance, and to an extent the ergonomics, of motor vehicles, including automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, coaches, and vans.
The functional design and development of a modern vehicle are typically done by a large team from many different disciplines including automotive engineering; however, design roles are not associated with requirements for professional or Chartered-Engineer qualifications.
Automotive design in this context is primarily concerned with developing the shape and the appearance of the vehicle.”
And this is what the definition would look like for the UX Design:
“UX design is the process of developing the functionality, and to an extent, the appearance, of software, including mobile applications, websites, large systems and blended* products.
The functional development of software is typically done by a large team from many different disciplines including software engineering; however, design roles are not associated with requirements for Software-Engineer qualifications.
UX Design in this context is primarily concerned with developing the structure of the software, its flow, and it's behaviour in different scenarios.”
(There is a description of the UX discipline on Wikipedia, but even I'm not sure I understand what UX is about after reading it.)
Similar to Automotive Designer, UX Designer doesn’t need to have Engineering qualifications, but she needs to have an understanding of technology and its limitations (same as Automotive Designer better know a thing or two about cars).
The UX Process
Very similar to Automotive Design the process of UX Design begins with understanding what customers want and need. In the automotive design it's defining what the car will be used for - is it going to be driving families? Will it be used to drive through a wild terrain?
And then talking to, and observing, how people with families or people that drive through wild territories use current their current cars and figuring out what is missing and what can be improved in order to design a better car.
The same is true for UX. If we need to design an application for education or the financial industry we will look at the people who will be using it to understand how they complete tasks today so we can create a better solution for them.
After the research is completed prototypes are developed and tested and the software is built by the development team. Unlike a car, that once it has been released into the market there is little manufacturer can do (this is now being challenged by companies like Tesla) software can (usually) be continuously tested and improved further.
UX Designer is a member of software development team where he/she is responsible for the design of the software and ensures that the it has all the features and functionality that the user needs and that it is easy and delightful to use.
*Blended product is a product that has both digital and real-world aspects. UX/Service Designer needs to make sure that both experiences work seamlessly for the user.
Was this description helpful? Can you now imagine what it might be like to be a UX Designer? Let us know if we managed to paint a somewhat clear picture of UX practice in your mind's eye.