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Do UX Designers Need to Learn Computation?

What is computation? Is it computer science? Some kind of programming? Most designers will freak out when hearing the term compute, computation, or computational ‘thing’. I wouldn’t even think about it if there was no Computational Media class in ITP. The term computational captivated my sight to seek further definitions. And how can it relate to User Experience?

Most people believe that computation is somehow a thing that relates to computer. Yes, I’d say that too. But scientists have been researched this term’s definition since Turing machine was invented. From their perspectives, it is a term that its definition will never be settled because new discoveries continuously create new insights. Peter J. Denning, in his publication: “What is Computation?“, stated that computation is not always tied with computers or algorithms. It also supports the definition of computational thinking, which is an approach to problem solving using structural logics.

Yes, computation is not the same as programming! Computation relates to how we solve problems based on logics. Meanwhile programming (or coding) is how to develop programs by transforming lines of code into visual interface.

As UX jobs increase rapidly nowadays, there’s always a question whether UX designers need to learn computation (not programming!). UX designers are responsible in creating positive experience, including interaction between user and the gadgets. Marina Yalanska, a CMO of Tubik Studio, said that the core aspects of user experience are usability, utility, accessibility, and desirability. Usability means how easy the product to be used. Utility means how to solve user’s problems. Accessibility means how it can be used to all users. And desirability relates to how users are willing to use it again in the future. These 4 aspects are what UX designers need to think about.

The positive experience cannot be created just by making of the output design. There are so many things to think about behind it. In this perspective, the computational thinking is required. To reach those 4 aspects, UX designers always need to think: how to solve user’s problems? The process is step by step from this question until making visual output. It needs structural steps to solve user’s problems.

Computation relates to computational thinking and how to make and use computers, including exploration of visual interface, interactions, and data operations. Thus, having a knowledge in computation is great to create problem-solving products which considering the core aspects.

I’ve been working as a UX designer previously. In my experience, a UX designer doesn’t immediately come up with final design. We need to go through some process. Here’s the example process of what I’ve been done in a project.

Example of UX Process. Icons from
Example of UX Process. Icons from

While trying to solve user’s problems, UX designers need to conduct user research from the beginning. Therefore, they would think over the logic, interactions, data operations, transitions, animations, usability, engagingness, etc. that will create the whole positive experience to the users. The core aspects also need to be in mind while designing the products.

One of my previous projects was making a prototype for deaf students to learn English (yes, English is not my first language) — called TalkinEnglish. In this project, I needed to think deeply about the proper interaction that is convenient with deaf students. The output of this project was a prototype for mobile apps. With the knowledge of computation, I was designing the output step by step from scratch.

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TalkinEnglish app to help students with hearing impairments learn English
TalkinEnglish app to help students with hearing impairments learn English

In the future, I’d like to make some interactive projects that can help disabled society. It can be mobile apps, software, or interactive products. And by learning computational media, I hope I can invent more engaging products.

To sum up, UX designers might not always from computer science field, but having a knowledge in computation is necessary. Not to forget that computation is not the same as programming. By learning computation, UX designers can think in computer sphere, how it can interact easily with users to create positive experience.




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