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Unboxing User Experience

Soudy Khan (MPD2 '20) has spent three decades focused on user experience, but it was his experience in MPD2 that helped him find a new appreciation for the field.

Soudy Khan believes there is a misconception about the field of user experience (UX), and that it only has to deal with a brand's website or digital footprint.

The reality, he said, is far from that.
Soudy Khan
“UX is all the touchpoints that a consumer has with a branded product or service,” Khan said. “The touchpoints are not simply digital. They might include the unboxing experience or the design and ergonomics of a shopping cart at a retail store.”

Khan is the head of UX strategy for Jobble, a marketplace connecting businesses with those looking for gig work in fields ranging from nursing to truck unloading. For three decades, he’s been focused on staying ahead of the evolving field of UX design. He turned to Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development management (MPD2) program to help him do just that.
Khan was drawn to the MPD2 program because of the credentials of its faculty and its reputation for combining nearly equal parts design, business, and engineering. During his time as a student, Khan (MPD2 ‘20) gained a deeper appreciation for customer research and a better understanding of why and how it should be central in the UX world.

“As a UX designer, I always valued user research,” he said. “Not until MPD2 did I gain the respect and enthusiasm I have today for research and the ways to better conduct it.

"We are designing for another person or persona. We must be able, with as little bias as humanly possible, to put ourselves in that user's shoes."

Khan has served as head of UX for four different companies that went through acquisitions. He led the development of the first UX style guide for Toast, a restaurant management software company. He also served as director of design and user experience for identity protection company LifeLock.
His mission is to help spread awareness of what UX truly is and how to do it most effectively.
“It used to be that many, if not most, thought of UX designers as the people who made things look nice. That has changed, for the most part,” he said. “When executed correctly, the experience with the brand is cohesive and coherent. Its tone is on-brand and a reflection of the company's respect for, and knowledge of, its customers.”

The ability to create an accurate reflection is a mix of art and science – and not something just anyone in a company can do, Khan said. He used a football analogy to demonstrate why.

“I have never known a lineman who insists on throwing the ball," he said. "The lineman’s job is important, as is the quarterback’s, but each is different. The issue many designers face is that people in tangential roles believe they can and should have equal input or say on the design. While cross-functional collaboration is key, one must respect each other’s roles and specializations.”

Khan said he’s glad he put the time into the MPD2 program and already has seen its benefits – not just in his own career.

“It’s an amazing program,” he said. “The subsequent successes of most of my classmates have been amazing.”

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