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Department Of Design

Behind The Screen: Faculty Seth Christensen On User Experience Design

A Look Into The Digital World Of UX From The Eyes Of BYU A Design Professor

The research of BYU Design Professor Seth Christensen shows us how a seemingly unlikely crossover of the arts and technology proves essential in our modern world. Christensen specializes in User Experience Design (UXD). UXD addresses the elements that make up a user’s experience with a product or service, such as how it makes them feel and how straightforward it is to complete a task.

“Broadly speaking, user experience design involves recognizing challenges that people are encountering, identifying what is causing those problems and then creating ideas and solutions,” said Christensen. He explained that UXD aims to improve users’ lives by addressing product issues at a smaller scale.

In previous years, students could specialize in a UXD track while earning a Design BA. As of fall semester 2023, UXD has transitioned into its own major within the Design Department - Product & User Experience Design.

Seth Christensen began teaching at BYU in 2022. Photo Courtesy of Seth Christensen.

Initially, Christensen was drawn to the design field because of his desire to create, solve problems and help people. He graduated in 2012 with an undergraduate degree in industrial design from BYU, which focuses on physical product design. After working in that field for a couple years, he transitioned to UX design, which primarily deals with digital design. “I made that transition because I was looking for companies that were more interested in measuring and validating the impact of their design,” he said.

After working as an industrial and UX designer for about 10 years, Christensen began teaching and researching at BYU. “I was interested in teaching because I wanted to help students develop critical thinking skills in order to meaningfully solve problems,” he said.

Christensen’s research includes analyzing user interface elements that have been adopted in the industry over time. He assesses whether these conventions are the best option for users or if they are merely convenient. He then suggests improvements to problems to implement better design.

“We’ve all encountered software that is really hard to use,” said Christensen. “Oftentimes, good design recedes into the background if it works well.”

Christensen is also working on quantifying the value that UXD can bring to a company. Startups often postpone the hiring of a designer until the company has achieved some growth, but Christensen hypothesizes that, “companies could achieve more value in terms of how much they could sell their products for and how much money they could make if they hired a designer earlier on.”

Christensen expounds on the skills and knowledge that allows a UX designer to excel in their space. In addition to having a baseline understanding of the technology they work with, UX designers need to have a basic comprehension of human psychology principles, an eye for visual design and a user-centered mindset. Christensen refers to designers that take a user-focused approach to design as “digital architects.” “[Digital architects] are thinking through how to navigate and find their way through an application, especially applications that are more complex,” he said.

He explained that he enjoys working with professors in the department, and emphasized their genuine interest in helping their students succeed. “I appreciate my colleagues' interest in helping students because one of my top priorities is helping students develop their skills so they can learn and grow,” said Christensen.