While the term and job title of UX Designer was born recently out of the tech scene, the practice of user experience design has been crucial to product development since the first time someone handed a friend their latest invention and asked “What would you do with this?” The layout of a retail store, the design of a cash machine, the ergonomics of your fancy cheese knife; these things are not simply decided by chance and whim or, at any rate, in the search for perfection, they shouldn’t be. There is always an argument for great design being art in its ignorance to necessity, but ultimately form follows function in the products we use day to day. And they have been honed and refined during many years of what we would now call UX testing, analysis and iteration.
When learning user experience it’s crucial to understand all sides, practical, technical and theoretical. It’s vital to realize that if you’re doing your job right what you put on “paper” today may be proven completely ineffective by tomorrow. You have to accept that your ideals are not always what will work, and what works is what best meets the business goals at hand. To be clear, by business goals we’re not just discussing monetary values, it could be anything that is crucial to the progression and growth of your particular product/company/service, whether that be friends, fans, or an entire eco-system of shoe-buyers [An interesting read on the mindset approach to UX at Zappos: http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/ux-at-zappos-the-right-people-and-the-right-mindset/].