By Trisha Manaka MA ’10
Hilary Bienstock is a user experience (UX) researcher, which is a field that has emerged to meet the demands of customers who interact with various products and services offered by companies, including websites, applications and software. Originally coined by Donald Norman, Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego, “user experience” is centered on the needs and wants of the user, utilizing the principles of engineering, marketing and design. Research, testing and analysis are at the core of Hilary’s work. She determines whether a designer succeeded in addressing the diverse aspects of the customer’s experience with the product. “I interact with users through surveys, in the lab and screen share, and analyze their needs including what they didn’t know,” she says.
When Hilary came to Stanford, she was interested in studying Psychology. She then expanded her interests into multiple disciplines. “In 1996, the tech boom happened. I took a class in Computer Science and I found my way to Human-Computer interaction,” she says. Hilary also remembers how Stanford was affected by the growth of Silicon Valley. “Google projected search words on the sidewalk on University Avenue in Palo Alto,” she recalls. Hilary graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Symbolic Systems and a master’s degree in Communication. Founded in 1985, the Symbolic Systems major at Stanford integrates Linguistics, Psychology, Philosophy and Computer Science. “It’s about how human beings interact with the world using symbols,” says Hilary.
Hilary has successfully transitioned from a traditional corporate environment to an independent consulting position. Hilary got her start at Yahoo!, where she was able to grow professionally. “I worked with other UX designers as a practitioner. It was a huge step forward,” she says. The user experience design field is a niche within the tech industry. “UX is a part of the design field that women can get ahead,” she says. However, when the financial crisis hit, Hilary experienced getting laid off from major companies. In the face of challenge, she was relentless. “It made me realize that I could work for myself,” she says. It prompted her to make the transition to consulting. “It’s rewarding to have a relationship with clients from different industries, and to be able to set a schedule that works with my young children,” she says.
Hilary Bienstock ’00, MA ‘01 is the owner of Hilary User Experience, which provides user experience research consulting. She has been working in the field of UX Design for over a decade, and has worked with a wide range of clients, including Amazon, Disney, Snapchat, eBay, Ogilvy & Mather, Nike, Transamerica, and Kelley Blue Book. She is an instructor at Cal State Fullerton’s certificate program in User Centered Design.