What was once considered to be nothing more than a buzzword destined to vanish just as quickly as it appeared on the scene has since then developed into the bustling new field with plenty of career options. This article will give you a brief description of what User Experience (UX) design is, explain what the difference between UX and UI (User Interface) design is, and provide you with a snapshot of what a common day in the life of a User Experience designer looks like.
A Brief Explanation of User Experience Design
Interacting with Computers, an interdisciplinary journal of Human-Computer Interaction under Oxford Journals, says that the goal of UX design is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”
To put it differently, User Experience recognizes that human perception of value is not limited to a mere utility, but that it, in fact, encompasses all aspects of our interaction with products or services. A bank that makes their customers feel at ease, appreciated, and makes their products easy-to-understand has a similar advantage as a smartphone manufacturer that ships their devices with a polished user interface.
The Difference Between UX and UI
The difference between UX and UI is often blurry and unclear. So much so that there is even an entire website dedicated just to explaining what makes the two different.
From the point of view of a User Experience designer, UI design is mostly about how the product is laid out and how it looks, explains Lo Min Ming in his article for Fast Company. That means that a UI designer might be tasked, for example, with creating a control panel that would allow users to access all important features of an application. He would decide how individual controls would be positioned on the screen and how they would look to result in a cohesive look.
A User Experience designer takes into consideration all the steps done by a User Interface designer but sees them from a bird’s perspective. This perspective is concerned with the overall feel of the product. Even the best-designed control panel is insufficient if it does not actually meet users’ needs, fit in with the rest of the application, or cannot achieve the desired results.
A Common Day of a User Experience Designer
When a User Experience designer is tasked with a new project, his or her job usually starts with competitor and customer analysis. Such analysis helps the designer formulate what the market needs and come up with a product strategy that would best accomplish it.
What follows after this preliminary stage is the creation of personas, storyboard, and scenarios, wireframing, and user testing. Think of personas as made up identities of end users. They help the designer to laser-focus the end product to meet all key criteria. Scenarios and storyboards consider how the product fits into the life of a persona, how it is used, and why.
Wireframing is done with tools such as Balsamiq Mockups, Axure, Pidoco, or Visio, just to name a few. These tools allow designers to quickly prototype the layout of a website or application without actually writing any code.
Finished prototypes are then passed to a group of testers, who provide designers with valuable feedback, which is subsequently used to improve the product. The whole process repeats until all goals are met.
However, even with the product finished, the job of a User Experience designer is far from over. UX designers still need to track their goals, analyze the performance of the product, and work on future iterations.
What makes User Interface design such a desirable profession is the inherently multidisciplinary nature and constant need for improvement. Great User Experience designers must be able to break down complex tasks into small parts and organize efforts of large groups of designers, developers, and executives to achieve a common goal. In the next part of this article, we will be taking a look at the current state of UX industry and where it could be heading in the future.