However! Despite being a scientific term, its use since its inception has been almost entirely within digital fields; one arguable reason for this is that the industry started blowing up around the time of the term’s invention. Another arguable reason is that it was just a fancy way of rewording a practice that has already existed for hundreds of years known as “Market Research”; and boy do designers love fancy.
But don’t let me confuse you, User Experience Design is not a market research job.
Though it does utilize many of the same techniques to achieve a complex end goal: The structure, analysis, and optimization of a customer’s experience with a company and its products.
If you’ve never seen User Experience work in practice, never even used the term at work, it’s still difficult to imagine what User Experience Designers actually do. At CareerFoundry we’ve developed a UX course that focuses on the process which I will use to illustrate the profession.
Here is a cliff notes example of a UX Designer’s responsibilities as laid out by our course. It is targeted at the development of digital products, but the theory and process can be applied to anything:
Strategy and Content:
- Competitor Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Product Structure/Strategy
- Content Development
Wireframing and Prototyping:
- Development Planning
Execution and Analytics
- Coordination with UI Designer(s)
- Coordination with Developer(s)
- Tracking Goals and Integration
- Analysis and Iteration
So part marketer, part designer, part project manager; the UX role is complex, challenging, and multi-faceted. You see that iteration of the product, as connected to analysis or testing is indeed mentioned twice, but in reality, you would put it in between every other item on the list. Ultimately the aim is to connect business goals to users’ needs through a process of testing and refinement to that satisfies both sides of the relationship.
So in conclusion:
- User Experience Design is the process of development and improvement of quality interaction between a user and all facets of a company.
- User Experience Design is responsible for being hands-on with the process of research, testing, development, content, and prototyping to test for quality results.
- User Experience Design is in theory a non-digital (cognitive science) practice but used and defined predominantly by digital industries.
What is UI Design?
Despite it being an older and more practiced field, the question of “ What is user interface design? ” is difficult to answer by its ranging variety of misinterpretations. While User Experience is a conglomeration of tasks focused on the optimization of a product for effective and enjoyable use; User Interface Design is its compliment, the look and feel, the presentation, and interactivity of a product. But like UX, it is easily and often confused by the industries that employ UI Designers. To the extent that different job posts will often refer to the profession as completely different things.
If you look at job posts for User Interface Design, you will mostly find interpretations of the profession that are akin to graphic design. Sometimes extending also to branding design, and even front-end development.
If you look at expert definitions of User Interface Design, you will mostly find descriptions that are in part identical to User Experience design. Even referring to the same structural techniques.
So which one is right? The sad answer is: Neither
But both are close in some ways. Like User Experience Design, User Interface Design is a multi-faceted and challenging role. It is responsible for the transference of a product’s development, research, content, and layout into an attractive, guiding, and responsive experience for users. It is also a field that, unlike UX, is a strictly digital profession, as per its dictionary definition:
the means by which the user and a computer system interact, in particular the use of input devices and software.
We explain in much greater detail what the definition and role of UI Design, as well as teach you the skills required to become a UI designer in the CareerFoundry UI Design Course. This includes its relationship to the brand, graphic/visual, and front-end design.
Regardless of whether you choose UX design or UI design, it’s important to understand how the other one works and, crucially, how to work with them.
Let’s have a quick look at the UI designer’s responsibilities:
Look and Feel:
- Customer Analysis
- Design Research
- Branding and Graphic Development
- User Guides/Storyline
Responsiveness and Interactivity:
- UI Prototyping
- Interactivity and Animation
- Adaptation to All Device Screen Sizes
- Implementation with Developer
As a visual and interactive designer, the UI role is crucial to any digital interface and for customers a key element to trusting a brand. While the brand itself is never solely the responsibility of the UI designer, its translation to the product is.
You’ll also note the final point which states responsibility for the “implementation” of the design with a developer. While this is generally how UI jobs have worked in the past, you should be aware that the lines are blurring, as the term “Web Designer” (essentially a UI designer who can code) is being replaced by the expertise of User Interface Designers. While UX has no need for coding, UI is a role that as time progresses, will rely on it as part of building interactive interfaces.
So in conclusion:
- User Interface Design is responsible for the transference of a brand’s strengths and visual assets to a product’s interface so as to best enhance the user’s experience.
- User Interface Design is a process of visually guiding the user through a product’s interface via interactive elements and across all sizes/platforms.
- User Interface Design is a digital field, which includes responsibility for cooperation and working with developers or code.
Or in analogical terms, UI design produces a product’s: Skin – product’s visual/graphic presentation. Senses – a product’s reactivity and interactivity in response to a user’s input or different display environments. And makeup – a product’s guides, hints, and directives that visually leads users through their experience.