“Okay, so you are a UX/UI designer. Let’s design a website or an application for “First-World Bank” customer, showcase a few layouts in two days. We need to design a great UX/UI with the latest trends and designs”.
As a user experience (UX) designer, we often come across such business requirements; sometimes it is frustrating and quite often it is amusing. At the same time, it is disappointing because, like any good joke, it has an element of truth attached. Let’s closely look at UX design from a UX designer’s perspective.
User Experience – The Buzzword
UX is a buzzword adopted by designers, developers, and the IT industry professionals. Not many know that it is an acronym that stands for ‘User Experience’. Individuals who perform UX activities automatically become ‘UX Designers’ and hence, UX is followed by the term ‘design’, which may not be the case. It is essential to know that UX is not only implemented in software applications/websites, but also in various other products and services.
UX designers do not approach design in the same manner as UI designers do.
Let us try to find out the difference between UX and UI — Are the roles and responsibilities similar? What is the exact difference between UX and UI? How do they impact the world that we operate in?
UX is not just limited to UI, roles and responsibilities vary to a great extent. An individual taking care of UX can manage UI, but an individual involved with UI might find it difficult to manage UX. Hence, it is important to distinguish between UX and UI, even though UI is an integral part of the design.
Let us consider a fairly simple example, a modern restroom. Today’s restrooms have all the facilities including hand dryers, paper tissues etc. However, if a hand dryer or a tissue box is placed far off from the washbasin, then it is an example of ineffective UX. The first thing an individual looks for after washing his/her hands is either a hand dryer or a tissue box to wipe off the water.
Another common example from a website/software perspective is an e-commerce website that sells kids toys. Generally, e-commerce websites that sell toys are designed using vibrant colors and controls to attract kids and parents. However, few parents might require information about toys for differently-abled kids and if the underlying database does not cater to their needs, then it is not a great UX design.
User Experience Origin
The term UX was coined by cognitive scientist Don Norman in the early 1990s while he was working as a Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple Inc.
Here’s how Don Norman summarizes UX: “User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
UX defines how an individual feels while interacting with a system, an interface or any product. Are they able to accomplish their activities or goals?
In order to make things work from a UX perspective, lots of processes, iterations and design thinking needs to be adopted before designing an application, website, product or applying services. Moreover, the key skill of a UX designer is to empathize with people — to be able to see what users see, experience what they feel, to be in their shoes and most importantly comprehend what they want to say. In a nutshell, they should be able to think from a user’s perspective.
The term UX can be applied to the design of any medium — say an event, a house, website, mobile app or a service. Further, it revolves around the user who is going to use it. UX draws its principles from a variety of disciplines such as:
- Human psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Human interaction and
- Visual design
UX aims to resolve problems faced by users while using a product, website, service or applications to a great extent and reduces their impediments. From a UX perspective, understanding user issues and their activities are of utmost importance.
UI design mainly revolves around how a product looks (appearance). It is more to do with the visual aspect of a website, mobile app and the elements of an interface, such as buttons, icons, drop-down menus, radio buttons, checkboxes, and controls. Additionally, UI design is responsible for the transference of brand strengths and visual assets. It visually helps users using the product’s interface via interactive elements. UI mainly helps in resolving visual design issues.
UX and UI Design Attributes
UX is always undertaken first, and then followed by creating a UI design – UI is part of UX
Something that looks great, but difficult to use is a great UI and poor UX. While something that is easy to use and looks awful can be considered as a great UX, but poor UI. In short, UX makes interface useful and UI makes interface beautiful.
A UX designer creates user flows — steps that a user would have to take to log in to a website or a software application e.g. what are the steps that a user has to follow and how will they know if they have been successful? The design is then passed on to a UI designer. The UI designer will refine those interactions adding color and emphasis to the original design, giving users the clues they need in order to successfully navigate the login process.
Here is a summary of things that one needs to consider while implementing UX in a design:
- Focus on reducing the cognitive effort of a user.
- Make controls and functions more intuitive.
- Errors are bound to happen, so design in such a way that a solution is provided, but it does not halt users’ progress; they should be able to find their way out to complete the next set of actions.
- Keep the UI consistent.
- Users should be able to complete tasks quickly and easily without much cognitive load.
To summarise, it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to build a capable, elegant, and a delightful user interface. But the interface is just a means to get to the end and not the end itself. Each user derives a different experience from a similar product. A single successful product design strategy cannot be applied to all users or businesses.
Understanding users, their business domain, and ecosystem are essential to offer a great user experience. On the contrary, just following great looking websites, applications or templates might result in a shoddy user experience. Overall, UX is a complicated process that helps to create a product or website that customers, users, and visitors are drawn to, find easy to use, and understand.
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