Demystifying the Design Process: UI/UX Explained
You may have heard of UX, and UI, often used in the same breath. These two terms are often seen together as (UI/UX) but are two very different practices. Both are critical to any digital product or service’s success, so let’s demystify the enigma.
User experience, UX & UI design definitions
There is always an experience with any product or service, whether it’s good or bad.
Considers the user’s interactions from beginning to end involving research, user flows, wireframing, and testing.
Comes up with design solutions for any points of friction that occur along the user journey.
Brings smiles to faces with products that are relevant, easy to use and effective.
Creates the visual parts that allow users to interact with the product or service.
Uses design principles and works with things like colour, typography, images, and animations.
Creates products that are aesthetically pleasing and accessible to the user.
UX & UI design in plain English
UX design, or User eXperience design, is all about crafting what a person experiences or feels when using a product. UI design or User Interface design is the design of the pieces with which the user interacts with the product.
“UI is the saddle, the stirrups, & the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.— Dain Miller, Web Developer
UX design: eliciting a connection
In the late 1990s, a cognitive scientist named Don Norman first coined the term “user experience” and he said:
“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” – Don Norman, Cognitive Scientist & User Experience Architect, Co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group
As mentioned, user experience (UX) encompasses the overall experience and feeling the user has when they are using the product.
User experience design (UX design) is a human-centred approach to creating products or services. This means, UX design can be applied to anything a person interacts with, this could be a website, an app, a car, a toaster, or even the process of checking in at an airport.
The UX designer thinks about the users (a term for people who use the product) first. Empathy and research are key tools for a UX designer. An important part of the user research process is developing empathy for their specific needs. After synthesizing the data collected from the research, we are better able to get into the shoes of the user and design an appropriate experience for them.
UX design goes beyond digital or technology. UX design is about really understanding the user, and generating good experiences surrounding an interaction.
How easy was it to check out online? That can-opener you bought, how easy it to hold on to, does it work well even if you are left-handed? These are the type of things a UX designer concerns themselves with.
A good user experience translates into happy customers, and this helps achieve a business's end goal. UX design is a vital part of any successful interactive experience with a product or service.
UX is a science
UX design is driven by data. It’s a science and involves research, user interviews, stakeholder interviews and planning. Research is crucial because without actual data or user feedback we have to make assumptions. We have to rely on best practices and heuristics. Best practices and heuristics apply to a point but every product, service, and company is unique, as are its users. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Best practices can also change over time because they are shaped by data and experience.
“A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result.” — Margaret Rouse, Whatis.com
The cost of UX
Many companies do not put a lot of value in user research and user testing. They feel they 'know their customers', so why bother spending time researching what they know? This is often an assumption that can have negative consequences.
What we must remember is there is always an ‘experience’ whether good or bad when using a product or service. With a user experience designer on your team, it is far more likely the experience will be good and get even better with each iteration. Every project should include an experience design element process.
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” — Ralph Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover
What is UI design?
UI design or User Interface design focuses on the aesthetic styles and interactive states of a product. Working from the UX research and wireframes, a UI designer creates the interface that a customer would use to interact with a product or service.
The UI designer works with iconography, typography, colour schemes, responsive design, brand graphics and on a larger scale, design systems. They must consider what each element in an interaction looks like and how it behaves. When this is done right the user will have an engaging and stress-free experience. A UI designer does this through rigorous adherence to graphic design principles, involving spacing, contrast, scale, proximity and repetition. It’s for this reason that UI designers are often thought of as graphic designers.
We could consider UI design an important subset of UX design, since a good user interface will observe proper user experience practices, and a good user interface design will contribute to a good user experience.
UI design is focused
Where UX design is far more pervasive and extends to everything in and surrounding a product or service, UI design is focused on the interface that gets the customer to interact with the actual product. The UI designer wants to guide the user visually through the interface, creating an easy to use, easy to read and accessible experience.
UI and UX working together
UX research and planning informs the architecture and process, which in turn informs the user interface design. All of these add up to shape the overall experience that a user has.
For example, the UX designer will indicate to the UI designer through a low-fidelity wireframe, that there needs to be a sign in form. At this stage, all the elements required to complete the sign-in flow are considered, including the voice and tone of the brand. The UI designer will take that information and turn it into a high-fidelity screen that incorporates the aesthetics of the brand and a keen eye to the principles of design.
A UI designer works strictly in the digital realm, and user interfaces such as GUI (graphical user interface) and WUI (website user interface) are things that exist only in the digital world.
User experience design and user interface design are critical to the success of any digital product or service. Ignoring proper UX and UI design can be detrimental to development time and costs, but worse than that, a loss of customer revenue because of a poorly crafted experience.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — Carl W. Buehner
Want to know more about how effective UX/UI design can help your digital transformation? Reach out to our Experience Design team today. We love to chat about matters of design!