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digital software design

UX Design: A Marriage of Art and Functionality

User Experience Design or UX Design is a targeted discipline mixing art and functionality. Find out more about the role of a UX Designer.

User Experience Design (UX Design) can be considered a human-first methodology of designing products. As cognitive scientist and user experience architect, Don Norman, so aptly put it, “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” What this means is that UX Design is a holistic discipline which considers all touch points in the user-product or the greater, user-brand relationship.

UX Design is not medium-specific and is not limited to digital technologies or the internet. It includes basic interactions with products like toothpaste, ergonomic keyboards, cars, can-openers and similar objects. An event such as a visit to the museum for an exhibition or going to a shopping mall is also an element of user experience. Those places and experiences are also specifically designed to make sure that the user walks out thinking, “Wow! That was great!” As such, UX Design generally encompasses an understanding of many disciplines, depending on what the product specifications are. The outcome – the user experience – will largely depend on the nature of the product. Clearly, as mentioned above, an ergonomic keyboard and a museum are two completely different entities, but they ultimately must meet a user’s needs. This is usually known as ‘user intent’.

Differences Between UX Design and UI Design

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UX Design is less about visuals but more about the overall feel of an experience. User Interface Design (UI Design), on the other hand, is a strictly digital term. The user interface is the point of interaction between the human and the digital product. A UI designer is concerned with the look and feel, including the interactivity of a digital product. So, a UI designer will consider icons, typography, colour schemes and imagery. Nowadays, that will come with an understanding of front-end web development including CSS, HTML and using different content management systems.

What This Means for Digital? 

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Great products start with good UX Design followed by equally good UI Design. So, for instance, a UX designer will map a user’s steps throughout a website – how the user gets from point A to B. The steps need to be as straightforward as possible and the designer will usually create multiple personas and scenarios to approach the steps in different ways.

If you are considering entering the world of User Experience Design and see yourself being able to marry analytical, technical and creative skills; consider formalising your desired skillset by taking a UX design short course specifically aimed at making you an adept UX Designer. Other resources are available on the web but it’s more fruitful for you to have a course structure which will challenge you and give you practical skills. You’ll be recommended on software to use, UX Design theory and more. This is a lot more value for money than you would get trying to piece together information from YouTube videos and other content.

Practicalities of Being a UX or UI Designer 

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You will find that in most cases a UX and UI designer will come in one person. This is what has become expected in the digital sphere where start-ups don’t have much money for such fine-grained role differentiation. Bigger companies like Apple or Google will have role differentiation because they can afford it. For the smaller companies, a mixed role UX/UI designer will most likely work with a graphic designer to clean up the look of a website or app.

The UX designer will have to consider a full user journey from multiple touch points:

What if a user is trying to save a file, but this is his first time using the interface?

What about someone who has lost her password but still needs to save?

The first scenario would be easier for a computer programmer who has experience with similar platforms but not so much for an 8-year-old working on his first term essay. This is where a UX designer gets a chance to craft a holistic experience based off multiple research factors. The UX designer will then work with the UI designer to make icons and typography that make it easier for both the programmer and the 8-year-old to perform a successful action.

A UX designer will oftentimes provide the UI designer with wireframes of site elements and how they should be arranged visually in order to make the customer journey easy. Colour schemes and image themes may also be suggested. But at its core, the UX designer is concerned with the success journey of the customer and the ability of the digital product to meet a customer’s needs. This is particularly important in terms of accessibility, where the UX designer must also consider those who cannot hear, are partially blind, fully blind or otherwise.

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