I would like to discuss the differences between User Experience and User Interface Design.
A while ago, I was in a meeting about a User Experience project. Proudly producing wireframes, extensive interaction design documents and research, it was quickly apparent that these were not of interest to the other individuals around the table. Then I was asked about fonts. And colours. And “What do you think of the photograph?”
I politely explained this was not what I was interested in, and thanked them for their time. 6 months after this meeting, I see that this place are still looking for help from a User Experience designer. There’s no nicer way to put this, but you’re digging in the wrong place.
You’re not going to attract that right talent by getting the title of the role wrong. Unless you want to include research, wireframing, iterations, interviews, If you want someone to work with fonts, colours and photography, it’s a User Interface Designer you’re after.
User Experience Design
User Experience Design is the bit that happens months before fonts and colour swatches. It’s the research, competitive analysis, prototyping, testing, wire-framing, more testing, revision, presentation, critique, more testing, evaluation, more prototyping, development and deployment. As a user, this work will be hidden from you.
When a system is designed well, it’s use will feel natural. I think Steve Jobs said it best –
“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
The user interface design is something I would regard as the ‘icing on the cake’.
Without the cake, there is no ‘cupcake’. You can live without the fondant and the sprinkles. Of course, it makes it more attractive – the User Interface designer can make a dated and unattractive product look great.
Important to note: Pretty Interfaces do not necessarily mean better conversions.
Some well known online retailers have launched a beautiful new design, only to see conversions decrease, but that’s a story for another day.
User Interface Design
Now let’s talk about the Viceral Level of design, the bit that you see. User Interface Design is about appearance, aesthetics, and attracting the users attention. It can be about impact, getting your customers to say ‘wow’ when they open your homepage.
While there are definitely designers out there who are capable of both, unless you have room in the job spec to feature research, testing and all of the other aspects of UX Design, it’s not ideal to advertise for a User Experience Designer.
I fully understand the difficulty in finding designers – especially good designers with a background in digital design, not print – but it’s time to end the confusion. If you have a lot of graphic or website interface design work, look for a User Interface Designer. If you want someone who will optimise the experience of a system, create prototypes in an effort to solve problems, test those prototypes, and iterate a design based on user feedback, then you need a User Experience Designer.