UX Design explained

April 14, 2015

There’s something distinctively special about the way digital designers think. They keep weird hours, exhibit odd habits and they throw a lot of jargon around – leaving those in the offline community a little dazed and confused.

Most of the time you needn’t bother with trying to translate a lot of what they’re saying, but if you are running a live site, there is one word you need to quickly and closely become acquainted with:

UX Design.

You’ve probably seen this term, UX Design, thrown around a bit. You’ve probably seen it in the same sentence with words like:

  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Design
  • Web Coding

And especially the words: User Interface Design.

And you’ve probably seen UX and UI Design paired with a lot of metaphors, each as entertaining and confusing as the last. But UX design is none of these things. It may hang out with or heavily overlap with some of these things, but it is not actually any of those things.

It is UX Design.

It’s a field of expertise that stands as an independent and crucial component in website development, backed by a community of specialist professionals with enough specialist jargon to leave you begrudgingly clueless.

I can help you with that.

Let’s begin:

What does UX Design mean?

UX Design is an abbreviation for User Experience Design. This expansion might allow you to understand its purpose a little better. In fact, you may have even drawn your own conclusion that it’s about the design of a user’s experience.

If so, well done.

“User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services and its products”
Don Norman, a cognitive scientist credited with coining the term User Experience in the late 1990s.

To elaborate: UX design is a mix of sociology and cognitive science that looks at how people and products interact. As a scientific process, it can be applied to tangible products like cars, chairs or tables. But in the digital world it simply refers to the way a user interacts with the interface, be it a website, e-commerce store or app.

What does UX Design aim to achieve?

  • To improve customer satisfaction;
  • To improve the quality of interaction between a company and its consumer;
  • To make sure that the product, whether that be a website, app or software program, logically flows from one step to the next;

How would a UX Designer do that?

Glad you asked. UX Designers are creative and critical thinkers.

For the ease of explanation, let’s suppose our UX designer is currently working on a website for a client. They look at the overall experience and effectiveness of each tool or facet on the company’s website, and then examine if the needs of their users are met.

By understanding consumer behavior and analyzing the consumer’s experience, a UX Designer can effectively create or tweak a website so that is enjoyable and easy to use for the consumer.

Their design principles are derived from cognitive and behavioral analysis, rather than aesthetic or composition values. This is where a UI Designer comes in, but we will save that for later.

This sounds like the role of a Market Researcher?

Not quite, though they do share a lot of research and analytical techniques with marketers, as well as often filling the role of:

  • Project manager
  • Information architect
  • Program manager
  • Content strategist
  • Functional analyst

And when you’re not watching, they’re usually doing:

  • User research
  • Usability testing
  • Information architecture
  • Interaction design
  • UI design
  • Visual design
  • Prototyping
  • Wire-framing
  • Development planning
  • Experience and content strategy
  • Service design and delivery
  • Coordination with UI Designer
  • Coordination with Web Developer
  • Tracking goals and integration
  • Analysis and iteration

How do you find a UX Designer?

You’ll often recognize a UX Designer by what they say:

  • “We should show users the ‘Thank You’ page once they have finished signing up.”

  • “Design is just rectangles in other rectangles, then Helvetica, then profit.”

  • “Information is cheap. Understanding is expensive”

  • “We don’t need more ways to wash our clothes. We need faster or quieter ways”

  • “But, why?”

  • “I have to make high fidelity mockups for a client”

  • “How would this interaction go if I was talking to a real person?”

  • “Why would you do that to information?”

  • “Driving users to close the browser is a design pattern”

If you hear these phrases, you’re talking to a UX Designer.

To recap:

  • A UX Designer is not a graphic designer or web coder.
  • A UX Designer’s role is to look at a website and analyze how a customer will use it and feel about it.
  • They will ask, “How can I make this easier for them to use?” or “How can I make the user’s experience on this website more enjoyable?”
  • A UX Designer asks these questions so that a customer leaves the website happy and satisfied. This creates customer loyalty.
  • Happy loyal customers = happy business.

It’s honest, authentic, and accessible.

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