“User experience” is a broad term that gets bandied around at meetings and swapped with “user interface” as if the two are the same—they’re not. This confusion has probably affected your career as UX and web design roles have slowly started to overlap. Even your clients may be confused as to what exactly your job is.
Like it or not, UX has a huge impact on what web designers do. You can create the best design in the world, but it won’t succeed if it’s not usable. And it won’t be usable unless you know a little UX strategy. These UX lessons will teach you how to improve projects’ usability and make you indispensable to your clients.
1) UX is not UI
Even if you don’t interchange the terms “UX” and “UI”, you’ll likely hear your clients say it at some point. You’ll have to be able to explain the difference between UX and UI so they can understand what is, and isn’t, your job.
User interface refers to the actual system the client interacts with. The layout of an iPhone’s settings menu is a user interface. User experience is about the emotions the interface evokes during that interaction; the user’s satisfaction with an easy-to-use settings menu is user experience.
Essentially, UX is the totality of the emotions resulting from the UI. Good UX designers understand human emotion and user behavior patterns, because those things affect how users respond to an interface.
2) UX is not just a “web thing”
Web design is only a small portion of UX. Every print design you see, product you use, and even place you go, also has UX. Eating at a terrible restaurant is a bad experience; easily opening a package is a good one.
Offline UX design may seem like a different ball game—after all, creating a navigable website isn’t the same as designing a sports car for people to drive on real roads—but in reality, the two types of UX affect each other.
Nav bars are a great example of how the web and physical worlds overlap. Website navigation used to be on the left side of the page, but somebody realized we prioritize information from left to right—meaning content should be on the left. By the early 2000s, nav bars moved to the right side of the viewport.
If you’re a web designer, it never hurts to brush up on print, packaging, or other types of physical UX design. This cross-training expands your knowledge and helps you see projects from a fresh perspective.
3) UX is art and science combined
Art and science make an odd couple, but that’s essentially what UX is. Understanding how UX combines art and science lets you refine your design process to reach solutions more easily.
UX is scientific in that it poses a problem-solution scenario in which the designer poses a theory about how to fix the problem. So let’s say the problem is an outdated site hurting sales. The designer suggests a way to update the site; through testing and adaptation, that suggestion evolves into a solution.
The solution is where the art comes in. Colors, typefaces, layout, and so forth all combine to create an aesthetically pleasing whole. As with viewing art in a gallery, the design evokes an emotional response, which in turn produces an outward behavior.