I thought that the number of UX/UI positions being advertised would diminish with time but it does not seem to be happening - yet. In this post, I will set out some pretty compelling reasons (well for me anyway) why we should not use those two terms interchangeably.
This is not a debating point which has sides. It is about your users. Do you want them to have a good experience or do you want to showcase your designers UI. If you are even thinking about this then, well, you are on the wrong path.
There is an oft repeated myth that the Inuit people have 50+ words for snow. Whether or not you believe it depends on how you choose to view human language.
Human language allows different words to have the same meaning and also allows identical words to have different, context relevant meanings. You would probably accept that Night and Nite have the same meaning. You would also be happy to bow to take a bow from the bow of a ship. We know, accept and understand these things implicitly.
But in the case of UI and UX, the words reflect fundamentally different areas of endeavor. Sure, they are both connected to design but adding designer at the end only serves to complicate an already complicated situation. UI and UX are different words because they are different. They are not variations of the same word, which is unfortunately how they are treated at times.
In reality, UX designers test their own designs all the time. Often, it’s because they’re the only UX professional available to test the designs. If they don’t do it, it won’t get tested at all.
The person or team who designed or built a product should never be the ones to test it. I am not talking about QA or development testing (though you could make a similar argument there), I am talking about usability testing. I don’t say this for some sadistic reason but because it is very difficult to accurately critique a product or a piece of software that you were involved in the development of.
Take this piece for example. Sure, I can read it and edit it but to really get a good critique I need someone else to look over it and give me feedback (hint hint).
Now, you are probably going to come back to me and say that there are too much work and not enough people and by dint of necessity the designer has to test the usability. That is a fair point if you and your team lived on an otherwise uninhabited planet. So, you’ve no friends? No family who can test it. The person sitting next to you in the coffee shop. It does not matter who it is. But, if you are serious about getting feedback then you will find someone.
If you work for a larger organization with larger product team then there is no excuse.
UI is all about the designer and the product. Right? No, it is all about the user and the product. It is up to the designer to design an interface that makes it as simple as possible for the user to use the product. How they do this is based on a number of factors. The designer might have a vision for the product which is new and innovative. There will, if you are doing your job, be lots of existing user feedback and a backlog of usability issues to work through and fix. Then of course marketing might stick their noses in and ask for this or that.
Tell a designer or an engineer what some user feedback is on their product and they will often react with exasperation.
You are not supposed to interact with the editor like that. That is not what the interface is for. Are our user’s idiots?
I have made up the last quote, obviously, a designer would never say that.
But, there is a serious point here. It is not easy to listen to a negative critique of your own work and it is important that there is a distance between the UI designer and the people giving this feedback so we can derive feedback that is unbiased and will allow us to provide even better experiences to our users.
UX is very important. It is not an add-on to the UI design. It is not something that we try to find time for. It is about how a user experiences our products/ services/ whatever. Too often UX is handed over to the design team and they are expected to do both. Design the UI and implement a better UX. All at the same time. The next bit is very important and you might need to stop and consider it carefully.
UX and UI are two separate functions and cannot be done by the same person.
If you flinched for even a second while reading the last quote or if you have any doubt then you need to get a pen and some paper and write out that sentence 100 times.
But, even for the most niche product, there will be a spectrum of users. All of these users will come to the UI with different needs and requirements and expectations.
If the UI designer spent all their time designing a product for everyone, then you would end up with something that didn’t work for anyone. So let the UI designer design the UI and then let someone else (i.e the UX team) test its usability.
This is to say that every dollar invested in UX returns $10 to $100, and correcting the problem from the start is most cost effective.
UX is a relative newcomer to the party. And most people, especially in larger organizations do not really understand what it is all about. It is also a very well paid job in comparison with UI design. The reason for this is not difficult to find. UX can, if used correctly, have a significant impact on the bottom line. But, like any investment, it can take time and it can slow up development of a product. But, you either want to include UX in the process or you don’t. And the aim to make money by adding to UX to the list of jobs that someone has to do is not going to work. UX does improve your bottom line but only if it is a function in its own right.
The flat design threat is a fashionable trend that will hopefully subside before it hurts users (and companies) too much.
The convergence of UI and UX is in large part the result of a lack of understanding. It is not a strategic decision. CEOs and Founder’s do not set out to provide a poor user experience. But, that can be the unintended consequence of their decisions.
Take one example. Flat design. This was, and still is, a major trend in design. It has dominated so many interfaces in the last 18 months. Yet, there is little doubt at this stage that it is a failure and negatively impacts the user experience.
Norman Nielsen Group published a review of Flat Design which can only be described as damning. ‘The flat design threat is a fashionable trend that will hopefully subside before it hurts users (and companies) too much.’ Most usability testing has come to the same conclusion and you can only wonder how so many could have got it so wrong.