We’ve all overheard conversations, walking down hip streets of the world’s tech capitals, discussions about the great ‘UX’ of a product, or the poor ‘UI’ of a website. Is it a secret language you will never be privy to? Are these people just using slang to look cool?
Well, ok probably yes to the latter, but a determinate NO to the rest. Read on to learn what these terms mean, which jobs are better paid, and how to become a UX designer or UI designer.
Scroll to the middle of the post to watch a video of me speaking about this article, and giving you some extra info on what being a UX or UI Designer really means.
The people you have eavesdropped on are actually discussing two professions that despite having been around for decades, and in theory for centuries, have been defined by the tech industry as UX and UI Design.
UX Design refers to the term User Experience Design, while UI Design stands for User Interface Design. Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together. But despite their professional relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different parts of the process and the design discipline. Where UX Design is a more analytical and technical field, UI Design is closer to what we refer to as graphic design, though the responsibilities are somewhat more complex.
If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which give it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions. And UI design represents the cosmetics of the body–its presentation, its senses and reactions. But don’t worry if you’re still confused! You’re not the only one!
As Rahul Varshney, Co-creator of Foster.fm puts it:
User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.
Below I break down the history, debate and definition around each term in detail. But if you don’t care for them – jump to the end of each section for a simplified description. And make sure you don’t miss the professional stats below it.
User experience design is a human-first way of designing products.
User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product.
Clear, right? Well you might note immediately that despite what I implied in the introduction, the definition has no reference to tech, no mention of digital, and vague at best. But like all professions, it’s impossible to distill the process from just a few words.
Some confusion in the definition of the term itself is due to its youth. Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, is credited with inventing the term in the late 1990’s declaring that “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
This implies that regardless of its medium , UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential or active customer and a company. As a scientific process it could be applied to anything, street lamps, cars, Ikea shelving and so on. In the video below, we pit a banana against a pineapple to demonstrate this point.