Few topics cause more confusion than the U/X U/I conundrum. Articles regarding the design of interfaces and the user experience are riddled with acronyms that only add to the confusion. Hopefully, this post will help clear up any misconceptions about the subject at hand.
U/X design stands for User Experience. It entails the quality of human interaction with any digital device including mobile phones, tablets, phablets, laptops, and desktops. The user experience encompasses the level of quality that is then articulated into a more analytical and technical narrative. U/X design is often considered to be more of a marketing-related issue. Topics such as content, click-throughs, searches, and information requests are all analysed to determine how well the user interacted with the site.
Questions that a UX designer may ask is: How easily did the visitor find what he was looking for? What quality of useful information did the site capture? Did the visit result in a conversion? What level of customer satisfaction was achieved? All of these iterations of information is then collected and analysed to determine the level of experience that was attained by the visitor. More importantly, the marketer determines what knowledge was obtained about the customer so that it can be assimilated into future marketing efforts.
U/I is the other side of the same coin. U/I is an acronym for User Interface. It concerns itself more with the design and functionality of the interface design. Depending on the nature of the device, U/I design focuses more on functionality. U/I designers grapple with minutia such as how the device is held and the clarity of the buttons in terms of their functions. U/I designers spend a lot of time, for example, on the use of the “thumb zone”, the area on the interface that is easily manipulated by the digits that do all the heavy lifting on a mobile device, the thumbs. U/I designers employ “wireframes”, a computer-generated 3D graphic of the device used lay out the graphic design and placement of buttons, drop-down menus, pop-up cards, and other elements that are designed for user interaction.
Much of a U/I designer’s time is spent designing prototypes and the above mentioned digital wireframes that are then put through a gauntlet of testing to determine issues such as ease of use and functionality of all the iterations involved in the design process. The ultimate objective is to develop symmetry between the user and the company by accomplishing the goal of both entities.
The roles of the U/X designer and U/I designer is not entirely separate endeavours. While the U/X designer focuses more on cognitive science such as language, perception, memory, reasoning and customer satisfaction, these factors are applied to marketing applications that assure the visitor of having a satisfying customer experience.
U/I designers, on the other hand, complement the efforts made by the UX team to optimise the user experience concerning functionality, making the device a more user-friendly interaction in a literally hands-on environment. The U/I designer is more concerned with the look and feel of the final product. He strives to make the interactivity and presentation pleasing to the touch, look and feel of the final product. U/I designers are more closely aligned with graphics and industrial design functions.
Neither of these functions are completely alien to the other. At the end of the day, U/X and U/I designers need to work together to develop a finished product that satisfies both the user and the company’s goals. To realise a successful rollout of the finished product, both U/X and U/I designers must work together to integrate the iterations that lead to a successful, user-friendly device that satisfies the objectives of the business and public alike.
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