The democratization of user-centric digital design has brought a wide variety of new terms: UX Design, UI Design, CX, Design Thinking, Lean UX, Sprint Design… This popularization has also caused great confusion in the profession because, as any fashion, everyone wants to seize the phenomenon, create its own terms and take advantage of the business opportunity. So much that today we hear a bit of everything.
As the subject may be sensitive, it’s good to point out that the purpose of this article is to try to clarify each of these profiles as well as possible, what are their main missions and what is expected of them. By the way, this article is not here to impose a way of thinkin, but it will be useful if it can open the debate.
The important thing is to make it clear that these are trades specialists with their own characteristics and that we must not mix everything up. It is not enough to master Photoshop to be claimed a UX Designer, and conversely it is not enough to know how to make wireframes to be claimed a UI Designer (or even UX Designer).
Let’s try to see what differences are hidden behind an experience designer vs interface designer and how the two profiles work together.
The UX Designer: the back-end of design
The main goal of the UX Designer is to make the user experience interact with the most positive technologies possible by thinking the experience before the product. To do this, the UX Designer must intervene early in the project to help publishers define a specification that will take into account the needs, expectations, motivations and limitations of users.
The missions of a UX Designer are:
* Listening to user needs and market analysis (key success factors, opportunities, competition), * Conduct user research (observations, interviews, studies etc.) and modeling them into the form of Persona and Experience map
* Realization of user tests and interface audits
* Animation of client and internal collaborative workshops (user exploration and ideation workshop)
* Definition of product integration in its overall process taking into account the technical aspects, marketing and user needs
* Definition of key features, user paths and interface trees
* Definition of the interface structure and different pages
* Design of functional wireframes and prototyping (in pairs with the UI designer)
* Follow-up of the UX part during the entire life of the project.
The skills of the UX Designer are varied and involve several disciplines: psychology, cognitive, ergonomics, usability, marketing, product strategy and project monitoring. It is almost impossible for a UX Designer to master all these disciplines to perfection, but it must have some strong expertise and master others. As there are not too many pure UX Design courses, we think there are two main types of UX Designer:
* The “UX Researchers”, who come from training in Ergonomics, Human Factors, Psychology, Cognitive and who are experts in listening, research and user testing, workshop animation and product ergonomics.
* The “UX Strategist” who come from training in Marketing, Innovation Management, Master Digital Project Monitoring and who are experts in marketing, product strategy, traffic analysis, SEO and customer experience.
The UI Designer: the front-end of design
The role of the UI Designer is not just to make sexy models, or even to color wireframes. Its role is obviously to represent the elements of the interface in a visual way and their interactions but also to give emotion and facilitate the decision-making of users. To do this, the UI Designer needs a clear specification that defines all the pages and their contents.
The missions of the UI Designer are:
* Design of functional wire frames and prototyping (in pairs with the UX designer).
* Realization of graphic Benchmark and mood boards
* Definition and creation of the artistic direction
* Definition of visual guidelines
* Interface and interaction design (visual, sound, gestures …) respecting the integration constraints
* Performing user tests on visual aspects
* Graphic recipe
Here again, the skills of the UI Designer are varied and involve several disciplines: artistic direction, applied arts, graphic design, interface design, ergonomics, usability, interaction design, webdesign, illustration, motion design… From the same way a good UI Designer needs to master the design of the interface, to know the standards of the web and to apply the design that best suits the subject and the context of use. In my opinion, there are two main types of UI Designer:
* The “DA Digital” which come from training in applied arts and graphic design and who are experts in the creation of identity, graphic design and visual design. They come mainly from communication agency and have been trained in digital with experience.
* The “interface designers” who come from training in interaction design and web designer and who are experts in ergonomics, interface design, visual design and front end development.
UX Designer + UI Designer: the ultimate weapon
The UX designer and the UI Designer both occupy an important place in user-centric design. The success of a digital project therefore depends on the complementarity of these two functions. As well as a back end and a front end in the development or even an artistic director and a designer / copywriter in advertising, the UX Designer and the UI Designer must form a duo that will work together during the entire lifetime of the project. The wireframe / definition of usability means the overlapping area of these two disciplines and the moment when the pair has to exchange the most. It is the sharing between the functional dimension and the emotional dimension that will make the success of the future digital system.
The integrator is also part of this “fatal weapon” because without it the design stops at the scale of a static model but I will not try a definition because I do not control the subject well enough . A word for those who want to complete the subject!
UX / UI Designer: the full stack of design
Just as the term full stack is debated in development, the term UX / UI Design also seems a bit overused especially when detailing the missions of both disciplines. It’s almost impossible that a single person is capable of being both a good psychologist, marketer, product strategist, ergonomist, art director, interface designer and front end dev. As we have seen, it is difficult enough to master the skill set of a UX or UI Designer.
However, it is understandable that on typical “startup” projects with a dedicated web / application platform, a UX / UI profile can be requested because the person will be involved from the beginning in the project and will have enough time to devote to follow the two parts. Likewise when one is in a POC (Proof of concept) mode where a UX / UI Designer may be suitable at the beginning but this will reach its limits during industrialization.
It all depends on what is behind the words UX and UI. Very often people looking for UX / UI Designers look for profiles that produce wireframes, graphic design and can perform user tests. The problem is that this definition is detrimental to the profession of the UX Designers because it is too restrictive and could quite simply be a UI Designer. Let’s not forget that the UI Designer is also part of the user centered methodology, that it is also part of its role to take into account the users (otherwise you remove the “U” to your title) and that this function, even if it is less fashionable, has nothing to envy to that of the UX Designer. Just as the term full stack is a debate in development, the term UX / UI Design also seems a bit overused especially when details the missions of the two disciplines. It seems to me almost impossible that a single person is capable of being both a good psychologist, marketer, product strategist, ergonomist, art director, interface designer and front end dev. As we have seen, it is difficult enough to master the skill set of a UX or UI Designer.
We all have the same passion, but not the same jersey
The point of this article is that the job is still “new” and will surely continue to evolve and become more important. I think it will not be unusual to see even more specialized designer profiles in the future, such as UX Researcher, UX Strategist, UX Copywriter etc.
The important thing when looking for Designer profiles in the digital world is to think about the complementarity of the profiles. It is the diversity of profiles from different horizons (psychology, cognitive, marketing, applied arts school, specialized HMI school …) that will be the strength of a team because nothing is richer than the exchanges. So do not hesitate to share and comment.