In today’s creative and technical environment, the terms “UI” (user interface) and “UX” (user experience) are used more than ever. Overall, these terms refer to specialties and ideas that existed for years before the introduction of abbreviated terminology.
But the problem with these new abbreviations is much more than a simple nomenclature. Unfortunately, terms are quickly becoming dangerous buzzwords: using these terms imprecisely and often completely inappropriately is a constant problem for a growing number of professionals, including: designers, job seekers and development specialists of products.
Understanding the proper separation, relationship and use of terms is essential for both disciplines
UI! = UX
The most common misconception you will hear in the workplace, in client meetings and often in job listings or job requirements is the involuntary combination or exchange of terms.
In many cases, the incorrect expectation is that an interface designer by default understands or focuses on the user experience because their work is in direct contact with the user. The simple fact is that the user interface is not a user experience.
The confusion may simply be due to the fact that both abbreviations begin with the letter “U”. More likely, this stems from the overlap of skills involved in the two disciplines. These are certainly related fields, and in fact many designers are knowledgeable and knowledgeable in both.
However, despite the overlap, the two areas are significantly different in nature and – more importantly – in their overall objectives and scope. The user interface focuses on the actual elements that interact with the user – essentially, the physical and technical methods of entry and exit.
The user interface refers to the aggregation of approaches and elements that allow the user to interact with a system. It does not deal with details such as how the user reacts to the system, remembers the system and reuses it.
Such problems bring us to the user experience. Don’t be fooled! The user experience is much more than the end result of the user interface. Instead, I’ve always found it best to think of the user experience as the reactor or the core of a brand. A brand being, in essence, the sum of the experiences that a person has with a company or an organization. User experience is the goal.
Not just the goal of an interface, but of a product or interaction with an organization. When a good user experience is obtained, all the desirable or positive effects that one could think of result from it. UX is focused on the success of the package. In reality, the product is not the sum of its parts; experience is.
At the end of the day, that’s all we can leave to the user: a memory. As we all know, human memory is amazing, but it is imperfect. Every detail contributes to the ingredients for a good user experience, but when it all comes down to it, the user will remember the products in a somewhat biased way. UX contains a much larger image than the user interface, but it always relies on the smallest details to drive it. This understanding is the most powerful asset you can have in product development.
- The user interface is a tool
The user interface is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal in the quest for an exceptional user experience. Why? Simply put, the interface is the most tactile, visceral and visible method with which our users interact with us.
The user interface is the first line. This is probably the best explanation of why the two terms are so often used interchangeably or combined into one.
- Improper use is dangerous
Communication is complex and can be confusing. The development of precise and specialized terminologies facilitates communication. But what happens when we do not actually speak the same language?
What if I said “Use a screw”, which is a metal corkscrew fastener to an engineer who assembles a product, but he thought it referred to a corner support or a chemical adhesive ? The product can have serious problems.
Of course, interfaces and experiences are not going to literally blow us up. However, the effect is no less powerful. Unthinkable sums of time and money are spent dancing around the incorrect focus and use of these terms. Ultimately, the loss of time and money will cause a business to close or the products to fail. Poor application of concepts can be disastrous.
- Find the right designer
Some of the most common usage failures for the UI and UX terms are the most important ones: task lists and requirements. It is already difficult to find excellent candidates for specialized jobs such as interface design and user experience design. But it is certainly more difficult to hire the right person for the job when the skill set and design are poorly communicated.
It is expensive to hire a specialist, and it is even more expensive to hire one who cannot solve the problem you need solved. More often than not, job requirements and responsibilities are biased towards the job description of the user interface designer, but are responsible for the responsibility and expectations of a UX designer.
- Responsibility for the problem
Whether it’s a UI or UX designer, there is always the design element. Design is a solution to a problem. When roles are clearly defined and universally understood, it is much easier to attack a problem, propose a solution and execute it.
In the case of the user interface and user experience, the problem normally applies to situations where responsibility for the interface and experience is assigned to a designer who simply does not have overall control of both aspects.
It is difficult to recognize a problem when the ability to solve it is not in your hands. A user interface designer may have the ability to create interactive designs, icons, colors, text, and assign a number of other elements that solve problems related to direct interactions with the user.
These are great tools to affect the user experience, but they are only part of the equation. The user experience is influenced by a multitude of things such as copy marketing, speed, functional performance, color palette, personality, customer support, defined expectations, financial approach, visualization … well , you get the idea.
It is neither fair nor practical to tell the user interface designer that he is responsible for all of these things and more. It’s not that the user experience can’t be designed. If the situation was reversed for a UX designer, it would be just as difficult. For a designer to properly take ownership of the UX problem, he must be allowed to recommend and make changes, implementations, and decisions that control the experience.
The misunderstanding relates to the focus and scope of the designer. It is not that a designer cannot manage both areas. These are the tools and the ability to solve problems. Indeed, a builder without tools is just as helpless to build as a person without skills or knowledge.
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