Convergence and Divergence: How UXAs and Designers Work Together as Frenemies to Build Beautiful Things
If you work day in and day out in close proximity to a UX designer and a UI designer, you know what I’m talking about when I say that there is always a creative tension between the two.
Whereas both resources share a common understanding that their job is to design for emotion, by creating “memorable and relatable web experiences that fully engage the reader and prepares them for the main sales pitch,” they often disagree about how and what emotional design really means. Or better said, they often disagree on the creative vision that will maximize customers’ positive emotions toward their digital product.
Why is that, you may ask? It’s a fair question.
Why are UX and UI designers behaving more like frenemies than like brothers and sisters with a common goal?
The answer is fairly simple, so at Y Media Labs we created the following visual representation to quickly illustrate the main differences between the two.
Quiz time: what does this image suggest is the main difference between the two designers?
If you guessed “the two have completely different mindsets,” then you are correct.
User Experience designers define the end-to-end experience users engage in when using an application or a website. What often goes unnoticed is that UX work is a science. The output – how the information is laid out on the screen and how people interact with it – is the result of working closely with internal stakeholders to define and implement the business goals in a way that makes the most sense for the person who will end up using a specific feature.
A good UX designer is primarily concerned with a user being able to complete a specific task. Through research, user testing, sketching and prototyping, UX designers will make sure that a user can “do a specific thing” based on specific business goals in a seamless and intuitive fashion.
Like a scientist, the UXA needs to choose the quickest way to solve a problem out of a known list of paths that lead to the same result.
In contrast, User Interface designers take the output of a User Experience designer and turn it into a form of art. If the UX designer controls what a person does on a page or inside a flow or funnel, then the job of a UI designer is to define how that page/flow/funnel looks and feels.
A UI designer’s ultimate goal is to make people feel good while using a specific digital product. A great site or mobile app is not only functional and intuitive (a UX job), but it also feels darn good using it.
UI designers take prototypes and sketches to the next level by ensuring that customers feel completely in their element when navigating your website. It’s not just pretty pictures, warm backgrounds, and flat or material design. It’s creating a state of mind for the user to feel 100% confident when using a digital product.
To give a simple example, a UX resource may decide that on tapping a button a user is redirected to another page. A designer will visually signal to the user that they are going to another page through animations (spinning wheel) or changing the colors of a button to signal loading the next page.
A great designer thinks through every single interaction and provides small but critical cues to the user to visually signal what’s ultimately a very simple and warm message:
“Buddy, you’re on the right track, you’re doing great, keep going.”
So what happens when UX and UI designers bring their separate mindsets to the table? By and large, they work well together and create beautiful digital experiences. But in the process of crafting this user experience, there is always a series of disagreements that commonly and repeatedly come to light.
These tension-causing divergent perspectives are the direct result of the different mindsets people in these roles have. Each creative team must find a way to ensure that their designers can feel like their points are taken into account and that their voices are heard. Different is not necessarily a bad thing in this case.
Yet all too often I see both UX and UI designers getting stressed out that the other person is trespassing on their territory. At the end of the day, we all must be mindful of what perspective the other person has, and we must work to find a middle ground that will allow the entire team to create the best possible digital product ever.
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