User Experience Designers are the ones who help make your time with a product or website as pleasurable and easy to use as possible. But what about UI?

Often times the terms UI (User Interaction) and UX are used in conjunction with each other and rightly so.

The interaction is essentially the experience the user is having with the software. UI is generally tailored toward the visual aspect of the interaction whereas UX is focused more on the flow of actions the user is taking. Together they make a great team – a dynamic duo if you will.

Over the years I’ve found my own role changing and shifting to encompass new technologies and ideas. When I got into web design a little over 6 years ago the terms UI & UX were not widely used, a lot of people were still building websites in tables, and the smartphone was barely off the drawing board. The web has changed a lot in that time and we’ve learnt more about our own behaviours along the way opening up new skills and career choices.

Cheryl Platz has written a great article about the UX process and sums it up quite well:

We use the principles of computer science to work through a problem, use cognitive and experimental psychology to figure out how real people will respond to that problem, and design an aesthetically pleasing solution to the problem.

In practice, I’ve found that this equates to good strategy sessions, wireframing, sketching, user testing, iteration and removing the barriers to the user’s flow to ensure ease of use.  The user testing is a really important part of the process. You’re able to get immediate feedback on your ideas, but it can be the most costly. Bringing in a user base who aren’t designers or web developers to try your new ideas out on can be hard to organise. And if it’s not well managed you can end up with groupthink or design by committee. Sometimes a specialist testing company is the best bet for that part of a project.

For more information on this fascinating topic – have a Google. Or check out UX Magazine. And there’s even a conference devoted to UX in Wellington in November.

If you’re interested in improving the experience of your website or product, or have an idea in mind, please get in touch.