How to work with your client and not to dig yourself a grave.
6 minutes reading time
For some, these are the key terms forming part of our skin, but for some, still and naturally, it is a very common dark hole. Naturally, for people who are not directly wearing product designer shoes.
As I am facing this reality rather frequently, I’ve decided to write a few words about the difference between the fields myself, knowing there are tons of articles out there related to this topic. But also because the more we go further and deeper with product development, I feel the fields are fading away and being slowly fragmented into micro-roles and teams with far more deeper dedication and outcomes.
There are already proved, tested, tweaked and measured philosophies working nicely such as Lean development, Design Thinking or Agile processes which treat UX and UI design as two separate entities by default or by its nature. This article is about surfacing user experience and user interface design on its own where product or service meets customers (UX) or machines (UI).
Human beings are complex species and it is important to understand and be able to predict how they will adopt new ideas. Solve users problem first (UX) and then work towards underlying systems (UI). This way one can work faster and have big question marks answered before execution.
User Experience and User Interface for sake of argument
User Experience Design (UX)
The human-centred design process focusing on a deep understanding of users, emotional drivers & triggers, capabilities & limitations. How they feel about each interaction with what’s in front of them at the moment they are using it. Best practices promote improving the quality of user’s interaction and perception of a product. It takes into account an entire process of adopting a product, construction & transmission of a brand, usability, accessibility, business objectives and reliability of a product or service.
Useful | Usable | Desirable | Findable | Accessible | Credible
Micro-fields: user experience architecture designer | user experience researcher | usability analyst | information architect | copywriter | product designer
User Interface Design (UI)
The machine-centred design for computers, portable electronic devices, but also consider interface-less devices such as voice-controlled interfaces (VUI), conversation designs (chatbots) or gesture-based interfaces. With the focus on satisfying usability requirements, maximising the proposed user experience and trigger user’s delight. In other words it is an access point where the user interact with a product. It also typically refers to the graphical user interface (GUI), excluding interfaceless products.
It is a process that involves building an essential part of the users’ experience = anticipation of what user may need to do and ensure that the final product provides elements that are easy to use, access and understand (user-centred design).
Usable | Likeable | Understandable
Micro-fields: interaction designer | visual designer | motion designer | infographic designer
It goes beyond extremes
The annoying part is that some designers and even non-designers tend to say, the fields are completely different from each other, they are incomparable.
Yet, certain results in the most popular search engines, are very similar, should you search for a phrase that is interchangeable between user experience and user interface.
A lot of recruiters don’t even bother to distinguish them in any way! One will be surprised. The other day I was contacted for a UX job, typically the message started with the top UX skill set requirements. After asking for a detailed project specification, which actually was a nightmare to get, it turned out that a headhunter was looking for a mid-weight front-end profile, not related to none of the above.
Talking about product design they both essentially grew in the same place. Let’s not be surprised, user experience and user interface design are similar in principle. They are essential for every product design and development and they actually tend to overlap to a certain extent.
What one wants is user experience and user interface at the same time.
You don’t want to get a sandwich without ham or a bit of mustard on the top, do you?
Let’s get it straight using a universal language
The easiest is to go by terminology that one is able to back up by real-life experience to which a client can relate to, your way of living the service you can eventually provide and vice versa.
User experience is a story that begins prior one knows that there is a problem to be solved. Whereas user interface is translating an already solved human problem into a machine-readable language that is aesthetically pleasing to a user.
Minimum viable human language.
User Experience: purpose | entire process
User Interface: appearance | fragmental process
Get answered these two questions and it won’t take long to assess where both parties stand.
User Experience takes a bigger part of a cake
Now, user interface design or usability are important aspects of user experience design, think of them like subsets or subsidiaries of user experience. A product is a bunch of interconnected experiences. Apart from adoption or consumption of a product, user experience field also consider its troubleshooting, servicing, scaling, iterating moreover measuring its performance. This is where we are reaching particular concepts of good user experience and therefore, today, there is no single definition of what good user experience means. It is more about whether it meets users needs within its context.
Data-driven product design experience
Not making correct decisions or not making decisions at all along the way often means there are no sufficient data to satisfy users particular contexts. User experience field is very much data and not assumption driven field, at least far more than the user interface field. Essentially, user experience involves research over a period of time to tackle more or less challenging aspects of product design. Apart of required skills and experience in the other fields such as marketing, psychology or strategic thinking, gathered data are making design process beyond productive, less costly, less risky and more importantly it helps users to adopt product much better.
Data-driven product design allows uncovering what is likely to perform or vice versa, having in mind project and business objectives.
If not doing so, how do you assign a task to user interface designer in order to convince users to start using this or that feature? That feature that you thought is a game changer. That feature is meant to be a piece to get user closer to a bigger picture. Game on, set aside your own assumption in order to gain insights about users and what they really need. A user doesn’t care about what you thought of, they are after an objective to be met, otherwise they turn to someone else in a blink of an eye.
Every project goes through various stages of design, through an endless number of decisions before a minimum viable or final product is shaped. User experience & user interface design are forming part of this development. Your client doesn’t necessarily have to understand the fundamentals of each field, nor the differences between them. You are being hired because of your expertise in the field in the first place. However, your client would want to feel the vibe, how you do this cool stuff. Don’t take this away from them, this is the moment to shine. When you reproduce your last weeks minutes:
I worked on UX of a particular required feature
Don’t wait for a client to ask for a translation. Share how exactly you have approached the research, its outcomes and describe next and the most optimal steps. So a client can naturally feel you and translate the same to other coworkers.
Due to the natural complexity of product development you should be able to create a comfortable come and go environment for your client where they can interfere without hesitation and proactively participate in design even if by asking questions.