Did you know that 92% of those surveyed consider their primary devices to be their smartphones, not their personal computers? Did you also know that 90% of LinkedIn users also spend time on Facebook? Or that 66% of those surveyed prefer to watch a video on breaking news instead of reading the article.
These are just some examples of information a UX (user experience) designer might find important. They depend on facts, statistics, and surveys to model user behavior. They take into account the why what, and how of a product.
But that’s only the beginning. UX design is a multifaceted approach. Unfortunately, it relies on a fair number of abstract concepts.
That’s why it’s often misunderstood. Below, we answer the question of “what is a UX designer?”, the responsibilities of a UX designer, as well as common misnomers. Read on to discover more.
What Is a UX Designer?
There’s a reason so many people get confused about the subject. The descriptions are often liberally sprinkled with abstract terms and industry-specific terminology. Here are some examples we found:
- Meaningful Experiences
- Design Implementation
- Integrating the Product
- Relevant Experiences
If you have a background in marketing or web design, you likely understand those terms. If you don’t, you probably recognize those words. Unfortunately, recognizing a word is a far cry from understanding its use.
That’s especially true when it’s surrounded by other vague words.
A UX designer creates simple, straightforward, good-looking digital stuff. The designer studies how humans will use his stuff to make it simpler, more straightforward, and better looking.
The job itself can be complicated. It’s a pinch of statistics, a dash of art, and a heap of psychology wrapped in a design blueprint.
What it’s Not
There is quite a bit of overlap in modern jobs, especially in the digital industry. Front-end and back-end web developers are getting replaced by full-stack developers. Statisticians and information research scientists perform almost identical jobs.
Similarly, UX design is often used interchangeably with “usability” and “UI design.” In this case, the word choice isn’t completely inaccurate. Usability and UI design are important subsets of UX design.
It’s easier to think of them as specialties of the UX field. A UX designer focuses on the big picture. They follow a digital product’s entire process, start to finish.
UI (user interface) design, on the other hand, focuses on the interface a user sees when interacting with a webpage, program, or app. They design easy-to-use interfaces that are aesthetically pleasing.
Usability concentrates on a different side of the same coin. A person with this job ensures a webpage, program, or app does what it’s supposed to do:
- Controls work as they’re supposed to
- Buttons link correctly
- Navigation is simple
So then, what does a UX designer do? All that and then some. They focus on the user’s entire experience with a product:
Fields of Study for UX
To become a UX designer, students must study four different fields. Many designers specialize in a particular field, though they must be proficient in all of them. Their job requires it.
IxD (interaction design) is a subset of UX. It’s defined as — you guessed it — the user’s interaction with a digital product. The goal is to make certain the user has a pleasant experience when using the product. Unfortunately, the term “pleasant” isn’t always an easy metric to measure.
Have you heard of a “graphic designer” before? Well, visual design and graphic design use the same tools. A person in this job creates or uses photography, illustrations, typography, layout, space, and color.
To create a successful design, you must rely on artistic principles:
The main difference between the two jobs is a graphic designer works with both digital and print mediums. A visual designer works solely with digital mediums. Also, a graphic designer’s goal is to evoke emotion, whereas a visual designer’s goal is to enhance a user’s experience.
This is the field in which statistics, heuristics, and surveys are essential. User research determines what customers want and need. The principles at its core are directly related to advertising and marketing:
- Studying the target audience
- Understanding their problems
- Determining a solution
- Creating that solution
- Sharing the solution with the audience
To be successful, every website, program, or app needs to solve a problem. Your problem may be that you need to learn to tie your shoe. It could also be that you need a way to contact a music producer to cut your new album.
The trick is to understand your target audience. Get to know the problems they already face. When you create a solution for one of those problems, you’re guaranteed a ripe audience.
If you’ve ever visited San Francisco, you’re familiar with its subway system. It’s called BART, and it’s pervasive. It stops below every section of the city and beyond.
Routes connect not only to the subway but also to trains, railcars, and buses. With so many moving pieces, BART maps can be confusing to read. Fortunately, talented designers created maps with names, numbers, color codes, and charts.
Each of these elements is used in concert to simplify the process for pedestrians. At a glance, they can figure out where they are and where they need to go. They can determine what time the next train is leaving and when they’ll arrive at their destination.
This intentional design structure is what information architecture is all about. Designers label and structure content so users can easily find what they need. It’s used on websites, apps, smartphones, and more.
The field concentrates on “ease of use” and “findability.” Once again, the goal is to ensure a positive experience for users.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a UX designer?” can you see the value they add to any digital products? They’re especially handy for digital products with poor customer feedback, which needs redesigning.
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