Great Ideas Start Here

blog: a regularly updated web page, typically run by an individual or organization, containing relevant thoughts and ideas.
by: Christine Swartzendruber, Chief Technology Officer

You may have heard the term UX Design, but what is it? How is it different from traditional Web Design? UX design is short for user experience design and it encompasses a whole group of tasks that happen during the discovery and design phases of a project. Information architecture, information design, interaction design, creating wire-frames and prototypes, marketing, user research, editing, and user testing are just a few of the things that come under the UX design umbrella. During the process it’s important to have a strong understanding of a user’s motivations and behavior. Going out into the field and understanding how users are interacting with software and what their needs are is key.

UX design is a fairly new term and the general market hasn’t really caught up in recognizing it. Traditionally, web designers have been required to understand user experience as well as visual design, but it is often pointed out that the two are not the same.

The web is maturing, and thus there is a need for specialization of skills. A strong visual designer may have a specific skill set that someone who understands user behaviors may not have. Most strong visual designers for example don’t have the knowledge to complete any type of dynamic coding such as php or .Net, so why would we expect someone who understands layout and architecture to have strong Photoshop skills and an eye for aesthetics?

As professional web design has evolved, and roles and responsibilities have advanced and divided, the professional web design community has had to find ways to differentiate itself from so many entering the field as amateurs, claiming the Web Designer moniker.

UX often goes beyond just knowing how to most effectively lay things out. It can include coming up with concepts for development as well. If my team is creating a small business software application, having a UX designer can be helpful if they come up with ideas for modules and the interface for them. The UX designer is also responsible for researching both users and markets through focused groups, interviews, field investigation, scenario analysis, problem definition, brainstorming, requirements gathering, etc. It takes a lot of time to develop a user experience for a particular site or application. Once a site or application has launched the UX designer typically oversees things like usability testing, quality assurance and getting bugs fixed quickly.

Obviously, it is important for every member of the team to be somewhat focused on user experience. From the project manager to the developer and even the visual designer, but if you have the resources to include a UX designer for your project you’ll have someone to provide specific details about each aspect of the user experience and oversee the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Different people use the web differently, and someone who works in web development will have capabilities that a “now and then” user may not have. It’s important to see things through the eyes of every user, and that can be difficult for a seasoned developer or designer. If a visitor to your site can’t figure out how to use it or where to go, they will leave. If you have no visitors or subscribers there’s no point in having a site or application at all. Keep the needs of your users in mind, and the chances of success will increase exponentially.