What Is UI/UX Design: Basics from a Pro

November 11, 2020

What Are “UI” and “UX”?

UX stands for “user experience design” which encompasses all the ways a customer may interact with a brand, while UI stands for “user interface design” which deals with the digital surface the user views.

Even though these acronyms have been around for a long time, their usage has grown significantly during the last decade.

The absolutely awesome work of Marci, the UI/UX designer at Splendex.

Where Did They Come From?

The super brief story of user experience design dates back as far as 1987, to the second major European conference in the computer-human interaction field called Interact ‘87

Whiteside, J., and Wixton D. engineers defined in terms of usability, how the users in question should be ordinary people, not tech or IT professionals.

The mid-90s would bring another step of progress, the first person to have a position with the term “User Experience” in the title, Don Norman. 

UI Design, UX Design, Web Design, Graphic Design… What’s the Difference?

While these terms and fields may overlap, they do require different expertise, let us take a website as an example and see who is in charge of certain steps.

Graphic designers are in charge of creating the beautiful visual elements the client asks for, building up a coherent brand image, picking which fonts and colors to use, designing logos, and much more.

UX designers take the visual a step further, and with their knowledge they deduct how users are going to react to certain elements of the website. While the visual may be beautiful, if people can’t find what they are looking for they will get frustrated and leave. If the users don’t seem to have a comfortable experience on the website, it’s the UX designer’s task to find out why and fix the issues.

This is why the work of UX designers is crucial because it puts the users first, and ensures they have an easy and enjoyable experience while navigating the website. 

UI designers take into account the findings of UX research and implement them during their design process. Whether it’s for web or applications, these designers continuously test and finetune the digital surface users will be met with.

Web designers possess all the skills to implement the pretty graphic elements while keeping them functional, fast, and consistent. They take the plans and code them into the place, color, and size set by the previous designers. It’s their responsibility to make sure the website looks good and works well from any browser and any device.

Naturally, people may take on multiple of these roles, but they all come with a pretty large workload, which is one of the reasons it’s worth it to use the proper terms.

In our experience collaboration between these experts can be very efficient if they all have functional understanding of the other fields.

What Makes a Successful Digital Product?

It needs to be intuitive, as every user will look to certain places for specific functions. Your website should be trustworthy, you should ensure that the user never has to worry about their data or money.

The phrasing should be plain and simple, with a clear distinction where content pieces start and end. The content provided on our digital space should be helpful, users should find solutions to their problems and answers to their questions. 

The loading speed should be minimized, if a website doesn’t load within 2 seconds, the number of people leaving the website rises exponentially. The website needs to be responsive; it should function well on mobile devices as 80% of users get their information this way.

This is how we work at Splendex
This is how we work at Splendex

The website needs to be accessible, so people with disabilities can still have an easy time using it.

If you’re running an online store you will absolutely need an internal search option, to find specific items from the thousands.

Last but not least, a good rule of thumb is to include as many high-quality images, videos, and illustrations as possible. It’s not only more pleasing to look at, but people prefer consuming these types of media over reading, and they can make your brand much more memorable.

How Do UI/UX Designers Know What Needs to Be Done?

Stakeholder interviews help us in getting to know the business, what they do, how they do it, their product or service, who the target audience is, and whether there are any conflicts or problems within the firm.

The brief is assembled from the results of the interviews, which helps us throughout the entire design process while keeping our objectives clear.

We do competitor analysis to get a better idea of our position, find ideas we can improve upon, and define what we definitely want to avoid.

With the help of Google Analytics, we get useful data about bounce rates, visitor characteristics, and all types of data we need to improve upon.

Google Analytics
Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

We interview the target audience, to find out their motivations, their pain points, and problems.

There is an ideation stage where we find solutions to the problems we have noticed thus far.

The content should be entirely written, and the product clearly defined before the graphic design process starts, this way the focus stays on the information.

At this stage we make a wireframe and a prototype, with the help of softwares such as Figma, Adobe Xd, InVision, and Sketch. We continuously test the wireframe to find remaining issues and fix them.

We give the research findings and the wireframe over to UI design, who start filling the surface with life.

Photo by Visual Design on Unsplash

The prototype is tested, we check what emotions are evoked from users, and fix them using the same softwares.

We plan a design system from which development can begin.

Through a presentation, we show the research findings, the finished plan and product to our client.

If they are completely satisfied, we give the plan to our developers.

As you can see, UX designers mix a bit of sociology, market & consumer research, marketing, and project management into their tasks. All these are to ensure our end product is going to be useful, enjoyable, and efficient.

My Journey as a Designer

My first job was the polar opposite of designing, it took me a long while to end up in UI/UX design. I realized I wanted to do something more creative, something I was truly passionate about, so I started a web design course, where I learned basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. 

Nice to meet you! I’m Marci.

I then applied to an online web design course, where we worked with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, Illustrator, WordPress and some PHP. This was the first time I heard of UI/UX design and it got my interest immediately, so I started reading about it online.

I knew this was something I wanted to pursue, so I started looking for opportunities to gain more in-depth experience, so I took part in the UI/UX bootcamp at xLabs.

From the very first lesson I was intrigued by all the new ideas and perspectives, how a website was not simply successful because a firm decided so, but because the target audience enjoyed it.

We had to communicate with each other a lot during the training classes, it was good practice in getting to know each other’s motivations and thought processes. At the end of the course we had team presentations about a collaborated project, preparing for this was definitely the most difficult part.

The most exciting part for me were the interviews. I liked preparing the questions for people, but I also liked improvising on the spot, while keeping my interviewee on the subject. I also really liked the ideation processes, where there was no limit to our creativity and what funny or crazy solutions we could come up with.

My Honest Thoughts About the UI/UX Field

To conclude, I enjoy it because it’s creative but very people oriented. I like getting to know people’s experiences, and I enjoy being a part of solving them. In my opinion it’s a particularly important field for any person who wants to have a digital presence. 

You can make an impersonal object such as a phone screen a brilliant way to connect with people and really speak to their heart, and I think that is really exceptional.

Marcell Fekete
UI/UX Designer