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› Relating to UX starts with understanding the lingo
  • Published on February 27, 2014

If you've ever used a smartphone before, you may be familiar with a few different website designs. Some might be more attractive than others in very specific ways, but you might not immediately know why or how these seemingly similar webpages are, at their core, inherently different - or why it's relevant at all in the world of user experience (UX). Even more importantly, knowing how to understand the various ways that people discuss these differences is important, especially if you're considering a career in website design. 

The different vernacular in UX web design
Think about why you navigate to a website in the first place. If it's to read the news or catch up on your favorite blog, you might be interacting with what Search Engine Watch refers to as a responsive design. According to the source, these websites are designed to scale according to the media with which you're using to access them. In other words, the news outlet you're reading while riding the train to work will look only marginally different if you resume the article on your desktop at the office. 

Alternatively, if the website you imagined in the earlier example is much more interactive in design, allowing you to click buttons or tilt the screen to activate different segments of the material, you are probably more focused on touching the different elements than actually reading anything. This is where the vernacular tends to be a little confusing. While it might seem like this is another responsive design, as it is directly influenced by your touch and responds to this stimulation, it is actually considered an interaction task. Here's why: 

A closer look at responsive and task-oriented designs
According to the source, UX seeks to take all of the different complex steps that consumers will take into consideration when they perform simple tasks. For instance, when a professor assigns homework across an online portal, such as Google Docs or an internally created word processing software, the layout of the website is designed to facilitate the needs of the student who is completing the work. A single button to call up a blank page, for instance, and perhaps another to submit changes. The subsequent files are then transmitted to the professor, who will then likely interact with the same software to assign his or her own edits and then send it back, typically with a grade attached. 

Determining which design model this would follow - responsive or task-oriented - depends on the complexity of the software. Assuming the student is using Google Docs, it would be challenging to use a smartphone or a tablet to paginate text at this level, but it can certainly be done. The complexity of the website alone is not what defines it, but rather how the consumer will interact with it. Thus, this example would more likely fit in the task-oriented category, as it involves several buttons, that all perform separate functions, whereas a responsive model would be the main site simply miniaturized. 

However, the same student could, with the same mobile device, access a website built with a responsive design to perform research for his or her assignment. According to Intechnic, Time magazine's online version ranked as one of the top 50 responsive designs of 2013 for its sleek and well-proportioned appearance when it was scaled down to fit a smaller screen. It was still navigable, simple to use and didn't require heavy interactions to function. 

Why does all of this matter? That's simple - if you select a career path that relates to consumers in any online capacity or are in one already, you should know the fundamentals of the user experience. With a little UX training, however, the American Graphics Institute may help give you a new edge.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.