What is UX Design
UX Design, also called User Experience Design, involves creating systems or products with a primary focus on the needs of the user. It is a field that spans several disciplines, including design, development, programming, psychology, and human-computer interaction. Those involved in the field of UX Design enhance the usability, accessibility, and overall enjoyment of systems, products or services. This can include any system with which a person interacts, including websites and apps, as well as self-checkout systems at a retail store, automated check-in systems at an airport, the interface for adjusting audio or climate controls in a car, or an automated phone menu. UX Design can be involved in any system or device with which a person interacts.
History of UX Design
The roots of UX Design can be traced back to the 1940s when Bauhaus designers started to reimagine everything from door handles to chairs, led by designers such as Walter Gropius. This expanded into the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Early pioneers like Vannevar Bush and Douglas Engelbart contributed to the development of concepts that would later become fundamental to UX Design. While HCI gained prominence, especially in academia, in the 1980s the term "User Experience" first gained prominence. This is often credited to academic Don Norman who emphasized the importance of user-centered design and wrote about the need for users to be considered in designing computer systems.
Relationship between UX and UI
User Interface (UI) design is a subset of UX Design. It is focused on the visual and interactive elements of a product. UX Design encompasses the overall user experience, including usability, accessibility, and user satisfaction, and interface. UI Design deals specifically with the aesthetics of on-screen interfaces, such as icons, buttons, and the “look and feel”. UI is more than aesthetics, as it must also consider contrast, color choices, and the environment in which an item is being interacted with - including lighting, visibility, and tactile feedback.
Relationship between HCI and UX
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is closely related to UX Design, and can be considered a subset of UX Design. HCI involves the study and application of interactions between humans and computers. HCI research informs UX Design, helping designers create interfaces and experiences that meet the needs of users based upon their studied behaviors and preferences.
Relationship between Human Factors and UX
Human Factors is another subset of UX Design. Human Factors is similar to HCI, although it is more broad, as it studies how humans interact with all systems, products, and environments, while HCI is focused exclusively on computers. Human Factors shares a strong connection with UX Design, as it involves the consideration of ergonomics, cognitive psychology, and human behavior when designing user-friendly experiences.
UX Design Job Titles and Roles
There are a number of jobs in fields relating to UX Design, including:
- UX Designer: A UX designer is focused on the overall user experience of interacting with a product or service. A UX Designer can be involved with conducting research, creating prototypes, building wireframes, and ensuring the product aligns with documented user needs.
- UI Designer: A UI designer is focused on the visual, tactile, and interactive aspects of the user interface. They may design icons, buttons, input devices, and make color choices for how an interface will appear. For a website, UI designers take wireframes and add design elements such as icons, buttons, and colors.
- UX Researcher: A UX researcher conducts research with users to gather insights about how a system is used, the preferences of users, why users make certain decisions or take specific actions. UX researchers collect and organize data and use this data to inform design decisions.
- Information Architect: An information architect structures and organizes content so that it can be easily found and has a logical navigation. This involves research and also exercises such as card sorting.
- Usability Testing: A user tester evaluates systems and products through testing to identify usability problems or concerns. This can involve setting up automated testing, or testing among a wide group of users to solicit feedback and input.
- Interaction Designer: An interaction designer creates the flow and interaction patterns within a product, including what occurs when users click, make selections, or navigate.
- Accessibility Specialist: An accessibility specialist is focused on making certain a system such as a website or app is usable by all users, regardless of any disability, and is compliant with rules and regulations such as the Americans with Disability act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
What type of work do UX Designers perform
User Experience (UX) Designers perform a wide range of tasks to create user-friendly and effective digital products and experiences that meet the needs of users and objectives of the business or organization creating the system. These tasks vary depending on the organization, project, and the specific role of the UX Designer. Some of the tasks commonly associated with UX Designers include:
- User Research: Conduct user research to understand the needs, behaviors, and preferences of users. This involves interviews, surveys, usability testing, and data analysis.
- Persona Development: Create user personas to represent different users and user segments, helping to design for specific user groups and create empathy with their needs..
- Information Architecture: Organize and structure information within a product to ensure it's easily navigable and understandable by users. This can involve creating menus structure and URL structure. This often involves card sorting exercises, creating sitemaps, and user flow diagrams.
- Wireframing and Prototyping: Design low-fidelity wireframes to provide initial concepts and high-fidelity prototypes to visualize and test the layout and functionality of a product before development.
- Usability Testing: Plan and conduct usability testing to gather feedback from users, identify areas where an interface or design does not work, and refine the user interface to best meet the needs of the user. This also can include user testing analysis which analyzes data and feedback from user testing to provide guidance, make design decisions and iterate on designs based upon test results.
- Interaction Design: Design interactive elements, such as buttons, menus, forms, and interactive elements to ensure they are intuitive and meet user expectations.
- Visual Design: Create visually appealing interfaces that align with the brand and provide a pleasing user experience, often working in collaboration with UI Designers.
- Accessibility: Ensure that the product is accessible to all users, including individuals with disabilities by following accessibility guidelines and conducting accessibility testing.
- Documentation: Create design documentation, such as design guidelines, style guides, and design specifications, to communicate design decisions to stakeholders and development teams.
- Advocacy for Users: Act as an advocate for users within the organization, advocating for user-centric design principles and best practices.
Useful skills for UX Designers
Because there are many functions performed by UX Designers, there are a number of skills that are needed for a UX Designer to be successful, including:
- Graphic design: A UX Designer should have graphic design or visual design skills to help determine the appropriate layout and design of systems they create such as web pages or apps.
- Collaboration: UX designers work closely with cross-functional teams, including developers, product managers, and marketers. They must be able to collaborate effectively to ensure that the designs align with business goals.
- Continuous Learning: It is important for UX designers to stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and best practices in UX design through ongoing research and professional development.
- Project Management: Because projects have deadlines, UX designers must manage project timelines, priorities, and deliverables to make certain projects are delivered on time and within budget.
Important Figures in UX Design
Several influential figures have shaped the field of UX Design, including Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Steve Krug, Alan Cooper, and Jennifer Smith. These individuals have authored seminal books, conducted groundbreaking research, and established best practices in the industry.
UX Designer Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith is a leading UX educator and an expert in Adobe software applications. She has contributed significantly to the education and training of designers and developers in the field of UX Design. Her role at American Graphics Institute involves teaching UX and UI design principles, as well as UX Design systems such as Figma, Optimal Workshop, and Adobe Creative Cloud applications, providing students with practical skills and knowledge that are highly valuable in the industry. Jennifer is a candidate in the master’s degree program in Human Factors in Information Design at Bentley University. She has delivered presentations at the UXPA international conference, and the UXPA Boston annual conference. Jennifer Smith's expertise and dedication make her a respected figure in the UX Design field, shaping the future of design education.
Learn More about UX Design
There are many resources for learning more about UX Design and related fields. Some of the more prominent resources include:
- Interaction Design Foundation: Offers online courses and articles on UX, HCI, and related topics.
- ACM SIGCHI: The ACM Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction provides resources and information about HCI research and events.
- HCI International: An international conference on HCI, where you can find research papers and proceedings
- Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES): The official website of HFES offers resources, publications, and information about human factors.
- International Ergonomics Association: Provides information on ergonomics and human factors research worldwide.
- UXPA (User Experience Professionals Association): UXPA is a global organization dedicated to supporting the professional development of UX practitioners. Their website offers resources, events, and networking opportunities for those interested in UX Design.
- American Graphics Institute: The institute specializes in training and education related to UX, UI UX, and UX Design, graphic design, and web design. AGI is a valuable resource for individuals looking to enhance their design skills.
- Nielsen Norman Group: A leading UX research and consulting firm, they provide a wealth of articles, reports, and training on UX topics.
Colleges and Universities Offering UX Design Studies
Many educational institutions offer programs in UX Design, including renowned universities like Stanford University, MIT, and the University of Washington. Some institutions, such as the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), offer specialized programs in human factors that align with UX Design principles. Bentley University and Carnegie Mellon University both have highly ranked programs in the UX Design field of Human Computer Interaction
Human Factors in Information Design
Bentley University offers a Master's program in Human Factors in Information Design (HFID). This program blends psychology, design, and technology to prepare students for careers in user experience design and human-computer interaction. Coursework includes user research, interface design, usability testing, and information architecture. Students gain experience through hands-on projects, internships, and research.
The HFID program at Bentley University is designed to prepare students for careers in the field of user experience design, usability, and human-computer interaction. It combines principles of psychology, design, and technology to equip graduates with the skills needed to design and evaluate interactive systems that are user-friendly and effective. Located in Boston, the HFID program provides opportunities with the many finance, technology, and biotech businesses located in the area.
Human-Computer Interaction Master’s Degree
Carnegie Mellon University is renowned for its Master of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) program. This program emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach, integrating design, psychology, computer science, and social sciences to prepare students for careers in user experience design and usability research. Students engage in project-based learning, collaborating with esteemed faculty and industry partners. The program often concludes with a capstone project, allowing students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world HCI challenges.