Cats, Design & UX

Recently, I was discussing UX Design with a Graphic Designer in the process of learning about Web Design. After few chats, he showed a particular interest in UX and we started talking about it.

One afternoon he sent me a link to a YouTube video of a UX Designer on how to become such a professional.

During his video the professional UX Designer, on top of a variety of good tips, explained how the look of a website is a concern of a Web Designer but not of a UX Designer, and that is the only part I could not agree less. In fact, I believe “Web Design” and “UX Design” should be synonyms. There should be no other way to design than keeping in mind the users, the target audience as well as the purpose of the site; in few words, there should be no other way to design than doing it based on UX principles. I do agree that there are a lot of people calling themselves web designers although they are no more than graphic designers with no understanding of how a website actually works. That is also why it is, in my experience, wrong to let a graphic designer design websites and other web contents.

Colours, the feel the users get from the look of a website, the ability to identify, and quickly understand, useful elements on the interface and so forth are all part of the way a website “looks” and that cold, black and white wireframes and prototypes could not represent effectively.

The distinction between User Experience and User-Centered Design is another matter. In fact, UCD may not be right for the objective of certain websites. UX in itself has not only the purpose to facilitate the users and make them feel “comfortable” but also to ensure they perform the actions the websites’ owner expects or desires from them, which is what normally happens in a commercial environment. UCD should be all about the user and nothing else. For example, I would expect websites of libraries, governments and general public utility to be all about the users’ needs and expectations as they don’t have to sell anything to those users but only exist to serve them.

Other than that, the video provided good advice for people new to UX concepts.

The most precious advice consisted in pointing out the importance of a portfolio.

Possibly, here there could be a difference between a web designer and a UX designer. If a website works, facilitates the users, makes them feel good and comfortable, takes them on the journey the site’s owner wishes them to go through, etc. theoretically this could be proof enough of a good UX approach as well as good graphic design skills. However, it only shows the final step, the result, of such approach and processes. This is not an issue when dealing with customers who are not tech-savvy and often only want to verify that you are able to do something nice that works well. But a designer willing to work for clients, or employers, such as web agencies and media agencies, might be required to provide such evidence or, as an alternative, to thoroughly present those processes during a meeting or interview.

Personally, I am a fan of pen and paper and I would be covered in cellulose and ink, by now, if I kept all drafts, schemes and drawings I have created, therefore I prefer to talk my interlocutor through my approach, processes and techniques.

Some clients don’t have enough budget for such a deep and thorough preparation or time could be short in which cases the process may only happen in the designer’s mind.

Nevertheless, if there is no such a process, then we only have the type of web designer the guy in the video was talking about and I must admit that is a huge difference.