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The mysterious life of UX Designers

The Mysterious Life of UX Designers


Many people have absolutely no idea about what a UX designer really does. Some have an idea, but they often confuse the function of UX with UI.

That’s why the first and most important point to be cleared is the difference between UX and UI designers by introducing them both in a simple example.

Difference between UX and UI designers

The most convenient way to demonstrate this is by saying that our hypothetical product is a hamburger. Our hypothetical company sells hamburgers to a variety of customers and we have some employees to work on the project too. Just like in real life the UI and UX designers have almost completely different roles.

The structure and the appearance of a hamburger
The structure and the appearance of a hamburger

Let’s start with the UI designers. They are the experts of burger-making. They are almost like cooks: they have the appropriate knowledge and suitable tools for hamburger making. They know how to use the knives, how to perfectly cook the meats and melt the cheese.

Whereas the UX designer will tell the UI designer which specific ingredients to use, how to layer them. She understands the customers’ needs, how the different flavors can be intensified, how the hamburgers should be wrapped etc.

It’s obvious that neither one can be successful without the other.

Who would want a perfectly made cheeseburger, if it has unrelated ingredients in it and looks like rubbish?

On the contrary, who would want a flawless looking hamburger if it hasdisgusting taste?

So…what does a UX Designer really do?

The scope of activities a UXD does has an immense range. It’s multidisciplinary, because a UXD has to have a fair amount of knowledge in the field of marketing, designing, project management and so forth.

Donald Norman, the inventor of the term also has his own explanation:

I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose its meaning.

The job of a UXD starts before the project’s life cycle and doesn’t end with a plain mockup or a prototype, so it cannot be restrained to simple phases.

Here are the key sections of a UXD’s job:

Competitor analysis

As I’ve mentioned it before, a UXD has to excel in many things. A deep analysis of the competitors in the initial phase can minimize the number of our potential mistakes, it can highlight our strengths and weaknesses and help us to familiarize ourselves with the competitive field.

Customer analysis

The first and probably the most important assignment of a UXD is to create the personas of the project. These are the fictional consumer types who will use your product. There are different methods to do this. One popular method is creating different profiles, stating the most important pieces of information, which can affect the way we have to design our product. Often it is done by arranging face-to-face interviews.

Then the rest of the work is done according to the potential clients’ taste.

Visual design

Visual design or graphic design is basically about the appearance and the feeling of a product during the user’s interaction. The UXD will decide about which colors to mix, where to insert the pictures, etc. She will know how to combine the visual elements in order to maximize the outcome of the given product. Perhaps from a layman’s point of view this is the most spectacular part of a UXD’s job.

Information architecture

This segment is almost like real architecture, because it is about the structure and the information organization of the product. Its main goal is to improve the usability by breaking down everything into the most basic components and then managing them into a consistent layout. My opinion is that a UXD has succeeded if a user can find almost everything with ease and he can navigate through a website or an application effortlessly.

Interaction design

This area is made up of 5 equally important steps-or so-called dimensions-, each one following and connecting to one another.

1. Words

The most fundamental part of communication. The other four steps are also based on the words that we use, so it is substantial to pay attention to them.

2. Visual representation

This may include the typography, icons or additional graphics. It is essential that the words and their visual representation are in harmony. It is a minor concern, but it can ruin everything in a second.

3. Physical object and space

Physical object and space are also vital parts of the interaction design. Basically this decides how the interface will look like, how crowded a page should be, how and where to insert plain white background, how much space to leave etc.

4. Time

In some circumstances time is not that crucial, but in case of videos,animations or even sounds, it is highly recommended to keep an eye on time. If you have dynamic contents on your page or in your application, it is advisable to take care of it cautiously.

5. Behavior

In order to maximize usability and the value of your product, you have to know how exactly your users/customers behave, what they actually do etc. Of course you can have A/B testing and prototype testing with real users, but we both know that in those cases something’s still missing. Do you really know what is missing, what is confusing the people, why do they leave your website?


Usability is about meeting our users’ needs. In most cases this means that it is so transparent, yet effective that everybody can navigate through the website/application, thus giving the user a satisfying feeling.

According to the ISO definition:

“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to ach

Many people have absolutely no idea about what a UX designer really does. Some have an idea, but they often confuse the function of UX with UI.

That’s why the first and most important point to be cleared is the difference between UX and UI designers by introducing them both in a simple example.

“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

In line with the generally accepted framework, there are 5 subcategories to be taken care of: learnability, efficiency, memorability, satisfaction and errors.

That is to say if users can learn to use the product efficiently and pleasantly without running into errors and are able to memorize it so that later they will know how to use it, they are going to be satisfied.

HCI (Human-Computer Interaction)

The last big section is about the interaction of the electronic device and the human itself. It is similar to the sections mentioned before, but its function is to make this interaction as natural as possible with the help of engineering and psychology. This field also focuses on the social and cultural values.

The mental models used in HCI help us to implement real-life knowledge of the users onto the screen. From these they create metaphors, which are the characteristics of the users’ mental models. These metaphors will help the UX designers afterward.

+1: Management

Being a manager is also an essential part for a UXD. If the designer cannot give presentations and interact with people, she will not be able to sell her ideas and emphasize the potential problems, which can cause a lot of trouble later.

If she doesn’t have negotiation skills, she will not be able to properly communicate with the stakeholders and compromise with them.

Being able to coordinate workers is indispensable, like UI designers and other team members. Without these skills the whole work goes to waste.

Putting all these into practice

The 3 most important methods for this are wireframing, prototyping and testing.

Wireframing is the blueprint of a screen, the initial framework of an application for example. It’s a rough sketch of the basic layout of the pages, done by wireframing programs like Balsamiq Mockups. The earlier version of a wireframe is called mockup.

Prototyping occurs when the testers get the chance to gain data and feedback about the product and its features.

A broad collection of tools are available for UXDs to ease and shorten the prototyping phase.

Having made the wireframe, mockup, and prototype, the testing can be carried out.


Some employers with considerable companies may say that this is not even a professional job: they do the same tasks, yet they don’t call themselves UX designers. My opinion is that it’s not that simple, UXD is not just pure common sense.

Which makes this job more appealing is its changing circumstances and diverse challenges.

As you can see, a UXD has an extensive to-do list when it comes to work. If you are about to launch a product and you want it to have the best results possible, you should consider hiring a UX designer.

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  • Ngeshlew
    2016-09-09 at 11:43

    Very interesting.

    I will do deeper research on this. Thanks Melinda


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