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UX & UI Designers
First things first: What do UX and UI actually mean? The people you have eavesdropped on are actually discussing two professions that, despite having been around for decades, and in theory for centuries, have been defined by the tech industry as UX and UI design.
UX design refers to the term “user experience design”, while UI stands for “user interface design”. Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together. But despite their professional relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different aspects of the product development process and the design discipline.
What is user experience (UX) design?
User experience design is a human-first way of designing products. Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, is credited with coining the term “user experience” in the late 1990s. Here’s how he describes it:
“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
– Don Norman, Cognitive Scientist & User Experience Architect
Clear, right? Well you might note immediately that despite what I implied in the introduction, the definition has no reference to tech, no mention of digital, and doesn’t tell us all that much about what a UX designer actually does. But like all professions, it’s impossible to distill the process from just a few words.
Still, Don Norman’s definition tells us that, regardless of its medium plenty of non-digital UX (and there’s lots out there!) UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential or active customer and a company.
As a scientific process it could be applied to anything; street lamps, cars, Ikea shelving, and so on.
UX and the digital world
However, despite being a scientific term, its use since inception has been almost entirely within digital fields; one reason for this being that the tech industry started blowing up around the time of the term’s invention.
You can learn all about the fascinating history of UX design in this article.
Essentially, UX applies to anything that can be experienced—be it a website, a coffee machine, or a visit to the supermarket. The “user experience” part refers to the interaction between the user and a product or service. User experience design, then, considers all the different elements that shape this experience.
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