People often think of UX as UI. UI tells the user what to do. UX is what the user actually does. UI or user interface is how we interact with a tool. We don't use tools for their own sake, we use them to accomplish something small, discrete tasks and a process that achieves a goal. For realizing the sensations we're experiencing our hunger, through gathering ingredients and preparing a meal to push it away from the table feeling sated, the user experience is a combination of many points of UI along your customer journey.
Great design is not about making something look palatable. If we're good at what we do, it will be artful. It's about solving a problem. It's coating a bridge with paint to keep it from rusting. And making sure the bridge is visible in many types of weather. This contextual consideration matters to our clients, because we see the big picture. How UX supports and reinforces and strengthens their brand. How UX is the bridge between our clients and their audience, how anticipating role X. Visibility and localization can bring them closer. How empathy empowers them to deliver more relevant messaging, to walk in their audience's path, understand what's going on in their world, and how their communications intersect with their customers. from something as fundamental as figuring out where the audience falls into a framework, to their relationship with the message to what their drivers are and what's at stake for them.
Ask yourself, is your message accessible? There are five areas of accessibility that members of your audience may live with on a daily basis:
Designing to include these in your communication approaches empowers more people and benefits everyone in their individual given moment in time. UX considers how the message is consumed. Is it on a mobile device, a laptop or a jumbotron? Is it with a crowd or individually by themselves? Is it in a darkened office or in a noisy factory floor or outdoors? What happens if your medium breaks the message? Do you have alternative approaches to fall back on? This is all to say find out what your client's plans are for delivering the message. Get to know the real world factors and their audience's real life experience.
In our increasingly interconnected world, it's easy to assume that we are all working with the same dictionary. Ignoring that nuance and idiom aren't universal. Add to that that you're adding work for the reader to encode and decode the symbol to your assigned to meeting. Rather than just saying what you mean or labeling it. graphics can be helpful when they support the message and icons can shorthand functions in a UI. But icons are tricky to localize, whether conceptually or culturally. Relying on metaphors creates more work if you have to explain them, or if they have a different nuance than you're used to. Crown Jewels often used in security presentations have different connotations in a post colonial world than what you may think of when you hear that phrase. Your most valuable assets are clear and to the point. Slam Dunk plays well with people familiar to basketball, that can be a sticky wicket to those following other sports or not at all. Better to say what you mean, and a successful outcome localizes easily.
But what's in this for me, you may be asking yourself.
Our work doesn't exist in a vacuum. Hopefully, your work is integrated into the broader cloth of your client's project or campaign. Ideally. And really, this is the goal. Your work goes beyond that. Your anticipation and adaptation, weaves it into your clients communication tapestry. Consider not just the single moment in time of the message, but how it will be used and reused and the future, create order from chaos, make your work easier for you to maintain, or others on the team who will be responsible carrying forward. With some front loading of effort to make your work more accessible and usable, you'll save time in the long run, and time is money. And when you save you and your clients time and money, it'll make you more valuable. A trusted adviser to them and to the people and projects they refer you to.
It's easier that you ask, what's the intent? What's the goal? What feeds to your deliverable? What in turn does that feed into? Run those considerations through your empathy and accessibility filters.
Design for the most common elements across users use case scenarios and environments. Use a progressive enhancement approach to leverage new technologies that aren't widely adopted. But make sure that you deliver on the client's need to align their message with the most users. Move quickly. Get your hands on the work that's already been done, and understand what you're obligated to follow where you can make changes and where they are looking for you to innovate. Even if it's never seen by the client, start simple.
Draft using the cheapest materials you can use. That way you're not so invested that you aren't afraid to scrap an idea and start over. Whether it's paper and pencil and outline and word or photos of a whiteboard. A Lo Fi approach lets you generate lots of ideas fast, get feedback on them, and then iterate quickly. Iterations make it easy to find more specifically, what's working, what's not, and what's missing.
At the end of the day, that is our ultimate goal to leverage our insight and experience into a successful project for our clients. If you're interested in learning more about the user experience, there are a few organizations that have greatly influenced by perspective:
Each of these has their own personality, but each of them do a great job of integrating insights from working professionals into cohesive and meaning perspectives, from UX to marketing to project management to coding.
Are you ready for a designer that is creative and geeky? Scott has over 18 years’ experience in User Experience, wearing many hats in the process—whether designing, testing and iterating greenfield opportunities, creating demos and prototypes for leadership, managing the conversation online and in-person, he's your Designer/Geek. Scott loves talking with dev/test, research, and users, and then working with them to design experiences that fully realize their vision.