In a previous post about ui and ux design, we discussed the overlapping but also distinct roles UI and UX designers play in the design process. Here, we continue the discussion with a focus on questions UI and UX designers should ask in the current design environment.
Question 1 for UI and UX Designers: How Can We Make Bold Design Decisions at Work?
According to a 2015 Harvard Business Review Article, fully 60% of the corporate strategy officers surveyed said that their company’s decision-making process is too slow, in part because of an excessive focus on preventing risk. They added that if this “organizational drag” were reduced, the rate of revenue growth might double.*
In a similar fashion, many UI and UX designers have lamented the resistance they encounter when proposing a bold, innovative design. Reasons range from “We don’t have the resources,” to “We’re behind schedule; we don’t have time,” to “Our customers aren’t ready for a radical change.”
The last point is particularly interesting. During our 18 years in UX, we have heard many a customer complain about outdated technology, products and apps that are hard to use, and customer service seemingly based on a 1950s business model.
Are customers really the ones standing in the way of innovative design? No, the underlying reason for resistance to bold, innovative design is fear, specifically fear of uncertainty (see design decisions for a detailed explanation of this all-too-human trait)
Eliminating uncertainty is unrealistic and a waste of time. A more productive approach is to employ proven techniques to reduce uncertainty to the point where it can be managed.
One such technique is already baked into the UX design process, basic research, that is observing and listening to customers in order to better understand their needs and desires.
Despite claims about a customer-centric philosophy, many organizations fail to engage in the hard work required to understand customer’s actions, thoughts, and emotions.
One exception is the executives at retail pharmacy chain CVS. They solicit feedback with an 800 number on receipts, and CVS receives many calls from customers who want to discuss their shopping experience.
CVS leaders don’t stop there, however. They have instituted a customer call-of-the-day program. An executive sorts through the calls and chooses one. She then distributes the actual audio file to the senior management team so that executives can hear customers’ comments directly. The result? A sound basis for taking action to improve the customer’s experience.
While UX and UI designers cannot assume full responsibility for all product and strategic decisions, they can apply their user-centered design mindset and knowledge gleaned from market and UX research teams to inform these decisions.
Question 2 for UI and UX Designers: How Important is Design Thinking?
Another way to move toward bolder design is to instill a design-thinking mindset into design and product development. The 5 Biggest Design Agency Trends of 2017 So Far refers to several trends that are still relevant in 2018. Among these trends is the emphasis that companies are placing on design thinking as a key element to success.
UI and UX Design thinking are linked, as we explain in 4 UI UX Activities for Design Thinking. For a deeper dive into design thinking consider a course such as https://innovation.teachable.com/p/design-thinking-certification-course.
Question 3 for UI and UX Designers: Must I be a strong UX and UI designer?
Certainly strong UI design skills will bolster efforts to adopt a design thinking mindset at work.
More broadly, the question for UX professionals is always which skillsets to pursue. Must UX designers also be strong UI designers? In UX UI Designer author Raffaella Rein makes a strong case in the affirmative referring to the high percentage of UX designer job postings seeking UI skills. Naturally a course covering the fundamentals of UI design is a good place to start for UX designers aiming to step up their UI design skills. Equally important, writes Rein, is a mentor to keep the new UI designer on track as he learns how to explore trends and apply newly acquired design skills to real-world business challenges.
While Rein emphasizes the advantages of strong UI design skills, she also makes a point of outlining the differences between UI and UX design:
- UX: Makes interfaces useful
UI: Makes interfaces beautiful
- UX: Done first
UI: Done second… (sometimes)
- UX: Employed across products, interfaces, and services
UI: Only pertains to interfaces
At UI UX Training, we agree with Rein’s distinctions and her point that UI designers do not only concentrate on the essential visual concept but also on micro-interactions, those single-purpose tasks that, when properly designed, keep users engaged and connected.
See ui and ux design to learn more about the power of combining UX and UI design
Question 4 for UI and UX Designers: What are the Newest Design Trends?
In 8 Design Industry Trends for 2018 author Tom May describes the resurgence of the physical as one intriguing design trend. For years the design industry seemed to be all digital all the time. May cites creative director Gary Westlake who refers to a resurgence of analog creative, “This ranges from the news that books, vinyl and DVDs are all getting popular again, to the increase in campaigns that have real-world textural elements, to the growth of the craft of making.”
Westlake explains that this resurgence could signal a renewed need for specific design skills such as letterpress, pottery and ceramics. No one is claiming the demise of digital, but for UI and UX designers who love all things artistic, the ability to design physical objects could well lead to fun and challenging opportunities.
Question 5 for UI and UX Designers: What Does Sustainable Design Mean for the Industry?
Interest in the physical world is not limited to the products themselves but also extends to packaging. Attention to packaging is nothing new as Apple fans can attest. What has changed, however, is an increasing demand for sustainable packaging. “I think one of the biggest trends this year is creatives, designers, scientists and environmentalists working together to co-create world-changing packaging through foraged and recycled materials,” says Westlake.
Designers can contribute beyond the clever use of re-cycled materials says Westlake. They can also apply their artistic skills to developing packaging that serves as a memento or decorative piece thus reducing the amount of packaging that must be re-cycled or placed in landfills.
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*How to Live with Risks Harvard Business Review July/August 2015