Hate is a strong word. Before I begin, let me state, for the record, that I don’t actually hate UI. That much. A good portion of the work I am contracted to do involves designing user interfaces or website layouts. A well designed app or site still gives me goosebumps, but there are only so many ways to dress up a button or a footer. Sometimes the exciting part about a website or app is figuring out how it should work. Or, to borrow a phrase from The Lean Startup, “figure out what you should build.”
I believe I can sum up my begrudging attitude of UI with a typical scenario from an average day at work. Observe: the humble UX Designer replies to a request for hired help of his very expertise – “User Experience Designer Wanted.” To his delight, he is awarded the job! The project sounds promising and he is excited at the prospect of prototyping and testing ideas for improving the user experience. But alas, the first meeting with his new employer dashes those plans. He is given partial PSD or Sketch files and a quick deadline to provide new layouts. What he thought was a UX job turned out to be only a UI job. “That’s ok,” he says to himself, the product could use some interface improvements and he is sure he can produce a fresh new look.
As he begins to carefully look at the interface approved by the CEO, he begins to notice confusing conventions that have already been put into place. There are also unusual page sequences combined with unorganized content. Suddenly he is faced with a dilemma, does he raise the red flag and disrupt the momentum of the team? Or does he continue with his task and make a poorly organized product look decent? Neither option is pleasant. It is difficult to stop a team in stride and it’s painful to release a product that just doesn’t work well, even if it looks good.
UX is not UI, as others (and myself) have observed. The tasks for designing a good user experience are just as fun and important as visual design. But like a neglected stepchild, true UX Design is often overlooked. I don’t hate UI as much as I would like to give UX the attention it deserves.
To help mitigate this problem, I am developing a system that will help UX Designers and product teams include essential UX Tasks before skipping ahead to visual design. Read more about the fledgling program at UXPlans.com and follow the subsequent blog posts that will document the evolution of this new system.