An interaction designer sits in traffic, thinking about what a button should do when the user clicks it.
A graphic designer stands at their desk, drafting content blocks on a wireframe, anticipating the needs of the user who will be visiting that page.
A content strategist sits at a table with a stack of user personas, mapping the information a web user is going to need, how they’re going to use it, and in what order.
All these proﬁles are helping to design a user experience. And whilst it’s easy to assume that “design” is simply a shorthcut for “graphic design,” in the case of UX, it’s much more...
UX design is not a synonym for graphic design for the web. A graphic designer plays an important role in UX design — but there are other roles, no less important. Truth: you can’t have unequaled UX without a disarmingly seductive, elegantly simple, self-explanatory visual design.
Equally true, you can’t have great UX without an architecture that’s sensitive to a user’s needs, structuring information in a logical, comprehensible way.
Or without page layouts (wireframes) that offer the right content, in the right place, so intuitively that a user doesn’t even have to think about what they came for, because they’re already doing it.
Or without on-point messaging that appeals to the user’s immediate practical priorities and underlying emotional needs in a deeply compelling way.
Or without on-page elements — breadcrumbs, for example — that support the experience by making the website effortlessly navigable.
Or user testing to catch hangups and reﬁne the design. Or best-practice web development to put the site on its feet and get it rolling.
In short, there’s a difference between designing a visual user interface (UI design) and designing every aspect of a multi-dimensional experience (UX design).
Ultimately, UX is teamwork.
Because UX design isn’t the sole vision of any one individual — some mythical being who’s able to handle it all solo — it’s worth thinking about the various specialists involved in designing an excellent user experience, and acknowledging their role as UX designers.
The magic happens at the intersection of several very different, very vital skill sets:
- Information architecture
- Content strategy
- Graphic design
- User interaction
- Web development
UX design is strategic, iterative and multidisciplinary. It is what happens when content, graphic design, and development click together. It’s the satisfaction you feel when, as a user, you land on a website and your needs are answered before you even have to ask.