Take a look at any application you have on your phone or software. Chances are before you judge the quality of the application based on its actual performance, you are judging the look and feel of the user interface.
User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers play an increasingly key role in the development of applications and software. Especially in business intelligence software, where they are tasked with bringing the power of data to life through visualizations and reports, and ultimately ensure businesses are able to derive actionable insights.
But what exactly do UX and UI designers do? Here is a quick outline of the roles, courtesy of Fast Company:
- UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels. A given design problem has no single right answer. UX designers explore many different approaches to solving a specific user problem. The broad responsibility of a UX designer is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next.
- Unlike UX designers who are concerned with the overall feel of the product, UI designers are particular about how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out. For example, a UI designer might decide whether a slider or a control knob makes the most intuitive sense to adjust a graph.
We asked one of our own UX designers, Mary Mahling, about the UX designer role. Here is what she had to say:
UI and UX designers mix math with design to find that perfect balance for each application. They get inspired by everyday items and regularly observe how people interact to influence their decisions.
I got interested in data visualizations because I was and still am fascinated by different ways to represent numbers graphically. As data visualizations become more commonplace, it’s essential that people understand how to compare numbers presented as pictures, regardless of their individual design knowledge. Color, size and shape are key influencers in comparing numbers visually. Moreover, those same visual elements can be used to emphasize a point, as well as to obscure one.
My personal mission is for everyone to be able to read data visualizations critically. Being able to read, interpret and, most importantly, question a graph is a key part of being a good citizen of the world.
The way I work towards my personal mission every day is to be open to influences from anywhere and to be a keen observer of human behavior. For example, I’ve designed something based on something I saw on a commercial on the TV in the lobby of the building where I work. For another example, observing how my in-laws use their shared iPad has influenced many UX decisions I have made.
Because I need to be open to random inspiration, I have no typical day. Here is a glimpse of what it’s like to be a designer, by the numbers:
- Times each month I buy a new set of pens and/or markers
- Times I’ve been inspired by colors on a Trader Joe’s grocery bag
- George Mason University graphic design students who have gotten a tattoo of an assignment I gave them. The assignment was for a logo design.
- Number of unique design directions I tend to present at the early stages of any project
- The magic number, for most navigation menus
- Minimum number of unique screen window sizes to consider when creating a UI design
- Minimum number of colors I use when creating a color palette. Creating palettes is the first, and often the most involved, task I do
- Uses of the font Lobster recently observed on sale signs in Tysons Corner Mall. One hazard of being as designer is that once you see things in terms of fonts, they cannot be unseen