When we come to the use of the word “design”, we can have a wide range of uses, but these last few years, the word design has been associated with the acronyms UX and UI. And these are commonly found together, when they are in essence, different things. The reasons why UX/UI are found together are quite a mystery to me and to many others, but I can bet is because the word design is around both of them, and whoever is at the position of recruiting at any given company, thinks they’re part of the same thing, and yes, they could be, fine. Please read, I don’t want to argue with you.

The word design comes from latin, and it’s one of those borrowed words the English language took to express the “representation of a solution by a symbol or an image”, in one word. Design is at it’s origins, but not strictly, a symbol or image representation of a solution to any given problem.

Within time the word evolved in it’s definition and enhanced the range of stuff that can be “designed”, but the essence is the same. Represent solutions. Beautifully. Beautiful.

Let’s put it this way.

Both User Experience and User Interface are in the same Design building, the same way Surgeons and Pediatricians are in the Doctors building, or Basketball and Football are in the Sports one.

In addition, design has always been mis-conceived as a way to represent looks and not a way to give solution to life problems, and this made it mistakenly associated with graphic design. I remember when 20 years ago Web Design was not a job, and if the situation came, where I had to explain what I did for a living, I would simply go for the known path of “Yes, Grandma’, I work as a graphic designer”.

Let’s get into the jam.

The term User Experience was invented around the 90’s by Don Norman while he was working at Apple Inc. He did so, in a try to enhance the meaning of “usability” and “human interface” concepts. Considering these two, too narrow or restricted, he came with the term User Experience, looking to include all aspects of user interaction with a product or a company, and not limited to aesthetics or usability of user interface.

If we pay attention to the master, we can say that UX is the complete experience a person has with a product, from the moment they buy it, until the moment it goes to the garbish. User Experience is not a website, or a mobile phone app, or better said, a mobile app and a website are a piece of the user experience plan, and the user experience is never restricted to neither of those.

And we could go on and on, setting examples forever.

This is essentially why UX is not part of UI, they’re not the same, because you can’t actually design an interface for: when a consumer puts the computer box in their car and finds out it’s too big. Neither you can’t design an interface for: when a consumer calls Samsung’s Help-Line crying and yelling because the latest Samsung exploded while it was charging.

No, you can’t, what you need in those cases, is the User Experience plan already designed.

You need the people in your company to know and follow the plan designed by the User Experience Department, so the packaging designer will design a Package that fits in a city-car, and the call-center people will know what to answer in case of a phone exploding.

As simple as that?. Well, no. We actually earn our money.

This goes deep and deep into the jam. As soon as a problem shows, we like to disarm it and find the etymology of the problem. You can simply solve the experience of the seen problem, which is most likely a symptom, “lack of phone explosion crisis book”, “computer packaging is too big”, or you can go roll in the deep and make the industrial designer understand we need a thinner computer design, and understand how the whole system works as a unique entity. For getting a thinner design, we’ll need thinner and smaller chips, and so on. Same thing with the Samsung Help Line, it’s not only about the “crisis book”, it’s about a phone that doesn’t explodes.

We, all the UX designers would love to go for the whole pack and get the real problem smashed into awesome human-centered solutions, but sometimes it’s simply not possible to go that deep, and we just need to give an aspirin and kill the symptom.

Just give the human the smaller box.

I know you feel I’m being disrespectful with the UX profession, I’m lacking of graphic examples, and pictures of a brain with the two hemispheres differentiated, but I’m not. We don’t need that. That’s absolutely wrong.

UX uses both brain hemispheres, as every human being does in their daily life. Every profession uses both brain hemispheres, there’s no evidence that states the opposite. So, stop doing those right/left brain hemisphere graphics as if they were right. They aren’t.

Let’s get deeper here.

Check out the painting “Las Meninas” by Diego Velazquez.

Do you really think a person lacking analytical power would be able to paint that? With all the things and connections happening at the same time?.
Do you realize the color mixes were done by the actual artist and for such thing, they needed to quickly calculate how many proportions of each color they needed to build the new color?
Do you understand the laws of perspective and how to apply those without the power of mathematics? What about the proportion in the body sizes? Do you really think they took measurements with the wink of an eye and the paintbrush?

Isn’t all this logic, analysis, creativity, imagination, poetry, and so on, in one single piece?

Tell me if a half-brained person would be able to do that.

Let’s get back to the future.

User Experience is more about analyzing the data collected and acquired thanks to endless user tests and research, rather than “feeling” this will be beneficial for the user and his experience. We use feelings, intuition and own experiences, yes, but we’re not restricted to those. We know green is better than red when we want to invite a user to do something, but that’s the result of a research, it’s not arbitrary.

First, the human centered solution, then the aesthetics.

UX is an umbrella discipline, a holistic way of facing a problem the way it should be faced, diving down there in the deep, where nobody wants to, and returning safe and sound with a solution that works for the user and was crafted among the different disciplines that participate in and for any company, is a cross-discipline effort that requires the understanding and participation of engineers, marketing, visual designers, industrial designers, etc.

User Experience is an outcome, a result. The result of taking the right steps focusing the entire product from its craft, on the human being. User-centering all production lines at all levels in the company for the ultimate user-centered product, it’s the result of understanding the system, and understanding it right.

Thanks for reading.