The Client’s User Experience

User Expe­ri­ence (UX) design is often con­flat­ed with inter­face design and visu­al or graph­ic design. Where are Prod­uct design and Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence in this Venn dia­gram of design? To most folks who are not design­ers, these dis­tinc­tions are not need­ed in prac­ti­cal terms; as long as the end prod­uct looks good and does the job well, then the design­er did their job, and the spe­cif­ic design dis­ci­plines employed are irrel­e­vant.

For the most part, this is a harm­less prac­tice. Sub-gen­res can be con­glom­er­at­ed into gen­res with­out injury. How­ev­er, edu­ca­tion is empow­er­ing, and I have seen many groups, from all lev­els of busi­ness ben­e­fit from bet­ter under­stand­ing these design sub-gen­res. UX design cov­ers a lot of ground, it includes all of inter­face and graph­ic design, essen­tial­ly any time there is a user involved, we open the user expe­ri­ence design tool­box.

Inter­face design, by con­trast, focus­es com­plete­ly on the inter­face itself; the imple­men­ta­tion, speed, weight, effi­cien­cy, acces­si­bil­i­ty, local­iza­tion, etc. It is a spe­cial­iza­tion of focus, a nec­es­sary part of excel­lent UX design, but inter­face design does not fill the UX design tool­box all by itself.

Some of the best design reviews I have had with clients and stake­hold­ers evolve into design class­es. The client is bet­ter able to artic­u­late ideas and pro­vide crit­i­cal feed­back when they have some design tools of their own. Design is a game of mak­ing rules, and then break­ing rules. Rules about con­trast, typog­ra­phy, semi­otics, infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture, etc. are easy to explain in the con­text of a project that every­one in the room under­stands. Each design review brings an oppor­tu­ni­ty to edu­cate the client in these aspects of design. They can take these away from the meet­ing, and maybe, bring them back next time. More under­stand­ing increas­es the per­ceived val­ue of design as a ser­vice and enables a col­lab­o­ra­tive, team envi­ron­ment, rather than a client-vs-ven­dor face off.

It is crit­i­cal that the user expe­ri­ence design­er is equipped to answer the ques­tion Why? Design with­out ratio­nale is hol­low and will like­ly fail to meet busi­ness objec­tives. Ratio­nale allows for test­ing, anoth­er impor­tant tool in UX design. Visu­al hypoth­e­sis test­ing is com­mon prac­tice in mar­ket­ing, a depart­ment famil­iar with A/B test­ing tools like Google Opti­mize. A mar­ket­ing client may not be famil­iar with usabil­i­ty test­ing but can appre­ci­ate the val­ue and process because they are a gold cer­ti­fied A/B test­ing vet­er­an.

Answer­ing why a design took one direc­tion and not anoth­er informs the client, empow­er­ing them with that knowl­edge for the remain­der of the project. Over a few design reviews, the client gains a grow­ing sense of con­trol of their project and an increas­ing appre­ci­a­tion of the val­ue of UX design if the design can edu­cate along the way. Trust hap­pens. Then the client is trans­formed from stake­hold­er to part­ner, and that is a user expe­ri­ence worth build­ing.

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