UX vs UI

When I discussed UX and UI in the past, a lot of my friends have reminded me that there is nothing wrong with doing both. While I know some people who are actually hybrids, it’s not that common. As a hiring manager trying to find somebody who is a hybrid is very difficult. It mostly depends on which side of the UX discipline that they come from. If that person it comes from the research side, they typically know how to do wireframes, but they’re usually in Axure, and just not that pretty. Not that that should be an issue, but depending on the developers it maybe. I see wireframes that are a general placement of items. Nothing with exact placement, because they are concerned with the interaction, not the UI. The majority of developers I have worked with, take these wires and make exact placement of items based on those wires. Of course, that is a disaster. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and often.

If somebody comes from the Visual design side, they don’t always know have to think like an interaction designer. This is where a lot of the confusions starts in the UX/UI debate. Because clients, and the general public don’t think a project has made any headway until they see something pretty, this is where the majority of people think UX starts. They don’t care about the months of user research that has been done. The hours of wireframes that were thrown away and new ones made. Everything that comes before, all the pain, is worthless in their eyes until they see it come alive through visual design, and is live.

So you may ask what’s the difference and why does it matter? If you’re looking for a job it matters quite a lot. Take my career for example. In the beginning I was a graphic designer, then I did web design, and of course I also did UI work, but I’ve been doing UX for the last ten years. I know the difference, but most recruiters don’t. When I get contacted by most recruiters, they are typically looking for a front end designer, even though the job posting may say UX in the description. It is typically the dreaded UX/UI somewhere in the title.

So what’s the difference? The general title of UX designer could mean many parts to the discipline. It could mean a Researcher, which is somebody who handles the discover phase of the UX process. They are the big brains and also have a PhD in psychology. Then comes interaction designer, who can still handle strategy and also do IA, task flows, mapping, wireframes and prototypes. Then comes the visual designer or the UI person. This person still is not a front end designer. Where I previously worked, we didn’t even have a front end designer on our UX team.

Since I am a hybrid, you may ask why it even matters to me. I do love every aspect of UX. I love the research, I love the strategy, wire framing and prototyping is a lot of fun, and I am certainly passionate about well formed code. I personally may like to do a bit of everything, but that isn’t the norm. There are plenty of people who do interaction design and have no desire to do anything visual.

I guess it comes down to the recruiters understanding the different types of positions in UX. That UX and UI have different meanings as for as jobs go. It certainly can change things money-wise as well.

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