UX / UI-Designer with development skills
Updated: May 29, 2022
Why the construction of a house never starts with the sofa!
Customer Experience or, if we want to do it right, User Experience is becoming increasingly important in recent years. One could speak of buzzwords if the big players had not shown that it makes the big difference and that users hardly forgive mistakes. Now the job advertisements for UX/UI designers are springing up like mushrooms. It is also best for applicants to have programming or at least CSS knowledge, skills in testing and user research. Well, quite a legitimate wish. One doesn’t have that much money for it and after all, there are also so-called full-stack developers. Programmers who can do everything - theoretically. In addition, many do not even know what the UX/UI designer exactly does – "pretty design, maybe". Of course, you can desire a swiss-army-knife-type of person and there are always people who apply for such jobs. Some are even convinced that they can do it. But if the work is to be done really well, this doesn’t work out or only in very special cases.
First, let's take a closer look at the basics of these professions. Yes exactly, it is not one, but several. In addition to UX and UI, there is user research, interaction design, UX engineering, UX writing and many more. All of them are part of the overall approach of human-centered design – but still different job profiles with different qualifications.
Division of labour, a principle with many advantages
To clarify the terms a little, here is a small example. Imagine you want to build a house. You have basic ideas about what this house could look like and hire an architect for the conception. This architect takes into account the different requirements of the stakeholders, i.e., you and your family, and combined with the conditions of the property, the building regulations and requirements, she develops a concept for your dream house.
The structural engineer checks the construction plan, and the house is now being built by masons and carpenters. Always under guidance and on the basis of the architect's plans.
Once the house has been completed, it goes to the furnishings. Since you like to live beautifully but do not have the time and you are not said to have the best hand, you hire an interior designer. This designer not only paints the walls and makes the house pretty or colorful. It rather combines the requirements from the construction and management plan with a perfect look and feel for your well-being. Colors, shapes, comfort in living rooms and bedrooms as well as efficiency in the bathroom and kitchen are just the most important basics.
May I introduce – the UX Architect
Analogous to this example, one can say that for products, services or systems, architect is synonymus to UX Designer, which is why the term UX Architect has established itself among professionals. The task of a UX Architect is to consolidate the information from user research (psychology, sociology, and statistics) to identify and solve the needs and pains of users. The focus is on the development of user centered product properties, processes and structures. Based on the results of surveys and interviews, the UX Architect develops service and product concepts, up to basic prototypes. This role combines all relevant requirements of stakeholders, technology, psychology and the market into a product that users need, can and also want to use. The evaluation specialists support usability or UX testing in order to base the solution on valid data and not to have to make decisions from the gut. Up to this point, the look & feel of the brand, the recognition or the style guide of the company is most irrelevant. Nevertheless, like e.g., a development team, the UI Designer is already involved in the creation of the prototypes, because he has a different view of the product due to his major competence and training.
May I introduce – the UI Designer
In addition to strong visual-design knowledge, the UI Designer must know the constantly changing trends of the medium for which he conceives, as well as the requirements for a final implementation. Not only imagery, expression and legibility of typography or the aesthetics and psychology of colors are his tools, but also the execution and prioritization of content in order to always give users the feeling of control. In contrast to the conventional graphic designer, UI Designers have to take into account much more dynamic use cases and accustomed interaction behaviors. For example, a call-to-action must be positioned correctly, and the eye must not be distracted by less relevant information - in the worst case, a user will not find the information even though it is present. A UI Designer doesn't just apply the basic information of a company's style guide, if there is one in the first place. In many cases, style guides have to be extended by new interactive elements and colors or completely new design systems have to be developed. However, in order to ensure a consistent external impact and recognition, it is essential to derive those assets from the existing corporate design. The UI Designer creates aesthetically pleasing and highly efficient products that have special demands due to their interactivity.
If users have to decide on an application, they will usually primarily choose the most visually appealing one. However, if an application is "only beautiful", but the user cannot perform his task efficiently or sufficiently, he will uninstall it faster than expected. And the UX Architect must ensure that this challenge is met together with the development team.
Even if somebody can do both jobs – still not a good idea
So why shouldn't these tasks be performed by one and the same person?
A solid and comprehensive education as a UX Architect and also as a UI Designer takes years and is completely different due to the diverse requirements. Although there are people who deal with both topics for a very long time and thus have a solid background in both disciplines, these are not many and usually expensive seniors. But even if these people bring the background, you still have to spend a lot of time and energy to stay Up to Date everywhere. And usually, the interest in one of the two professions predominates, which inevitably gives the other less weight.
And if we still assume that a person can cover both job profiles excellently, then he still wears two completely different hats within one project. Since the confrontation with the other profession is also a corrective at a high level, the person would always have to argue with himself. A phenomenon that can be observed more often is, in particular since there is software such as Figma, Adobe XD and more, the conception of wireframes is implemented directly by UI designers parallel to the development of screen design. This also entails the great danger that the look & feel will be treated as a priority and that the procedural examination of the needs will take a back seat. The implementation is thus not – as many would expect – shortened, but extended, especially when it comes to new interaction concepts. The focus has been shifted on the right image, the coloring or the exact position of the text, although a completely different interaction concept would be more appropriate for the task. As a result, either the ideal solution is never accomplished, or everything is worked out in detail and then discarded again and again. Because only iterative improvements let the product become outstanding.
Another reason for the separation of UX and UI is that once the work of the UX Architects is completed, the development can start implementing the background work while the UI Designers are still working on the frontend. A properly interlinked, interdisciplinary cooperation is the most efficient that delivers the highest quality. If there are changes during the iterative implementation, e.B. in the agile environment, the UX Architect must record this information, evaluate it and, if necessary, adapt the concept, evaluate it with usability testers, etc., while the UI Designer still implements or documents the design system and the detailed final work on the visual design.
Even if it seems cheaper and faster to hire a UX/UI Designer with additional qualifications, you get a slower and more inefficient work that offers less quality. And that's more expensive in the long run.