Do me a favor. Kill the term UI/UX
As an advisor to many startups, I get to speak to a lot of entrepreneurs, product managers, developers and hiring managers. One thing that remains consistent is that they face a lot of challenges in getting the ‘right’ designer on board. This of course, is after they have decided that they do need one and that the designer or the creative guy is also an integral part of the team and equally responsible for the success of the product.
Getting this ‘fit’, is challenging because the designer has to understand the product well and often be forced to think from the business perspective, and for the product manager it is challenging because with design being a subjective thing, the designers’ bias always come into the picture.
To make matters worse, product owners are often asking for something that is confusing. You cannot ask for UI/UX person and have the same expectations from them? They are two different breed of people and come with different skill sets.
Every time you use the term UI/UX, a pretty bird dies somewhere!
This is a serious problem, and one that is doing a lot of damage to the product and design industry both. We have to understand why we got into using this term and where we messed it up. In my opinion, there are multiple factors to this. One is a clear case of a problem of supply and demand. With the dearth of good UX designers, people often have no choice but end up taking a UI person. If you have studied design, you would know that they are different. Second is the fact that you do not have a clear understanding of whether you need a UI or a UX person. Third is that a lot of the job descriptions for design positions are written by people who have no or little background in Design.
When you put up a requirement stating that you are seeking UI/UX guy, you are literally saying that you are okay with hiring either a UI person OR a UX person for the same set of requirements that you may have. This is NOT right. This is further not right because you have underestimated the potential of engaging a good UX person and more likely assumed that the designer (UI person) could come to make that interface of yours look beautiful. I understand that you are in a crisis and need to hire the person soon, to get the designs out. But you should be aware on what to expect, when you hire a particular profile.
Expectations from a good UI designer ?
He ends up studying a lot of the design Trends, rules and theories behind good Interface design, become good at softwares and tools. Dribbble and Pinterest are perhaps his best friends.
Expectations from a good UX designer ?
He ends up studying a lot of design from different aspects. You get to understand market trends on innovation, data, business and the disruptions happening in the industry. He understands design process well. He speaks from the user’s point of view all the time.
It’s evident that these are clearly two different set of skills and profiles of people that we are dealing with.
If you still don’t believe me, take a look at the numerous job postings out there. Majority of them seek a ‘UI/UX’ person.
As a designer I get a clear understanding about the culture of the company or the people I will be interacting with, just by looking at this job posting. It reflects a lack of clarity in the product owner’s vision and engaging with people.
We need to bring a corrective measure to this.
Let’s start by doing me a favour. Kill this term UIslashUX aka UI/UX. I cringe with frustration, every time someone uses that term. If you need a UI person, ask for one. If you need a UX person, be prepared to engage them in matters beyond the UI and give them that space, resources, time and budget to fulfil that need. As product owners, you need to have this clarity. It would ensure that your engagement with the designers would be a much better experience.
In my opinion, as product managers, your goal should be to get a UX guy. Someone who is proficient with the different things under the UX umbrella and is really rock solid good at either one or two disciplines within UX.
Be clear in your requirements and your expectations when you are hiring the designer. For many product owners the realisation that you need a designer on board comes early in the process and they engage the designer at the right time. It is often seen that for the ones that realise early, they are seeking the User Experience Designers . For the ones that realise late, they end up hiring more User Interface designers.
How do you know whether a person is a UI person or a UX Person? Here are some pointers.
- UI person talks in interfaces. UX person talks in experiences.
- UI person talks more about the layout and trends on interfaces. UX person talks about the overall experience from product sales and marketing to product usage to customer support.
- UI person will talk more about the tools. UX person will talk more about the processes and design rationales.
- UI person is more screens and Visual Design driven. UX person is more system and strategy driven.
A word of advise to a lot of junior designers, is to move up to being more of a UX Designer and not be limited to only a UI Designer. I started my career as a UI person. We were called User Interface Designers then. Except from the once in a while call with the Business Analysts who would sit onsite and assume to know everything about a product, there was hardly any insight into the business side of the project. Even talking to the developers used to happen only once in a while. Over the years where I evolved into a User Experience person, I enjoy my conversations with the developers on a regular basis as well as the challenges that the business is facing. Often, I am discussing with the marketing team on how the USP of the product, which has a great UX needs to be highlighted and marketed well.
We are evolving into a product-driven industry, constantly trying to create amazing products. Design plays a substantial role in the creation of these products. As companies adopt the Agile and the Lean way of working, the need for collaboration amongst the three, viz the Designer, Developer and the Product Owner (Manager) is the way forward. UX needs to be emphasised as a company culture element. Something that is fundamentally evident in everything you do.
Finding the right designer for your product is tough. Seek and you shall find. Just make sure you ask the right question.
— — — — — —
This post is Chapter 2 of a series of posts on Product Management, UX and Design, from ‘Make it Look Beautiful’; a compilation of essays and tips from my years of Design Consulting practice and teaching at Design schools and Management schools.