If you are looking at creating a complex website which performs sophisticated functions, the standard team of a web/graphic designer and a web developer may not be enough. When it comes to creating web applications (effectively online software), it may be necessary to involve user interface and user experience designers, who specialise in using web technologies to deliver powerful functionality in a way which is simple and easy to use.
How can a user interface designer help you with your web project?
A UI designer will help you in both the planning and design phases of your project. Their role typically includes:
- Functionality planning: which consists of listing the various functions required by the system to meet the needs of the users and the goals of the project.
- User and task analysis: which consists of researching how users perform tasks currently and how the design can support the completion of those tasks.
- Information architecture: which consists of the development of an information hierarchy and structure to ensure that the relevant information is delivered in the right sequence.
- Prototyping: which consists of designing wireframes and simplified interaction prototypes, which allow functionality to be determined without focusing on aesthetics.
- Usability testing: which consists of testing the wireframes and prototypes on a potential user. UI designers engage these users in discussion and watch the way they interact with the interface to determine weaknesses and confusing elements.
- Graphical user interface design: which consists of designing the final aesthetics, with the goal of enhancing the usability which has been designed in previous steps.
How can a user experience designer help you with your web project?
As user experience design is a holistic and multi-disciplined field, the role of a UX designer will change as your project advances. At the beginning, when the project is more conceptual, they can assist you with:
- Ethnographic research
- Surveying of potential users
- Customer feedback and testing on existing products
- Mental modeling and other planning techniques
- Competitive analysis
While the project is underway, they will be able to:
- Produce wireframes to demonstrate functionality and assist design decisions
- Conduct heuristic analysis to determine the system's susceptibility to viruses or attacks
- Conduct pluralistic walkthroughs with users to address usability issues
- Develop prototypes in conjunction with UI designers to test functionality and features
- Produce system maps to visually demonstrate the information architecture
- Produce experience maps to visually demonstrate ergonomic considerations
- Conduct user testing
After the project has launched, they will follow up with:
- A/B testing to determine which of two variations is more successful
- Additional wireframing as a result of test results and amendments to address issues
How does it all come together?
If you put together a team which includes a skilled graphic designer, web developer, UI designer and UX designer, what you can achieve with web technology is virtually limitless.
The UX designer deals with the highest level considerations and is therefore likely to act as the de facto team leader, working closely with the UI designer to formulate a plan. The UX designer considers the way that users interact with software elements and makes a list of the overarching goals of the product. The UI designer subsequently examines the functionality required to achieve those goals. Together, they refine the plan until the full requirements of the system, it's architecture and its design are clear.
At this point the web developer gets involved, assisting the UI designer in coding the required functionality and producing prototypes for testing purposes. Once the system is sufficiently refined, the graphic designer assists with creating the visual elements to produce the final product.