UX and UI, what is it?
In the world of IT consulting, few companies can count on their own UX/UI team and often call web agencies to the rescue, or worse, simply neglect this essential stage of any development project. Good news, Alithya can now count on a UX/UI team of their own composed of experienced skilled specialists who can accompany their clients in any project types, whatever the project scale. But back to the basis, it could be interesting to define what are UX and UI? And precisely, what is the purpose of this UX/UI team in the consulting context?
UX means User Experience. The UX designer is the specialist responsible for finding the balance between the client’s established goals and the users’ needs. This balance can be reached through the creation of schematic interfaces that can be produced for a website, a mobile application, an iWatch application, a software or a game in fact any product for which an interface is needed. To get to that, the UX designer will conduct user research and statistical analysis from statistics that could already exist if it is for a redesign of an existing product. This way, the UX designer is able to better understand who the users are, their path and the scenarios based on their tasks. Then, it will be easier for the UX designer to create effective interfaces which will better suit the established objectives (clients/users). The creation of interfaces goes through different UX stages :
- Sketches: step that quickly establishes a structure with quick and easy iterations, to camp the basis of the content hierarchy and the sequence of interfaces.
- Wireframes : once the UX designer is comfortable with the sketches, they will proceed to the next step which is to produce the wireframes: a schematic representation of the interfaces focusing on the content hierarchy and the functionalities without the visual aspect. The client must be able to concentrate on these elements and any specificity of visual design at this step can create an unnecessary irritant.
- Prototypes: In the eventuality that the UX designer wants to see if the proposed user’s interaction hold water, a prototype is produced in which a user can navigate between the different wireframes and interact with the functionalities.
- User testing: It is possible to perform user testing with wireframes and/or with a prototype. User testing helps to find problematics by seeing real users going through the UX designer work. This way, adjustments can be made on elements that were not giving results as expected.
The graphic designer is the one responsible for the more creative portion of the project: the User Interface design. The graphic designer participates to the initial discussions with the client and the UX Design to fully understand and assimilate the client’s communication objectives, the brand image and the target audience's needs. Once the wireframes have been approved by the client, the graphic designer can start deploying their creativity. This creativity must lead to the production of an efficient design based on the context of use (a website for a video game will not have the same visual style as for a mobile application for practitioners). The responsibility of the graphic designer is not simply to add colors to the UX designer’s wireframes but to use the knowledge from these wireframes (the complete hierarchy and functionalities that must be found in the interface) to better exploit their creativity and produce state-of-the-art design.
The UI designer will be responsible for the production of the visual mock-ups that will be used by the developers. The UI designer is also responsible for the Style Guide that contains in detail all the constituents of the visual interfaces. Finally, the UI designer is in charge of the project’s artistic direction and will see that the graphic standards are respected while the UX designer will see that the functionalities are also developed as expected.
Working as a team
It is important to establish that the interface design process is a team work. The UX and UI designers are working in symbiosis to produce high level interfaces and interactions. To reach that level, line work is impossible because the opinions of one will help the work of the other to be able to respond efficiently to the users’ needs while being in line with the client’s objectives. The deliverables come in stages but the creation work is done in team mode.
It should also be noted that the UX/UI team works with the developers to be sure that what they want to propose can be done. Assuming that nothing is really impossible, limitations of some content managers require that some adjustments need to be made so that the client does not approve elements of design or interactions that cannot be produced.
UX/UI in consulting
It is rarely the case for all the projects of a consulting firm; however logic suggests that any project that needs visual interfaces should count on the implication of the UX/UI team. Why would a management tool used by specialized technicians would not need to be analyzed properly by the UX/UI specialists and get an eye-catching visual and the best user experience to make the work effective and visually interesting?
It seems that some falsely believe that UX/UI is really necessary for only promotional website projects. This probably explains the regular absence of internal design team's in consulting firms. This is the reason why these firms need to build partnerships with external agencies to create the visual design of their projects. On the other hand, this situation implies an additional level of management since the firm must ensure the availability of human resources on whom the consulting firm has less control. Having a design team internally greatly facilitates exchanges and good working projects. Thus a great asset for Alithya.