Problem > UX > UI

by Giff on June 15, 2011

Jason Cohen’s recent post got me thinking about the difference between UX and UI and the order in which I think about design when coming up with something new. Here is my rough order (and tomorrow I will post a concrete example):

1. The Problem

Understand the customer’s problem and ask yourself if you are solving the right problem

Example process: talk to customers about their issues and current behavior / processes, and look carefully at current market offerings)

2a. Architecture and Flow

Test if solving the problem in a useful and usable way (both in terms of functionality and business model)

Example process: iterate wireframes with a small group, then mockups and/or live prototypes with much larger group of users; learn both with analytics and direct conversations/observations; combine learnings with judgement and vision; focus on the core problem solving experience first, then the first user experience)

2b. Copy

Try to get the words right, both for usability purposes and for marketing.

Questions I like to ask around evaluating #2:
- upon first seeing app: what does this product do?
- is this a nice-to-have, or would you truly use / pay for this?
- what is the first thing your eyes saw?
- what is the first thing you would click on?

Example process: same as 2a; ask people how they describe your solution to others)

3. Graphic design

Establish your brand through visuals, creating a foundation for your relationship with customer. Visual design and copy choices allow you to explain who you are and what you are about. Visual design doesn’t have to mean “pretty”. Craigslist’s visual design, or lack thereof, can actually be viewed as an effective branding choice about the company and what it cares about.

Example process: gain consensus around the brand among critical stakeholders, hire an appropriate designer if needed, and validate that your design is meeting brand goals with your customers. Let a good designer do his/her job and avoid design-by-committee.)

Final Note

At the beginning of a new product, I don’t really see the point of working on#3 very much until you are reasonably solid on #1 and #2. And of course, iterating on all 3 of these areas never stops.

I would also note that once one is feeling relatively confident about #1 and #2, think about and test what viral/marketing vehicle best gels with the core of the product and user behavior.

p.s. regarding the title, yes this *all* falls under the umbrella of UX, but hopefully you get my drift