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UX Design: What does it really mean?


Just as it’s hard to be a “designer”, a developer who can design or a designer who can develop, it’s hard to develop into a UX designer who can do it all.  

In 1999 there were two types of designers–creative types and developer types. I remember looking at job postings trying to figure out what a company was really looking for.  In the end, the difference was whether the “designer” knew Photoshop. Today, the term “User Experience Designer” is widely used, but may refer to one or more of the following roles: 

  • Information Architect – focuses on designing the informational schema.
  • Interaction Designer – focuses on designing the user experience so that a form is usable and ensures workflows follow good usability practice.
  • Visual Designer – focuses on making a UI standout within the standards of a brand, utilizing strong creativity and artistic capability. 
  • Usability Engineer – focuses on usability studies, behaviors of users, and testing the end product to make sure it is indeed usable.

There are some imaginary lines drawn around these different disciplines but they are closely intertwined. It is useful for a designer to have these skills in his/her toolbox in order to design a clean and more usable application. 

Today we focus on the visual design, but a visual designer needs to be more than a fine art major.  Design is a talent and may or not be something that you can learn (this is another blog post).  A creative talent who is passionate about design and the user experience is an important part of the UX team but without the knowledge of the other UX areas it would be tough to create a seamless user experience.  Playing at least part of the role of information architect, interaction designer and usability engineer allows the visual designer to excel.


About The Author

Practice Manager
Michelle manages Cardinal’s User Experience and Design practice nationwide.