The way in which web designers are now approaching design projects is increasingly being influenced by UX. In fact, the richness of new design methods, practices and tools are turning the graphic and visual design industry on its head. As a result, designers are now becoming more inclined to “think” more strategically and holistically before excitedly diving straight into visual user interface (UI) design.

Why the UX thinking process influences design outcomes

Let’s take the case of a company looking for a new website and uncover the immediate reaction of a visual designer to that of a UX designer:

 

Visual designerUX designer
How can I make this site look like incredible visually?Who is the target audience for this website?
What colors can I use?What do we want the website to do?
How many images I can use?What do we want users to do when they interact?
How can I introduce video and animation in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the user?How do we want users to engage?

 

The table above isn’t representative of the thoughts or limitations of all designers, but it’s representative of general industry thinking behind each of the functions. These points do not imply that a UX designer is not concerned with visual design considerations (of course they are!) They just may not be from the outset.

With the web becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace and with an increasing number of visually appealing sites, designers are now seeing beyond aesthetic appeal and realizing how their approaches ultimately dictate levels of user engagement. This realization is making visual designers to sit up and take note of the UX design process and methodology.

The video below features one of the pioneers of UX design, Jesse James Garrett, highlighting the value of user experience (UX), user behavior and how humans influence design.

Watch Me

The importance of UX for visual designers

As outlined already within this post, user experience considerations are crucial for visual designers to deliver designs which are based on user requirements, not just on designer preference. This notion is substantiated by some well documented quotes:

“Design is directed toward human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them, examining alternate solutions to them, choosing and executing the best solution.”—Ivan Chermayeff, from globally renowned Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
“Like all forms of design, visual design is about problem solving, not about personal preference or unsupported opinion.” – quote from Bob Baxley, author of “Making the Web Work”

These quotes in particular highlight the importance to visual designers of the need to think deeper and more holistically around the purpose of websites, website functionality and what users really need from their website experience.

UX provides the context for the user interface (UI) and visual design

By no means should the value of visual (UI) design be discredited, as it is the artwork and aesthetic appeal that draws the eye and brings a canvas to life. Without UX, however, visual designers often risk completing and launching websites which may be visually appealing, but which fail on the usability front.

A winning combination - combining visual (UI) and UX design

Just as a great user interface (UI) or visual designer may not be fully versed in UX, a UX designer may not necessarily be the strongest UI designer. A UX designer, however, may have (most likely) come from a visual design (UI) background and strengthened their level of expertise in UX than the other way around. Why? Web design courses and web design jobs are far more commonplace than those which are UX specific, due (in short) to UX being a complex function. Another reason can be pinned to UX addressing the complexity behind visual design, so it is typically a natural course of action to want to learn how to design websites in the first instance. Both UX and UI design are separate in nature, but can create powerful websites if interwoven.

Evaluating the shift from visual design to combined UI/UX design

A multiskilled designer that has experience applying UX and knows how to design the user interface (UI) can (due to the skillset) command a higher salary. This is reflected by looking at average UK salary indicator Payscale.com, with the average wage for a UX Designer being £32,999 ($46,000), compared to £22,591 ($32,000) for a Web Designer (as of the time of this publication).

To conclude

Good UX alone may not be an attractive enough proposition for businesses seeking to deliver better experiences for their users. Still, the more attractive average salaries UX designers can expect to earn will certainly serve as food for thought to influence more visual and graphic designers to learn UX principles, methodologies and practices. Having more designers’ au fait with UX will surely only be beneficial not only for the web industry, but also for users of websites and other digital products going forward.

Article No. 798 | March 5, 2012
Article No. 1 605 | April 19, 2016