The modern world of software, we use today, is very different from what it used to be like. As of now, solutions not only need to solve a problem but provide a whole experience for the users. Naturally, companies want to offer the best user experience possible to keep their users happy and grow their user base.
The aspects of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are often intertwined in a way, so there are no jobs that combine these two worlds. I talked to UX/UI designer Amy Bhinyaporn Pattanasethanon and asked her about her profession and passion.
What is the difference between UX and UI design?
Christopher Isak: When people talk about UX and UI design, there are a lot of different interpretations going around. What is UX/UI design for you and how would you differentiate between these two terms?
Amy Bhinyaporn Pattanasethanon: Actually there is quite a difference between the two. For me, UX design is about understanding the human psyche, how they understand our prototype, identifying the right problems and turn them into opportunities.
UI design is the result of what you found from your learnings. In short, UX is the high-level interpretation of what a product should look like or work like, and UI is the specific details of your prototype.
Designing the user experience
CI: What is your favorite aspect of user experience (UX) design?
ABP: My favorite aspect of UX design is when I do an empathy session with my users and turn those pain points into an opportunity to solve them. It helps you shape fuzzy context into concise problem statements.
However, my happiest moments as a UX designer/Engineer is when you create a product and receive constructive feedback from it. UX was never a one-man-show to me. It works best when meaningful users and stakeholders provide you with constructive feedback.
Technical meets visual
CI: How about user interface (UI) design? What do you like the most about this discipline?
ABP: UI design comes to me very naturally because I was a software engineer for three years before I decided to jump into this role full-time. So I know exactly what are some limitations for a few different frontend frameworks. I guess what I like most about UI design is that there is always something new to explore, in terms of techniques and aesthetic.
There will always be new topics to look into depending on the purpose, but the process will always be the same. For instance, in an e-commerce UI, you will want to design to attract traffic, whereas in a data analytics UI, you will have to represent the data in a way that it is meaningful and understandable to your audiences.
Days in the life of a UX/UI designer
CI: Tell us about a typical day in your job. How does it start? What are the activities like? What’s important to you, being a UX/UI designer?
ABP: There are two types of tasks that I would get; UI screen designs or interaction design, and screen and interaction design. A simple one screen design or interaction design is when you have a few anomalies in the UI form, a small feature, or small changes needed in the UI. Such as what this collapse/expand should look like when this button is clicked. This does not come very often, but it’s usually a screen fix.
Interaction design and screen design is when I get to create a new feature/entirely new product or make a better version out of the current one. This is where it gets fun! I would follow the normal Design Thinking process – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. When I get new tasks such as “How might we create a better shopping experience for our website” as a big theme, I would spend around 1-2 days understanding the users through the Empathy session – talking, observing, learning about there pain points, or try to immerse in their experience.
Then the 3rd day is when I turn these problems into opportunities to solve them and ideate different solutions with a team of people from different departments. This is where you get to come up with the most ridiculous ideas you can and then filter ones that make sense later. Then the other two days is when I take all the filtered ideas and turn them into a quick prototype design and interaction. This is what I call a design sprint. We would test out our prototype after every design sprint to see what is good in our design and what we can make it better. We would do a maximum of three design sprints per project because that is where we cut off and send to development for a beta test.
Looking at my approach, you will see that it is very human-centered, from the step of understanding the problem to creating a prototype to testing. The most important part as a UX/UI designer is the ability truly understand what your users are trying to tell you without imposing your ideas on them and the ability to communicate your ideas into a prototype. There are so many ways to solve a problem, but before you can solve the right problems, you also need to know how to ask the right questions.
How to become a UX/UI designer
CI: How can someone become a UX/UI designer? What do they have to learn, study, and practice?
ABP: There are many ways to become a UX/UI designer. Some UX/UI designers I know came from industrial design backgrounds, computer science/engineering backgrounds, or arts backgrounds. My background is in computer engineering, and I’d been working as a software engineer for a little while before I decide to take on this role. I love working as a software engineer, don’t get me wrong, but as a UX designer, I get to design and code at the same time.
My advice would be to try taking classes related to HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), psychology, coding, and Design Thinking (check out the book Change by Design, from Tim Brown) as a starter. Take on some projects and try to practice methods in HCI and Design Thinking. Or try to create your first website in ReactJS or Ruby on Rails and make it congruent with your designs.
Teamwork is key
CI: What are good places to look at when you want to be hired as a UX/UI designer right now?
ABP: The place you can make the most impact as a UX/UI designer is where the team or the company allows you to create a design space or a safe space where you can experiment things and embrace making mistakes. A “good place” in my perspective is very contingent on the team that you will be working with regardless of the brand.
UX/UI design in a nut-shell
CI: How would you explain your job to someone who isn’t very tech-savvy?
ABP: I turn ideas one step closer to reality. 😛 or I design and code at the same time.
Remember Einstein and ask the right questions
CI: Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview with us. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
ABP: When you approach a problem, and you don’t know where to start. The best thing you can do is to spend some time asking the right questions, and you will be amazed by the power of asking. This applies to both work and life 🙂
Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. For once I know the proper questions, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.”
I am really happy and grateful that Amy made time for us on her busy schedule and gave us interesting insights into this sphere of work. Hopefully it also helped you understand and appreciate the work of a UX/UI designer a little more by now.
Photo credit: The feature image “graffiti mural” has been done by Jeffrey Betts from MMT. The image of Amy Bhinyaporn Pattanasethanon is owned by herself and was used with her permission. The Design Thinking process flow graphic has been prepared by Wikimedia Deutschland e. V.
Editorial notice: The interview has been edited for clarity and style. The underlying message or tone has not been altered.