For as long as the concept of User Experience Design has been around, there have been tons of myths and misconceptions surrounding it. What is it really, and how important is it in application and software development? What should UX designers actually do and don’t? In this article, Arcanys Sr. UX expert Ken ventures to dispel some of the most common ones floating around about the field. So here are 5 things you probably get wrong about UX design that you should know.
Misconception # 1: A designer's main job is to make things look good.
Making things look good is part of a designer's job, but it's not the main job. It's not even in the top 3. Priorities are different from project to project, but most of the time, the designer's main focus will be solving very specific problems for people. Whether it's to help people navigate an application, or to help them quickly accomplish a task that was previously a pain to do, the design must first and foremost, be useful and usable, before we even start considering whether or not it looks good.
Misconception # 2: Function is all that matters. Form isn't important.
Nooo. So despite everything I've said up till now, this is going in the extreme opposite of my first point. Just because we prioritize functionality first, it doesn't mean we care about the aesthetics less. We absolutely do care about making things look as good as they can. It is just that it shouldn't ever be at the expense of usability.
Also it has been shown that products that are attractive or aesthetically pleasing are reported by users, in a user testing environment, to "work better" than products that aren't as pretty.
Misconception # 3: UX Design is about designing UI.
Not quite. User Interface design is certainly an important part of UX design, but it's only a small part. UX design as a practice involves research, testing, data gathering, prototyping, and a whole lot of other things, all in the pursuit of understanding the needs and wants of the people who will be directly using whatever you're designing. The UI design usually comes after all of that. People don't see the process, they just see the deliverables—the end product—of all these processes, and since the UI is the only visible artifact most people see come out of a design process, it's understandable that they think that's what UX design is.
Misconception # 4: UX Designers should create new awesome UI that we haven't seen before.
UX Designers shouldn't… at least, not without very good (and well researched) reasons! UI conventions exist for a reason. People, for the most part, are probably not going to your website or using your app because they want to experience something new or novel. 99% of the time, users just want to get stuff done, or find information that they're looking for. Novel, unique, new UI gets in the way of that because it requires users to figure it out first before they're able to use it. Having said that, designers should take time to explore new ideas, just don't do it on projects that don't need them.
Misconception # 5: UX Designers need to have visual design or graphics backgrounds.
While having a background in graphic design will certainly help you in the more visual aspects of UX design, they're not an absolute requirement to practice UX. UX Designers can be engineers, writers, data scientists, teachers, programmers, psychologists, or any number of other disciplines that help deal with solving problems and understanding people. It requires both hard and soft skills. And above all, it requires that someone has the capacity to empathize with the people who are going to be using what they’re designing.
All things considered...
There are no hard and fast rules to UX Design. There are best practices and conventions, and those are certainly useful. In the real world, however, UX designers need to be quite adaptable, daring enough to do things differently while knowing when to stick to a tried and tested convention, and comfortable with thinking outside the proverbial box without sacrificing the bottomline: helping users get things done and solve their problems.