The perfect mix of UX Experts and Software Architects
I am lucky enough to work in the perfect design team with a lovely mixture of talents and specialities. This perfect design team consists of UX Designers, as well as, Software Architects. It is not commonly seen to have Software Architects and UX Designers working together, but why shouldn’t it? It doesn’t make sense to me any other way. The attractive and highly usable interface between application and software that makes using the application so worthwhile depends heavily on the architecture. This is absolutely critical. Whatever capabilities the architecture has underneath it will impact the user interface. Having Software Architects involved in the design process can help flag these concerns before the design is handed off to be developed. The architect can determine if the user interface is even feasible based on the backend infrastructure. On the flip-side, as well, Architects can architect out a solution for an other wise difficult user experience, and by difficult, I mean the backend infrastructure to support it, before it is handed off to engineers to figure out. Having the two together creates a lovely balance. And no one person has to know it all.
We have all kinds of talented individuals that make up our team. There are content strategists, front-end engineers, interaction designers, ui designers, usability researchers, visual/graphic designers, information architects, ux architects, and software architects. And often, a single person may cover several of these roles, but an amazing UX team should consist of all these areas in one way or another.
The content strategist is in charge of the message and UA being portrayed to the user. This may seem like an easy task, but it can be a hard balance of giving the user enough information to be helpful without being lengthy. Content should be considered an important part of the product, be it web, mobile or any other medium. A content strategist will be responsible for shaping up the ‘tone of voice’ of the product. They set the tone of the product by carefully planning the content. The content may not be limited to text. It refers to whatever element used to communicate with the user. A content strategist might even have a call over the design element that the visual designer created, because it communicates something to the user. It is important to convey the right things in the right way to the user for a consistent ‘tone of voice’.
The visual designer handles the visual aesthetics of the design. They are the expert for color combination, typography, texture, graphics, etc to convey a message. This should go without saying that visual design plays a very important role in any design. It is the first impression and the visual aesthetics that carry forward the experience of the product.
The interaction designer is in charge of handling the interaction of the users with elements on the screen. Unlike visual designers who usually deal with static assets, interaction designers create animation inside the application. They deal with what the interface does after a user touches it. For example, they decide how a menu should slide in, what transition effects to use, and how a button should fan out. When done well, motion becomes an integral part of the interface by providing visual clues on how to use the product.
The user interface (UI) designer is concerned with the overall feel of the product and how the product is laid out. They are in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicates the path that a UX designer has laid out. UI designers are also typically responsible for creating a cohesive style guide and ensuring that a consistent design language is applied across the product. Maintaining consistency in visual elements and defining behavior such as how to display error or warning states fall under the responsibility of a UI designer.
The front-end engineer is responsible for translating the concepts from the wireframes and visual mockups into a working prototype. Front-end development is when the product jumps into the first phase of life after much conceptualization and designing from other members of the UX team, and for that matter, this can be a vital part of the Experience design process. A front-end engineer brings together the 3 forms of an application, namely content, presentation and behavior. They generally are a rockstar in HTML/CSS/JS based techniques and use these techniques in building out the working prototype.
The usability researcher is asking the questions, “Who are our users?” and “What do our users want?”. Typically, this role entails interviewing users, researching market data, and gathering findings. Design is a process of constant iteration. Researchers may assist with this process by conducting tests to tease out which design option best satisfies user needs. Helping to keep the very basic usability issues in mind can help the team move in the right direction. Usability researchers are responsible for conducting usability tests and other usability related tasks and will have a strong understanding on the working of the product, from a user’s perspective.
The user experience (UX) architect is someone who understands each stage of an Experience design process and who will be able to connect the dots seamlessly across each phase of the Experience design. They will make sure that the UX vision of the product doesn’t get blurred across each phase. The primary job of this person will be to be involved in each phase of the Experience design process, collaborate with the experts of the respective phases and make sure the product gets transitioned between them smoothly. They will set and ensure the proper standards and processes are being followed across the entire lifespan of a design including development.
The information architect focuses on a number of things such as the target audience, the technologies related to the website, the data that will be presented through the website, and the results of early usability tests regarding the site ideas. The information architect will have the challenge of organizing the information in a huge data-driven application with complex scenarios into the screen flows, wireframes, and interaction patterns to be followed.
Finally, the software architect is a computer programmer or computer expert who makes high-level design choices and dictates technical standards, including software coding standards, tools, and platforms. The software architect will evaluate technologies and make the decision of which ones will work best to achieve the solution desired with the least amount of risk. They understand the interactions and dependencies among components and can determine the best infrastructure for the problem.
All together these roles can create an amazing design team. As I said before, not one person necessarily covers each specific role, sometimes they span multiple roles. However, if there is a good balance and a group of individuals with a strong passion and a great attitude, it will make a huge difference.