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Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis 5: UX vs. Web Design

How does User Experience Design differ from what we traditionally call Web Design? Why is each important?

As designers, it is vital to understand the subjects of our field and be able to accurately define such.  In his article “Looking Beyond User-Centered Design “, Cennydd Bowles compares UX design to user-centered design (UCD). He explains that user experience is the discipline in which we find ourselves as designers, whereas user-centered design is the process: research, sketch, prototype, iterate (Bowles). UX design and web design are interweaving concepts, but remain separate in their parts of the overall design process; the problem and the solution are not one in the same.

Helge Fredheim’s article “Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed” emphasizes the distinction between designing user experience and designing for user experience. Referring to user experience as “site maps, wireframes and all that” only reduces its true meaning. He explains the steps of Hassenzahl’s Model of UX — manipulation, identification, stimulation, and evocation — all of which are dependent on the user and the context in which they use the product, something we have no control over. Designing the user is not a possibility, but designing as and for them is.

We have to put ourselves in the place of the user and attempt to predict every possible outcome; we have to act and anticipate as the user acts completely unconsciously. Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. weighs in on the topic in her article, “The Psychologist’s View of UX Design”. She explains the different part of UX design and goes on to acknowledge, “Both the old brain and the emotional brain act without our conscious knowledge” (Weinschenk).  We cannot control the subconscious, but we can anticipate it.

We cannot design user experience, but we can design for it. As Weinschenk explains in her writing, “People will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done”; it is our job to make the product as easy to use as possible (Weinschenk).   As designers we can only hope to guide users to their goal as seamlessly as possible. “The user should never notice the designer’s influence”, not in the lack of a distinct style but in that the navigation of the design should require little thought (Bowles).

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