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).

Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis 3: Web Design Process

Write one short summary of the Web Design Process

The professional design process – and the team roles involved – is often broken up into a series of stages. At times a subconscious method, these steps are essential to any medium. While no one person lists each phase exactly the same, there is often repetition in the concepts and goals surrounding them. In the article “The 4 Steps of the Creative Process”, Charlie Gilkey explains, “The creative process begins with work and ends with work” and lists the four steps: preparation, incubation, illumination, and implementation (Gilkey). Django Star shares his rundown of the process in his article “User Interface Development Flow. 8-step Process”:
brainstorming and sketching, user flow diagram, structure and flow validation, interface style, style validation, preview form, and design validation.

Gilkey describes the preparation step as “going through relatively mundane processes” that serve as a type of warm-up exercise (Gilkey). There is a common misconception that creative people are always buzzing with inspiration and jump from project to project; this stems from the assumption that our work is in fact not work at all, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The incubation of an idea is the conscious and subconscious working in unison, “making new connections, separating out unnecessary ideas, and grabbing for other ideas” (Gilkey); it’s essentially the brainstorming portion of the creative process, as listed in Django’s article. Illumination is known as the “creative urge” and “driving impulse” that causes creators to feverishly expel the idea out of our brains as quickly as possible (Gilkey). Implementation is not only the phase in which the idea is brought to life, but also when “a good creative starts to evaluate the idea and determine whether it’s good or not” – finally having a subject to assess (Gilkey). This can be compared to Django’s explanation of the validation phases and the user flow diagram, which focuses on evaluating user interaction and experience. In their model of the creative process, the Dubberly Design Office emphasizes that the process is cyclical.

A recurrent step by step process is crucial to creative design, the editorial phases just as important as the initial eureka moments. In reviewing the various roles involved, I realized I prefer to stay in the role of art director. The other team positions offer little to intrigue my personal interests; I’ve always preferred to stay in the visually artistic aspects of projects – I’m a
creature of aesthetics through and through.

Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis 2: CMS 101

What are some of the Pros and Cons of using a Content Management System (CMS)?

A content management system, otherwise known as “CMS” can be a powerful tool for designers, if utilized correctly. In their article, “Which Content Management System Should I Choose? Comparison of 5 Popular CMSs”, the Polcode Developers Team describes CMSs as “highly functional” and emphasize their easy use for those with no programming backgrounds ( This is really appealing to beginners as they can dive right into designing without having to learn code. However, the more complex and customizable a website, the more likely developer experience will be required.

Simpler software such as Squarespace and Wix are marketed as easy to use for everyday folks, but can be limited in their customizability. In the article, “Your WYSIWYG Editor sucks”, the author argues that such sites prioritize aesthetics over content — so much so that content can end up tied down to the site’s current design and cannot be easily accessed by content administrators (Andrew). This becomes a big issue when less experienced users get caught up in themes rather than focus on how functional or user friendly their site can be.

CMSs are a bit of a give and take, and users should be aware of exactly what the “give” portion is. In his article, “ vs What’s the difference?”, Marko Saric gives a rundown of both softwares. He describes as “all-inclusive so you don’t need to worry about a hosting server, software updates or security maintenance” but argues that there is limitation on fundamental features such as editing HTML, PHP code, theme content, and the lack of FTP access (Saric).

Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis 1: A Good Web Designer

Technical knowledge aside, what makes for a good Web designer?

In a technology dominated age, we are exposed to all kinds of media day by day. Consuming and noting all the different disciplines of each website we visit provides insight into the website design process. Good web design naturally should follow basic design principles, but ultimately should focus on how to meet user needs and expectations as efficiently as possible. It’s important to look at exactly what kind of designer you want to be. Creative Bloq’s 2012 article, “Jump from Graphic to Web Design in Seven Easy Steps”, lists three website defining items: “who you are, who your users are and what your business goals are” (CreativeBloq). As designers, we bring our own knowledge and experience to a project. However, it’s vital that we
do so while also keeping the target audience and desired effect in mind.

In another Creative Bloq article, “Design isn’t just about pixels”, it is stated “Design is about understanding people” (CreativeBloq). A successful website is less about being the most aesthetically pleasing, but more so about creating something that is efficient and easy for the target audience to use. Designers have to research potential users and understand what needs and expectations they may have.

In order to give clients what they want, some communications skills are required as well. In his article “Why You Need to Ask More Creative Questions”, Aaron Morton emphasizes non-mainstream thinking and using the brain’s tendency to problem solve to our advantage. He states, “Constantly looking at the problem doesn’t necessarily provide a solution. By turning the problem into a question, you are directing your thinking towards finding a solution” (Morton). We need to not only be creative in how we work, but how we approach a project and come to certain design decisions; a designer needs to know the fundamentals but also their audience well enough to confidently defend why their solution is the best one.

We have to be able to view the screen from two perspectives: our own as creators and as users interacting with said creations. Despite how much we “know” and try to argue about color theory and user-friendly layouts, it is entirely up to whether the user can easily navigate and work with a website; as pretty and well thought out a project may be, it will always fall short if
user experience is not optimal.