It's Not Just a Bandwagon!

A lot of discussion and argument goes on based around trendy or just otherwise nebulous industry jargon. Writers both big and small can leverage new topics that are both of interest to professionals, but are also accessible to those not on the front line with years of experience. With such repetition of topics, they can seem to wear thin to someone who reads numerous sources of industry writing on a regular basis.

A number of the articles I've read recently on similar topics have helped me realize that even these repetitions can serve a very illuminating purpose. Especially for those who both write and still work in the field, knowing how they define roles and work can be very informative of their approach to future projects and the consequent results. No matter the topic, comparing the bodies of work of two established industry members that hold starkly different fundamental opinions will undoubtedly reveal patterns inherent to those differing opinions. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but it is a great way to augment the search for a professional to hire, consult with, or just watch for advice and experience.

To that end, I'll be making sure to weigh in on any of these 'cutting-edge', 'trendy', industry topics. Linguistics and definitions hold some very important and interesting meaning, and a paper trail just makes it that much easier to sort out!

UI / UX, Design / Developer, Tomato / Tømåtö

Individual term definitions will be the best place to start the topic, as they're less debated or sensationalized. Or fictitious, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go! Specifically, UI (User Interface) is all about the actual interface made for a user to interact with. It's assembling building materials into a quantifiable (albeit usually digital) result. If UI is your finished product, then UX (User eXperience) is the incredibly detailed blueprint planning stages. An effective UX strategy spans multiple disciplines, from polling selected user groups, integrating statistics gathered by other groups, and much, much more. The buttons, colors, and design are your end goal in planning, but your bigger picture is the overall experience across your project for a given user.

These two are obviously inexorably connected, but also distinct in their own ways. A quality project will make full use of both UX planning and UI implementation to reach its goals. In some cases UX and UI can be handled by a single person. Other cases require much larger teams. This is part of where UI / UX definitions can get murky. Especially if it's all done by a single person, or multiple people in concert on both stages, who's to say where research ends and work begins? A good example would be the testing of two different, fully built out page designs for n A/B user preference test. On one hand, you've certainly built your interface, and are having users interact with it. On the other, your goal is researching their experience and making changes based on the feedback.

The Plot Thickens...

What particularly caught my interest in starting this series was the combination of UI / UX and Designer / Developer titles used in resumes and job postings. Design and Development have traditionally been two sides of the same final project coin, but rarely did their lingo or titles mingle more than they had to. In large part due to the ambiguity and unfamiliarity of many to the fields and distinctions of UI / UX, titles have begun cropping up that most folks didn't expect to see. UI Designer has been a popular and widely accepted title, but lately the industry jargon blender has been working overtime. UI Developer, UX Designer, UX Developer (?), and so on.

Some of these make more sense than others, and all are somewhere on the spectrum of 'who does what, again?'. Many people advocate a strict use of only one or two combinations to limit the confusion involved in title recognition. While some are more defensible than others, I think there's room for most permutations. While stricter guidelines can be VERY useful within an established company hierarchy, most of the contention in this topic revolves around more fluid contractors, freelancers, and small studio outfits. A great part of being smaller and more flexible means bringing something to the table outside the expected box. If your title is a launching point to illuminate exactly who you are and what you do, more power to you!

UI and UX, Perspective Dependent

The great part about a creative industry, which all of this falls under, is how many valid and diverse routes there are to do achieve a given goal. The flexibility of these titles allows one to gently indicate that you approach UI from an aesthetic and visual basis, as a UI Designer. Or perhaps your can design well enough, but your real skills are making magic with PHP and Javascript, so you're a functional guru of a UI Developer.

A few titles, like UX Developer can arguably key in to the same semantic, but are more objectionable. Traditionally, Developer means more than just a code / engineering mindset, but actual coding and functioning development. UX, by it's nature, doesn't have any developmental stage like this, and results in the title being more confusing overall.