You’ve hit one of the core problems with this emerging career field. I would say most people don’t know or fully understand what UX is. Many employers have heard UX as a buzzword, and are just beginning to recognize UX as an important aspect of the design and development process. As a result, UX is often confused with UI, and many people taking on UX roles end up doing more UI work than anything else.
So what is the difference between the two?
The basic answer I go with is “User Interface is the controls you use when working with a website/piece of software/etc. User Experience is how you feel about using those controls.”
Take, for instance, the concept of building a floor selector for an elevator. You might have already gathered a few different requirements from users:
- All floor numbers should be listed, with their own button.
- The floor numbers should follow a logical progression.
- The button for the ground floor should be the easiest to reach, and largest.
- All buttons should have the floor marked in braille.
- The interface must be shiny and pretty.
A user interface which follows all of these requirements could look something like this:
Now, while our UI may have met all the requirements, what is the likelihood that anyone will actually want to use this elevator, or will return to use (and the associated business) in the future?
Even though we’ve checked all the boxes from a UI perspective, the odds are not great, because the experience of finding a floor is absolutely terrible and borderline unusable.
A UX professional’s role in this analogy would be to study how this interface is broken, and make suggestions on how to fix it (or preferably, how to avoid installing a broken interface to begin with.) This is done through interviews, personas, testing, designs, iteration, and collaboration.
Very often UX pros do the work of UI pros in-tandem, meaning that they’d then be responsible for creating the actual design and overseeing its implementation.
UXer’s are problem solvers; UIer’s are visual gurus. The two are very different disciplines in that they require very different skill sets. Someone with great UX, visual design, front end, back end, and industry savvy is generally referred to as a UX Unicorn because-- unless you believe in legends-- they simply don’t exist.
This is why it might be difficult to find a UX pro to help you in your challenge. Although we’re certainly a friendly and helpful bunch, and while many of us have solid UI skills, UI is not what we do on an everyday basis, and not what we’re best at doing.