UX and UI are two important concepts that are often used interchangeably, but actually mean very different things. We sat down to talk about our winter session UX/UI class with instructor Matt Hollenbach.
Matt grew up in Catasauqua, PA, graduated from Kutztown University as a Communication Design major, and has called Lancaster home for 25 years. Matt started his web design career before we, as designers, gave any thought to usability and has witnessed, first-hand, how far the field has come. Matt's "ah-ha" moment regarding UX/UI came while helping build prototypes for an app for Intel: It suddenly hit him how much he had been missing when it came to designing digital experiences. He is currently the Director of Digital Experience for Wavelength Marketing, where he is in charge of making sure the digital marketing tools that they create provide people with clear and easy pathways to success.
Tell us a little about the UX/UI class you are teaching this session?
MH: We will begin the class with an explanation of what it means to design with the user’s needs as the main priority. Next, we'll touch on the five stages of the design thinking process, work through some creative problem-solving, and then discuss the terminology of UX and UI and how they are not the same. For our main class project, each student will apply what we are learning to a website that is connected to their professional life.
I am always fascinated by the results of the user-testing sessions -- at multiple points within the process, students will observe users trying out their prototypes to see what works well and what doesn’t. This is always an eye-opening experience that pushes students outside their usual approach to design.
The big takeaway from my course is seeing user-centered design as more than designing a website that looks nice and works well on your big monitor and instead, considering every touch point where your design will come in contact with users and how those factors work in unison to create a positive and successful user outcome.
Can you explain the difference between UX and UI and why it is important for designers to know?
MH: User experience vs. User interface. If they are not both done well, neither will work. UX design refers to the term “user experience design” and UI stands for “user interface design”. Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together but the roles they play are quite different. You can have the most beautiful interface imaginable and if it doesn’t take into account how the information is organized and what the user is motivated by, it will fall flat. Likewise, all of the planning and research in the world is useless if potential users don’t find the design engaging.
What do you do for fun when you’re not teaching/working?
MH: Many people may not heard of this, but -- bike polo. It’s kind of like hockey with bicycles. There is nothing better to take my mind off everything else in life, makes me laugh like a child, and leaves me both exhausted and recharged.