How do I explain to my friends and family (or any other person outside the tech industry) what the hell I do as a UX/UI Designer?!

Hello! My name is Ana Lucia, a UX/UI Designer (as you could've guessed from the title of this post) at Maniak, and I would like to help you understand what job is; and if you're a UX Designer like myself, this would hopefully help you explain your job too.

It's always difficult to explain what we do when something is so new. Okay, maybe not THAT new, but to other people this is a recently discovered field. I don't know about you, but every time a person spits out the question "What do you do for a living?” I get so nervous.  I'm being completely serious about this, I get physically nervous. One, because I know even though I explain myself as thoroughly as I can, they won't really understand what I do, and two, I get so into the topic that I confuse them even more.

First of all, I gotta break down all the different terms we use around the tech industry that get confusing, even for myself. There're many branches of design inside the tech industry: we have UX Designers, UI Designers, Product Designers, and I guess even more terms exist but those are the ones I hear around the most.

What is real UX Design?

When we talk about UX Design, it’s more than just designing web pages, colors and typography. UX stands for user experience. We are in charge of the experience the user has while using any app, product or web page. If you're having a rough time using our product, that's when we're not doing our job right.

What I mean by this is, our job is to make the product usage satisfying and easy: that the user can enter it easily and complete the tasks the product is for without hesitations. There's more to UX Design of course; there's a process, research and testing, but if I explain all of them right now I might only confuse you more, and we don't want that. I want you to understand the main idea of what we do.

But, what about the designing part? Colors? Typography?

This is what we call UI Design. UI stands for user interface, here we focus on the visual elements, and how color, typography, forms, images, spaces, and all things involving the visuals, complement the user experience (UX) on the product.

This means, UX and UI complement each other. Look at it this way: if you have a pretty website, but it's really confusing for your user to navigate in, it won't work. And if you have a useful website, but with a lack of color, or the text is too small, or the buttons can't be found... that also won't work either. Aw, how romantic, isn't it? One can't live without the other. Sounds like a romance novel.

So, in conclusion, that's mostly what I do in my job. Making sure you can use a web page, app or product without any difficulty while making sure it also looks cool, pretty, and attractive. Awesome, right?

Wait but, how do I make sure people understand what I do for real?

Just make sure you cover the simple things, most people don't understand our "techy" terms, and I think that was my biggest mistake every time I explained to my parents what I do. Here’s some pointers for when you have the same conversation:

  1. Focus on the main idea of what UX is and how UI is the visual complementary part. Usability is the main focus of a UX designer, and visual excellence is the UI’s.
  2. Give an example of a product you know they use that has a good user experience. And explain why. For instance, I really like spotify. Be specific about which parts of the app are designed to be easy to find or to use, like the search functions or the menus.
  3. You can gradually add details. For example, what we do to understand the user and how we try to improve their experience, like testing out our designs and asking people what they think.

And don't get frustrated. It’s something that is still new for many people, and it will take time to understand, just like everything in the tech industry. But, like everything else, it’s not that complicated and once you get the hang of it, it’ll be easy to explain.