UX/UI, what’s that?

The first reaction I get from most people when I tell them that I teach UX/UI is this:
“What is UX/UI?”

Answer: “It stands for User Experience and User Interface design”

Then usually a short or long pause grows. I need to give an example. The terms are too vague and need more explanation.
Because everything in life is a “User Experience” if we use life. However, UX is mostly talked about in the digital design field; maybe because most services and products that used to have a brick-and-mortar store are converging to become digital in their core, by default. Like Netflix took over video stores, paypal and venmo over banks, Uber closed car services, freshDirect will close the supermarkets, Airbnb the hotels, air travel booking, digital printing, photos, books, soon doctors…, do we even need offices anymore?

UX designers are the architects of the websites and apps that organize all that. They build the structure, including the covered pipes. And the UI is the interior design, including the vanity house number, which would be the logo.

UX is a fairly new field, yet our daily lives are already dominated by digital interfaces. I am hoping to design and teach exceptional and uncompromising works that, most importantly, don’t annoy users.

In graphic design terms, UX/UI history is rather un-sexy compared to typography or advertising. They have all the big names, societies and a history of quotes and anecdotes. UX/UI history starts 1993 with the advent of the www.  Passes the dot-com bubble of the 90’s, re-invents itself with web 2.0, and in 2006 the iPhone changes our lives and social media gains importance.

The cover below tries to be sexy, but the inside is just as blah, and will be outdated within a few years. At least it looks a little like a boxmodel. I wish firefox would re-intruduce the 3-d viewer thing. It was such a nice tool to show the boxmodel:


There are endless resources out there. For hard cover books I recommend the following 5:

(I always do 5, but if you come across a good one please tell me)

1. Digital Adaptation by Paul Boag

My clear favorite. Why is it so hard to publish a good-looking, well-written book about the digital development? At least make it nice to look at. This book has a bookmark band, pullquotes, easy text chunks to scan, nice graphics, good typography.  It’s a pleasure to read.  Each hard-cover includes a pdf, eBook and Kindle edition. It’s published by Smashing Magazine. These people know what I like. And then I scrolled down on their amazon page, and, they are headquartered in sunny town of Freiburg in Germany, my hometown. Truely the center of UX/UI…

2. Don’t Make me Think (revisited)

Just plain and painless, an easy reader. This is the required (or recommended) reading of the course and a good introduction. The layout looks, well, like a school book. But it’s short and for everybody, sort of the Struck and White of UX.

One thing though: he calls it the “trunk test”. The point he is stating is that if you get locked in a trunk and get out on any given webpage, would you know how to navigate back. I find that a rather morbid analogy. Maybe just “the man that fell to earth”, could he find water without cognitive overload?

3. Designing Effective Communications

Inside this oddly-designed book cover is a collection of actually really interesting articles about communication in a digital age. How we changed from users to creators, and how we changed to dialog instead of a brochure. I enjoyed the several articles, but I don’t understand the cover, it doesn’t communicate.


4. A Book Apart Series

The whole series is good. I really need to read some more into it. Here is a TED talk about one: https://www.uideo.net/videos/111

5. Design for Screen: Graphic Design Solutions for Great User Experiences

A student recommended this book in a series by Wang Shaoquiang. A very beautiful book and there aren’t that many pretty web design books. It’s really inspirational.


And thanks to David VanEsselstein for contributing quite a few tips from this list. He is a User Experience Specialist at Chase and is very knowledgeable on the topic.

He had a few more suggestions:
Smashing Magazine
– Digital Adaptation book
– The mobile book
UX Design Process
– Offscreen magazine
– 5 simple steps pocket guides
A book apart: conversational design & Just enough research
General Assembly: the Practitioner’s Guide to User Experience Design

Another very extensive UX/UI list.
With more time I also like to dive into UXpin

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