How to Change Your Career from Web Design to UX Design

Web Design To start with, let’s have a brief introduction to what we mean by “User Experience”. Products have users, and the user experience (UX) is simply the experience a user has from using that particular product. So far, so good?

Web Design

UX design is the art of designing products so that they provide the optimum possible user experience. If this description sounds broad, it’s because the nature of UX design is pretty broad. Building the optimum UX encompasses an understanding of psychology, interaction designuser research, and many other disciplines, but on top of it all is an iterative problem solving process (but more on that later).

Broadly speaking, user experience can be broken down into 3 components: the look, feel, and usability.

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What Do Web Design and UX Design Have in Common?

The job title “Web Designer” has many definitions, and indeed, what a web designer does is largely dependent on what the client or project requires. Some web designers simply create visual designs and/or high fidelity interactive prototypes of the website, and leave the coding of the website to front-end and back-end developers. The majority of web designers, however, do get involved with both the designing and (front-end) development of the website. Some web designers even regularly do user research and testing as part of their jobs (and if you’re one of them, you’re already almost ready for a job in UX design).

But no matter what your job as a web designer entails, here are some aspects of web design that can also be found in UX design.

Problem solving

Web designers look to solve problems for their clients; UX designers look to solve problems for their users. Web designers work with a problem solving process: first, they find out the problems their clients have, then design a web solution for them, and then proceed to develop and test the website before releasing it. And after a website is launched, web designers often are involved with further testing the site, collecting feedback from users, and then reiterating on the design.

This iterative problem solving process is similar to the UX design process (shown in the image below). UX designers begin with user research; it’s essential to get to know the potential users of a product and find out what their problems are, how to solve them and how to make users want and/or need that solution. User research is often done via user interviews, observations, demographic studies, drafting user stories and personas, etc. Thereafter, UX designers would create a design solution that solves the user’s key needs, and often bring the prototype back to users to test its validity or usability. After the product is launched, UX designers collect more user feedback, which feeds into a new round of user research, thereby starting the process again.

If you’ve done user research before as part of your web designer job, you will find it a great advantage when making the switch to UX design. If not, don’t worry—you’ll have many opportunities to learn the best ways to conduct user research (read on to find out more).

Emotional design

When designing websites, web designers often make use of typographycolor and layout to shape the emotions of users. A sense of credibility could be established, for instance, by using darker colors and serif fonts; similarly, a sense of fun could be created using colorful imagery and playful typography. Web designers are familiar with emotional design; that is, creating designs that elicit emotions from users. UX designers are also concerned with emotional design, but on a larger scale—they are concerned with eliciting emotions from users throughout their entire experience of using a product.

To do that, UX designers work with not only typography and color, but also psychology, motion design, content curation and information architecture. Web designers making the change would innately understand what emotional design in UX entails; they simply need to pick up new knowledge in other areas to augment their ability to do so on a bigger picture.

Multi-disciplinary

Web design is a multi-disciplinary job, where you’d need not only knowledge in design (typography, color theory) but also skills in developing a website (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). Some web designers are also involved in interaction design when they code for animations and interactions using CSS and/or JavaScript. UX design is also a multi-disciplinary field, but perhaps supercharged in that sense. UX designers need to make use of knowledge from the areas of psychology, user research, visual design, and even business to create the best UX for their products.

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The Differences between Web Design and UX Design

User-focused vs technology-focused

A large part of your job as a web designer is spent on catching up on the latest developments in HTML, CSS and other coding languages—all of which change and improve at a dizzying pace. Which browsers support what versions of CSS? Would CSS animations work in Safari on a Mac? Don’t even get me started on Internet Explorer! These might be a few questions (and frustrations) that are constantly on your mind as a web designer.But UX design isn’t concerned with technology. Instead, its focus is centered squarely on users—technology is only a means for users to get what they need. Only by focusing on users can UX designers create solutions that cater to the specific needs they have, and ultimately, that users will be willing to pay for. UX designers do extensive user research to find out the most they can about their users, most of which the majority of web designers wouldn’t have had the chance to perform.

UX is more than the web

UX design is platform independent. Its principles and processes are applied to many diverse areas outside of web browsers: on mobile apps, desktop software, and even hardware products and retail spaces. On the other hand, the domain of web design is strictly tied to web browsers. This means that UX designers are able to find job opportunities not only in up-and-rising fields like tech startups, but also in mature and stable industries like car manufacturers. As long as there’s a product, there’s a need for UX—and this really opens up your world of opportunities.

Top Web Design Principles of web design

It is important to keep in mind that it is the duty of your hired web design firm to educate you on the “in’s and out’s” of web design. Though the concepts and technology behind web design may be foreign to you, it is always beneficial to have a general understanding of this new investment.

Web Design

Through research and experience, Lform has come up with a list of top web design principles for you to keep in mind when providing design feedback. Remember, it is your job to present the designer with visual or functional problems, and it is the designers’ job to come up with the best solution.

To begin, it is important to understand the difference between graphic design and web design. Though the words, graphic and web design, are often used interchangeably, they are not one in the same. Web design (design for the web) can be seen as a specific sub-set of graphic design (print), which has its own rules and ideas. Good web design involves the use of appropriate graphics, fonts, colors, layout, web accessibility, and design, to give your target audience a unique and exciting user experience.

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Remember, design principles exist because they work. How you apply those principles determines how effective your design is in conveying the desired message and how attractive it appears. These principles will help you create a visual hierarchy, thus being able to effectively community your message to your users.

Below you will find a list of the most widely recognized principles of web design, and how they can be applied to your new website!

Have a Clear Message

There needs to be a clear message or an idea to be communicated. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the design may look; without a clear message, it’s an empty shell.

Speak with One Visual Voice

All parts of a design must talk to each other… in the same language. Ask yourself: “Do all the elements in the design relate to each other?” As soon as one element seems out of place, the message is weakened.

Communicate — Don’t Decorate

Good design instantly communicates a message visually. Be creative with your designs; just don’t go over-board. Creativity and originality are amazing assets, but try not to stray too far from a typical layout because it can cause difficulties in navigation and functionality. In other words, don’t abandon proven design principles for the sake of being “creative.” Remember that even though creativity is essential, the most important part of a website is usability. If it’s beautiful, but not functional, it is worthless.

Make a Great First Impression

When you meet someone for the first time, you want to make a good first impression. The same should be applied to your website. The overall look and feel of the site is the first thing your visitors notice. Remember, the homepage sets the tone of your website, and all secondary pages should take its’ lead.

Clean + Simple ≠ Boring

“Clean and Simple” does not equal boring. Cramming too much content into each page creates confusion. Having to scroll through rows of links and images to find what you are looking for can be frustrating. Not to mention, too many colors can be daunting to the eye. Keep your pages clean so your visitors can easily locate what they need. Bottom line, less is more.

White Space is Your Friend

Maximizing the “white space” (or “negative space”) in your design is a great way to draw attention to important aspects of a page. If a page is too cluttered, the reader doesn’t know what to look at, and you run the risk of your message getting lost. White space is used to divide the space on a page and create a natural movement throughout the content. Remember, white space doesn’t mean “wasted” space, so fight the urge to fill it up!

Layout & Alignment — Visually Connecting the Dots

Each element of the design needs to be visually connected. If something is out of place or distinct from other elements, it will alienate itself and become non-functional. Existing hard edges should be used to line up other elements. Break alignment only for emphasis.

2 Typeface Maximum

Its important to keep the number of typefaces low. Too many fonts usually conflict with each other and overwhelm the viewer. Each font has a personality, and too many personalities can create disorder.

Fonts — Just the Right Size!

There are many factors that play into a font’s legibility on a website: user’s vision, computer screen resolution, color contrast between the foreground (text) and background, font typeface, and of course, font size. Because some of these factors vary so greatly, it is best to give the user more control over the design’s font size. When coding font sizes using CSS, relative size increments should be used, like ems or percentages, instead of set measurements, such as pixels or points. Relative increments are generally more legible because they are rendered relative to the user’s screen resolution. It is good practice to set the body text size in increments that are relative to 10-14 points.

Pick Colors on Purpose

Color selection can make or break a site, so make sure that when choosing a color palette it is both appropriate and relevant to your brand identity. Know what the colors will do when you combine them, and more importantly, what they might mean to your target audience. Color carries an abundance of psychological and emotional meaning, and this meaning can vary tremendously between cultural groups and individuals. Keep in mind that flashy colors or excessive use of various colors make the site overwhelming. A good rule of thumb is to have 1-3 muted colors and 1 “pop” color (for contrast).

High Contrast = Greater Legibility

Always make sure there is a high contrast between the content (text and imagery) and background. This makes your website look professional, and of course, easy to read. White is still the safest choice for the background color (as black and white yields the highest contrast and best readability), but other colors can work as well.

Consistency is KEY

It is important to keep in mind that consistency ALWAYS outweighs creativity. Visitors shouldn’t feel like they have been sent to a completely different website each time they open a new page on your site. Most people are accustomed to familiar layouts within websites. Consistency among the pages on your site makes navigation a much easier task. All graphic images and elements, typefaces, headings, colors, layout, and alignment should remain consistent throughout your website. Consistency and coherence on any web page project a sense of professionalism.

Navigation Should be Intuitive

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel with your navigation; if people have to hunt for it, they won’t find it! Users should be able to find what they want quickly. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to find what you are looking for on a website. Pages should be well-organized with a top-down design so that people can easily browse to where they want to go on your site. Your visitors should be able to find what they are looking for in your site within three clicks. If not, they are very likely to click off your site as quickly as they clicked on.

Have Confidence in Your Logo

Often times clients ask designers to make their logo larger. This is usually a response to overcompensate for something problematic in the design (i.e. the overall text or imagery within the site is too large, thus making the logo seem small). Generally speaking, a logo should be no more than 300px wide and 100px high. These dimensions, along with common logo placement (top left or center) will ensure brand recognition, along with user satisfaction.

Avoid Image Overload

Of course images are great to look at, especially if they’re relevant or beautifully designed, but when they take over a web page it can be daunting. It is never a good idea to replace text with images. Rather, you should add imagery only to support the text (a diagram, graph, or example of what the content is trying to convey). By using text rather than unnecessary images, it will help you with accessibility, and it will allow your page to load faster.

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Keep User Needs at the Forefront

Websites are like brands, they’re about your customers, not you. Breaking design rules “because you like it better that way” is always a bad idea. Remember that you are NOT the focus of the design; rather, your target audience is!

Break the Rules!

Breaking the rules is okay when a design calls for it. Many of the design choices reviewed here would not be considered by the average designer. This is what separates great designers from average ones. Those brave enough to go against what they’ve been taught always stand out. If you’re going to break a rule, be ready to provide examples and statistics!

How Much Does a Website Design Cost?

Website It’s the first and last question asked in 99% of initial client conversations: “So, how much is this thing gonna cost me?” Whether you are talking to a contractor, a digital agency, a wedding planner, or a cell phone company, you are liable to get the same answer: “It depends.”

Website

Do you want the super-deluxe, shiny, technologically advanced and biologically enhanced version, or the basic cable? The real question then, isn’t “How much does it cost?” but “What am I getting for my money?”

Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. When it comes to web design, its important to consider the process. Every design firm does it slightly differently but what it boils down to is:

  1. Discovery
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Testing
  5. Launch
  6. Support

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Discovery

This phase of the project begins with in-depth conversations. What you get during discovery can vary according to the company you work with and the price you pay. Decide on a lower end developer or a template shop and this phase can be non-existent. Here, you get what you pay for.

With a midlevel or higher company, you can expect a more full exploration of exactly what your company’s needs are and how a custom website can fulfill them. You’ll discuss branding, your competition, positioning, and marketing. A design firm doing a truly custom website will make sure that it not only represents your brands’ personality but that it speaks directly to your customers.

Design

For $2,000 or less, you can purchase a template that you will have varying levels of control over customizing. It will serve as a customer-facing brochure and a basic way for your audience to view products and services. Don’t expect much support (you might be lucky to get an email back) or too many options.

If you decide that you want to make more of an investment in the future of your business, then you’ll need the talents of an experienced graphic designer to give your site a unique look that engages users.  A more custom website can run anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. With a site like this, you’ll be interacting with real live humans who listen to your ideas! You’re not just buying templates; you should get a few options and then a specific number of revisions.

You can expect a CMS, or Content Management System, which you can use to add, edit and manage the content on your site. In addition, you may be able to integrate social media and have your site optimized for search engines to find it (SEO).

At $15,000 and up, you can count on working with an experienced designer or team of designers who will cater to your needs. You will receive multiple design options and multiple revisions. Logo design may be included for a comprehensive branding experience.

Development

The least expensive options are pre-coded, which becomes a problem when you start adding third-party applications to extend the functionality of your site. Without custom coding, the site is likely to be buggy and with little to no support, the results can be incredibly frustrating.

A higher-end firm will have developers on staff to ensure the smooth functioning of your site from user interaction to applications, animating transitions, adding slideshows and more. For mid-priced sites, pre-existing may be used as a base and then custom coded to fit your needs. At premium prices, you will find complete custom coding, application development. Included in this time are research, development, and implementation.

You may wish to take advantage of responsive design. This is where a developer would ensure that your site fits perfectly on any device (mobile or desktop) by coding a flexible layout.

Testing

Testing your site is a must before you launch. Many pre-formatted sites claim to work in every browser but once you being imputing content and making changes you may not find this to be the case.

By contrast, when you work with a professional design firm, they will thoroughly test your site, ensuring that it works across multiple browsers, testing every page, every link, and every form.

Launch

Do you have a specific date in mind that you need to have the site up? To ensure that you make the deadline, you will need to work closely with a project manager who will shepherd the process along, marking milestones. A successful project will be closely monitored, its schedule-adjusted as needed. A project manager acts as an advocate for you, the client, pushing designers and developers to get the work done on time and to your satisfaction. You will not find services like this with a bottom dollar web solution.

Support

Post-launch support is one of the most important and often forgotten aspects of hiring a web designer. Once your site is launched, you will need to stay in contact with the design firm for a variety of reasons such as:

  • “My site is down, why?”
  • “How do I add or delete an email address?”
  • “Can you add a page?”
  • “Why is my contact form not working?”

For these and hundreds of other reasons, you are going to want to maintain an ongoing relationship with your design firm. Depending on your contract, you may be able to work out a monthly retainer or pay by the hour.

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The Final Tally

Many other factors play into the price of developing your website including regular costs of doing business for design firms. Rent, office equipment, employee salaries, etc…

Consider this: What would it cost you to hire an employee that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week? They never take breaks, they never call out sick, and they remember everything you tell them. They sell your products, inform customers about upcoming sales and answer their most frequently asked questions. Sounds like a great hire, huh? Well, that’s your site.