Design in user-centred design

When most people think of design, they think of visuals – art, pictures, colours, or formatting.

But design in user-centred design is so much more than pretty pictures.

This guide is also available as a presentation:

Types of design 

We often hear about three types of design: 

Interaction design 

In the UK central government, there is a job role called Interaction Designer. The Government Digital Service define interaction design as: 

An interaction designer works out the best way to let users interact with services, in terms of both overall flow and at the level of individual design elements. 

When designing services to be user-centred, interaction design means knowing things like: 

Put simply, an interaction designer’s job is to help a person through their journey by ensuring the design decisions are intuitive and don’t make the user work too hard. 

There is a lot of similarity between interaction design and UX design. 

Read more about interaction design 

User experience (UX) 

Cognitive scientist, Don Norman is credited with coining the term, “user experience” back in the early 1990s when he worked at Apple and defines it as: 

‘User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. 

Learn more about user experience (UX) design on the Interaction Design Foundation website. 

User interface (UI) 

User interface (UI) refers to all the parts of a product or service that a user will interact with.  

Comparing UX and UI 

Often, UX and UI are used interchangeably. But what are the differences between them? 

A straightforward way to compare UX and UI is to refer to UX as the ‘why’, and UI as the ‘how’. 

Learn more about the differences between UX and UI on Nielsen Norman Group. 

The importance of UX/UI design 

More UX statistics by 99 Firms

Ways to improve your design decisions 

Creating user flows 

A user flow is a diagram that maps out each step a user takes when using a product or service.  

They are typically attached to a specific persona and entry point.  

Therefore, when using this type of flowchart, you may have many different scenarios that start at different places, with different user groups following different paths. 

Even when user flows can have multiple paths, the main task or accomplishment is usually always the same. 

This doesn’t have to be perfect but can be helpful to ensure consistency in the design and help the user through the journey, particularly if the service or product spans multiple teams.  

Source: Career Foundry

Wireframing, mock-ups and prototyping 

Your wireframes, mock-ups and prototypes are the best way to test your designs, catch mistakes or find ways to improve your product or service. The difference between the three are: 

Source: Aha!

We published a guide to prototyping in different levels of fidelity in our guide to testing. 

Learn visual communication and UI 

Visual cues can have a big impact on how people use your product or service.  

As a designer, you should understand visual communication concepts like: 

Here are some questions to help you check for good visual communication: 

Learn more about visual design 

Learn UX writing and content 

UX writing is different from content design. UX writing refers to the small pieces of content that are part of the design, which are not part of the main content on that page. These will influence how easy it is for people to navigate the interface and how likely they are to continue using it. 

When working on the main content of the page, please follow content design approaches and principles. Read how to improve your content in our online guide.  

If you are working on a design, it is important to carefully consider the microcopy. Microcopy includes things such as: 

When making design decisions you should consider content and writing: 

Designers use information architecture to ensure that important information is easily accessible to users. 

User research and testing for designers 

All designs should start with research or testing with real people who use your product or service.  

Gathering quality information from your users as they interact with a service or product is one of the critical designer skills to develop. 

When testing your services with users, you can separate UX and UI by the types of questions you ask.  

Designers will work closely with user researchers to better understand user behaviours, mental models and needs.  

If you don’t have access to a user researcher, we have a handy guide to help you to start with user research and another guide to help with testing.  

Observing the way people interact with your designs makes your product or service better – for your users and for you. This means testing what they like, dislike, or where they get stuck in a process. 

To test UI, you can ask users technical questions about interfaces, for example: 

To evaluate UX, you need more emotional and psychological questions and answers. 

Coding and development 

Many interaction designers have some programming skills to help them understand what the limitations are in designs.  

Many designers will, when necessary, prototype in code to give users an experience during testing that is close to the real user experience. 

We won’t teach you to code here but here is a quick overview of the different types of front-end codes to understand to help with design conversations: 

Learn more about HTML on W3 Schools