Are you a user interface designer or a user experience designer?

Design doesn’t happen in a bubble. To create a compelling user experience you must take into account the context of the business.

I thought you guys designed websites. Why are you talking so much about business transformation? That is the clients problem.” This is a common question I hear about myself and Headscape.

People don’t seem to understand why a web designer is writing a book on digital transformation.

I guess I can understand this to some degree. After all, clients hire us to build them a website, not transform their business… Or do they?

Clients want a successful website

Are clients not hiring us to create them a successful website? They may not say it, but that is the implication. Creating a successful website involves a lot more than a nice design and the latest CSS technique. It’s even more than understanding what the user is trying to achieve.

Often a website (or other digital asset) will fail, because the organisation behind it is not capable of supporting it.

To provide a great experience, you must fix the business

That is why Headscape doesn’t just build your website. That is why I write so much about digital transformation. It’s because design exists within a context. To design a great customer experience, sometimes you have to fix the business that is offering that experience.

For example a website will wither and die if there is no strategy for its long term evolution. That is why we find ourselves helping clients to write a digital strategy.

When clients use Twitter as a place to post press releases, we feel compelled to provide social media training.

The biggest example of all is content. Without great content, no amount of user interface design is going to create a great experience. That is why we end up working with clients to design a content strategy.

And so it goes on.

We create pattern libraries for our clients, so they can expand and maintain their sites over the long term. We know if we do not, the site will become less effective over time. We even do post integration reviews to make sure the technology partner has done a good job at implementing the design.

You could argue that our job is to build the user interface and then walk away. But, if you are going to call yourself a user experience designer that is not enough. You must accept that a great experience involves fixing issues not immediately related to design.

“Businessman drawing frame with the big picture in it on blue background” image courtesy of

  • I think something to add to this is that the design decision process has changed. Not so long ago, designers used to focus on building something that looks cool and then getting sign off from a client. We assumed that because we thought the results looked good and the clients liked what we did, it was successful.
    Now, we’ve realised there is so much more to take into consideration, specifically user-centered design but also the intentions, plans, strategies of the businesses we’re working with.

    More and more I find myself working as a business consultant rather than a web designer. Clients often push back, they know how to run their business so who am I to question them on it. It’s certainly not to try and show them that I know more but to try and highlight the things that need to be in place to create and maintain a successful website. Clients who have allowed me to get involved at this level have seen far more success than those that haven’t, so clearly it works. The problem is that these are the clients that have the bigger budgets. Smaller businesses, with small budgets don’t see the benefit of these additional services. So the big question is, how do we achieve the same results on smaller budgets? I want to help these clients just as much as my larger clients and I know what’s required to create and maintain a successful website but sometimes the budget just won’t allow it.

  • Jess

    This is everything that I have experienced and learned encapsulated succinctly and accurately. THANK YOU!