You might be wondering, “what happens behind the scenes of a UX project?” Well, short answer – there is a lot that goes on! At CQL, the design process is more than just pretty images and an effective user experience strategy; it starts with our talented, experienced UX design and development team.
There are two main types of designers behind the award-winning UX work at CQL – the User Experience Designer and the Creative Designer. Both designers work side-by-side to deliver thoughtfully crafted brand experiences, but each has specific roles throughout the span of a project. In the following article, I’ll outline the differences between the role of a User Experience Designer and Creative Designer, and how each service fits into CQL’s UX services.
The User Experience (UX) Designer
Any project involving an end user needs a champion and that’s where the UX Designer comes in. The center of the UX Designer’s focus is understanding the user’s needs and motivations, then translating them into an experience that helps the user reach a solution for those needs.
User personas are usually developed or expanded upon at this phase in order to give the UX Designer a framework on which to base decisions. It is also the role of the UX Designer (and typically a marketing strategist) to understand the business goals behind the experience being designed so the end solutions may be measured for success.
With the user’s needs, motivations, and business goals defined and understood, it is now time for the UX designer to work with the client to create the structure for the experience through site mapping.
The site map lays out all the pages that will need to be accounted for in the site’s final structure. These pages are also nested according to defined hierarchies.
An example of this is product organization. Products often live within categories and even sub-categories. The sitemap accounts for these types of details and ensures every page has a home.
With the site structure defined, the UX designer will then work through wireframes. Wireframes are the first visual representation of the pages. These are laid out without color, photography, or UI styling as the goal is to roughly frame what content needs to go where on a page. UI elements are represented but only as functional cues.
Wireframes are a critical step as this is where both the client and development lead work closely with the UX designer to ensure business goals are being addressed and that the platform can support the proposed layouts.
When the wireframes are complete, the UX designer will create a UI spec document. This is an annotated version of the wireframes which can note functionality and rules that are not easily communicated with static wireframes. With the combination of UI spec and wireframe documents, the UX designer has essentially delivered the blueprint to the experience.
The typical end deliverables produced by the UX designer are the user personas, sitemap, taxonomy, wireframes, and UI specs.
The Creative Designer
The Creative Designer works at the visual level to connect the brand to the user experience. The creative process typically starts with some level of creative exploration or discovery of the client’s current brand. Some brands are well-defined and need less creative exploration while others may need to be built from the ground-up, or need an overhaul.
In any case, the Creative Designer’s role is to capture what is working for the existing brand, then look for ways to reimagine it in the digital space to meet new needs and work harder for the business. The creative exploration or direction phase often happens in parallel with UX work to help keep timelines from extending too far out.
Once the creative direction and wireframes have been approved, the Creative Designer can then take the visual elements defined in the creative direction and apply them to the wireframes. This is the creative comp phase.
The Creative Designer works to define a grid and overall structure that can house all the required elements found in the wireframes. It’s common to start with the grid and global elements, as these are core pieces of the visual language as they will be reused throughout the experience. This is likely the header, footer, base typography, button, and input styles.
The Creative Designer will then choose a page or two to design from the wireframes that will best present the brand in the context of the new experience. If it’s a website, the homepage is the best place to start. From here, the Creative Designer will design the remaining agreed-upon pages or screens.
After all the pages and screens have been designed and approved, the Creative Designer will create a style guide to be used by both the client and the development team. The style guide lays out information about different visual elements and explains rules that make the visual language work.
Alongside the style guide, the Creative Designer will also design and export the final graphics and assets and hand them over to the development team. The Creative Designer will also coordinate with the client on photography, purchasing stock imagery, working with a photographer, or gathering images from the client’s in-house team.
The typical end deliverables produced by the Creative Designer are the creative direction, creative comps, assets (graphics, iconography, etc.), and style guide.
Two Positions, One Amazing Team
While both the UX Designer and Creative Designer each have their own roles throughout the project, there are always tight collaborations along the way. On large-scale projects, it is also common for us to pull in additional designers on either the UX and creative sides to ensure we deliver on time and with the highest quality.
Have questions about the UX and creative design process or looking to refine or reestablish your online brand? Contact us today and one of our experienced designers will be in touch!