Then my kiddo asked, “What’s the difference between UX & UI?”

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The Difference Between UX and UI

A year ago I was burning the midnight oil working on a project. My daughter snuck up behind me and peeked over my shoulder.

“Wait… isn’t your job doing UX?” she asked.

“Yep,” I replied.

She responded very innocently, “So why does that screen say UI? Are they the same thing? What’s the difference between UX and UI?”

I sat back in my chair and stared at her for a sec, and said, “You know what? Give me a minute.”

I was suddenly struck with the realization that even folks who are professional designers have a tough time explaining the difference to each other, let alone trying to explain it to family and friends. And kids (mine included), know IMMEDIATELY if you’re BSing, and they aren’t afraid to call you out.

Post-its and Sharpies to the Rescue

After giving it some serious thought I whipped out my trusty Sharpie and some Post-it notes and started to doodle.

I wound up with a little dude with spikey hair on a bicycle.

Boom.

My daughter looked it over and said, “Oh! So the UI is the part you use, and UX is how you feel when you use it.”

I was so pumped. Clearly it wasn’t a comprehensive explanation of every nuance between the two, but she grasped the high level concept in seconds.

Sharing is Caring

At that point I decided, on a whim, to post a pic of the doodle on Twitter. I had never posted a single one of my doodles anywhere on the internet in my entire life, because, not going to lie, stick figures are the extent of my artistic skill, but I figured that maybe some parents somewhere could use it to explain what they do to their kiddos too.

Ummm…

I got up the next morning and flipped open my Twitter app and was astounded to discover that over a hundred people had retweeted my doodle. This was back in the day when I only had about 1000 followers, so the number was crazy to me. I manically started replying to each person thanking them for their retweets, and wished A LOT that I had branded my blog URL on the doodle. Lesson learned.

3 Days Later…

3 days later thousands of people had tweeted, retweeted, shared, favorited liked and posted my Post-it note doodle all over the inter webs. Folks had even begun translating it in to other languages!

Crazy Town

All of a sudden, I started getting a flood of emails related to the doodle. People began asking to use it in articles and presentations. Professors emailed asking if they could include it in their design curriculums. A publisher contacted me and asked if I would consider writing a book about user experience. Not one, but 2 authors asked if I would illustrate their books. A flood of requests came in asking for t-shirts and mugs and wall prints. My blog blew up. I went from a few hundred readers each month to an audience of thousands of readers each month.

It was by far the most excessively random thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.

Doodling Is Awesome

Never under estimate the power of doodling. Even a picture of a stick figure on a death trap bicycle can get a concept across. Who knows what kinds of concepts your doodles could could bring clarity to.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to start sharing your doodles! And especially don’t fear doodle haters. There are people out there who hate Picasso paintings, while others pay millions to own one. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so just man up and share your work! There could be far more power in your doodles than you’d expect!

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