UXD Focus: Ryan Spencer on User Interface and User Experience

Most people considering a career in UXD may not fully understand the difference between user interface vs. user experience, but it’s a critical piece of of knowledge to understand. Ryan Spencer, a UX professional, explains these concepts in the most simple, yet matter-of-fact way possible.

“There’s a lot of confusion between UI and UX, user interface and user experience,” said Spencer. “To me, I own the user interface; that’s what I make. But the user experience belongs to you, the user. No matter what I think [as a developer], ultimately, the experience is yours.”

UI vs. UX may seem complex to grasp on the surface, but they are interrelated, despite their unique differences. UI is the user interface, which is what the designer creates, while UX relates to the user experience, or the way an individual experiences the product that he or she is engaging with. Ultimately a UXD professional’s job is to create an end-user interface that delivers an engaging, successful, and enjoyable digital experience for an individual or consumer. One of the best ways to accomplish this task as a UX designer is to put yourself in the seat of the user who will be interacting with what you’ve created.

While you’ll never be able to fully capture the desired experience for every person, this exercise, at the very least, will give you a general idea of how to develop something that not only works, but is free from any issues that may lead to frustration and ultimately, a negative experience. “As a designer building things, we all have our arrogance – our ego – and we want to have things the way we want them,” Spencer said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to let go and build the thing the user wants. But you have to change your mindset and find the enjoyment in building something for other people. That’s what it’s about.”

As an industry, UXD is expanding rapidly and there is a great need for individuals who excel at being creative, but who also understand the customer journey and building the path toward giving people what they need and want. The career opportunities in the field of user experience design are endless, with the ability to continuously challenge yourself and push your personal and professionally.

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He is an Associate Professor in the Evaluation and Measurement program within the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University. He is also the program coordinator for the online Master of Education degree in Research, Measurement, and Statistics.
Dr. Astrid N. Sambolín Morales is an Assistant Professor in Kent State Online’s 100% Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations. She received her PhD in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research provides a more nuanced picture of the agency, resistance, and empowerment enacted by displaced Puerto Rican m(others) in the U.S., and her work was funded by several grants, including the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, the URBAN Research Network, and the NAEd Spencer Foundation.
Felesia McDonald, ’14 is an adjunct instructor in the iSchool, teaching courses in the 100% Online Master of Science in User Experience. McDonald is also the Sr Manager UX Design at Optum, a branch of UnitedHealth Group.