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Tech Lead at Web Development Group Joined over 8 years ago
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digitalflan.com conserve.today and personal favorite: yourfontsucks.com
...just saw this. Maybe this will help? http://uxmovement.com/products/t-shirt-ux-is-not-ui/
I definitely understand your confusion. Haha. I think your question, "what are the unique differences between a web designer and a UX designer?" is a very important one to clarify first.
From my perspective, it comes down to how inclusive or exclusive you want to make each title. You described web designers as people that can code and talk about development problems. To me, that's a front-end developer, no matter how good they are on the design side of things.
A web designer, on the other hand, should be a person capable of handling the design of the interface, layout, responsive mockups, image assets, and other collateral that goes into producing an experience online. That does not include code, wireframes, user flow, a/b testing, and so on. These elements should certainly contribute to the design, but you shouldn't expect the same person to do all these things.
All of this comes with a caveat. The smaller the budget, the more hats each person has to wear and the less time can be spent on each separate discipline. I think that's where things are starting to get muddy. Can designers code? Certainly. Can Information Architects produce designs? Of course. Should they? I'll leave that question unanswered, as I think it depends on the person, budget and situation.
I may have a unique perspective, though. After design school, I started my career at a startup, producing wireframes and interface design. Since then, I've produced sitemaps, wireframes, project scopes, interface designs, print design, identity design, front-end templates, back-end functionality, server configuration, server performance analysis, etc for a variety of clients. The difference is that I recognize the places where I excel and I cling to those, letting others who are better than me fill in those gaps. You have to play to your strengths. If someone wants to be a jack of all trades, let them, but also call them what they are instead of "UX designer."
That's my 2 cents. What do you think?
I'm going to assume we're talking about going from something like print, exhibition, environment design to web and application design.
It's not an easy feat. It's easier if you're good at thinking through the process of your target market interacting with your design. Not everyone thinks in this way, but it applies to everything in the design world, especially print design. Once you're able to think in this manner, it's a matter of understanding your media and the limitations of the system you're designing for. You can get up to speed quickly on best practices and established paradigms for navigating using various input devices (mice, fingers, keyboards, etc). The harder part is knowing how your design will affect the difficulty of the project. This is the most important, difficult part of designing for this media. Focus here and try to find a developer that will help you understand these limitations.
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