What does User Experience Design have to do with Architecture?


user experience design

The fierce might of Chichen Itza’s Mayan pyramid, iconic arches of the Golden Gate Bridge, and enduring grandeur of Notre Dame are all testaments to the lasting power of humanity’s best architecture. They were created with superior materials, an eye to the future, and attention to detail (also, depending on who you ask, a little help from E.T.). For these reasons, they’ve stood the test of time and continue to inspire us with their presence.

User experience design (UX Design) is essentially what it sounds like—the art of creating a particular experience for the user of your service or product. Although it can technically encompass any part of a user experience from start to finish (delivery methods, packaging, aftercare), we most often associate the discipline with the development of interfaces for websites and applications.

User experience design is nuanced work that requires in-depth planning, a profound understanding of your imagined visitors’ needs, and thoughtful construction. In these regards and many others, great UX design feels a lot like great architecture. Here a few of their strongest similarities.

They start with a plan

Noteworthy interfaces, like noteworthy monuments, begin with a strong blueprint. In the case of UX design, this blueprint is known as a wireframe (or schematic). Wireframes allow us to develop and refine concepts (as well as communicate vision) during the preliminary stages of design. And like the sketches for a new development, they often go through countless revisions before a single brick (or pixel) is laid.

However, unlike architectural plans, wireframes can address detailed aspects of the experience a visitor will have—like how the dropdown menus will work, or the way a user should flow through pages. This depth and versatility is reflected in the vast selection of tools available for wireframing, allowing every type of UX Designer to find the perfect way to visualize their ideas.

When they’re done right, you hardly notice

User experience professionals strive to welcome and draw in guests, provide a seamless experience during their visit, and leave them feeling satisfied once their interaction is complete. All while keeping their attention focused on an intended outcome—not on the process that’s unfolding. In fact, the best UX isn’t noticed at all. It just feels right, like a perfectly laid out home.

In fact, most of the time, we only notice the details in a physical or virtual space when they don’t feel right. The annoying light switch you have to stumble across a dark room to find is the equivalent of a muddled Call to Action, with one key difference: most party guests won’t turn around and leave your house if they can’t find a light switch in the powder room right away—but a visitor having a hard time understanding the next step they should take on your website certainly will. The 50% bounce rate average most pages suffer proves it.

They’re built to last

We know that even the best UX designs probably won’t stand as long as the Coliseum has, but they should still be developed with the future in mind. This is done by ensuring that designs are scalable—able to grow and adapt as needs change.

Scalability is especially relevant in light of the speed at which our device market is developing. As digital agency Punchcut puts it, “Designers and developers have to create interface solutions that feel native across platforms and device types…Careful considerations for each device are necessary.”

Well-thought-out designs account for change right from the start—they’re easy to revise and build upon, with elements that move freely.

They’re all about us

The ultimate purpose of our monuments, shelters, and roads is to make our lives more enjoyable—they ensure our survival, help us connect with past and future generations, and allow us to explore the boundaries of human achievement. But without our presence, their meaning is lost. Likewise, as the term suggests, UX is devoted to and defined by the user. It is something created solely with the intention of being utilized by them and, above all else, demands a deep connection with and understanding of their needs in order to reach great heights. Otherwise, you might end up with an empty house.

The best UX design is often a labor of love, filled with trial and error. Refining your strategy can take time—but like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Ready to construct a new career? Consider our 10-week User Experience Design Immersive, or explore our other courses offerings.

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Disclaimer: General Assembly referred to their Bootcamps and Short Courses as “Immersive” and “Part-time” courses respectfully and you may see that reference in posts prior to 2023.