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The currently omnipresent term for someone involved in designing, prototyping, testing and refining the usability of online and desktop interfaces is "UX/UI designer".

Alas, that term is nothing but a fancy and pretentious way to refer to a visual designer. Take a look at random "UX/UI designer" job description on a job board and you'd see requirements for graphic design competences such as the Adobe suite of products and portfolio of visual work. Sometimes "research, prototypes, wireframes" are mentioned, but that's all there's to them. No one is looking for an actual UI portfolio covering categorization/ information architecture, plans for moderated usability tests, recordings of such tests, reports how findings from such tests have been interpreted and applied, specific UI challenges and their solutions (e.g. how shall we display vast spreadsheets on mobile phone screen), etc.

Is there a widespread term denoting the role of doing the actual usability work?

(Nielsen use the term "usability professional" but that is by no means mainstream. I'm wondering, maybe there's no proper widespread term, because there's no widespread usability job position on the first place? Companies seem to expect visual designers to do the usability work and perceive usability as an extension of visual design competencies.)

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OK, first thing first: The term UI/UX doesn't really exist.

It's a nonsensical acronym that gained popularity about 10 years ago and has since become commonly used. However, it's as illogical as saying surgery/medicine or calculation/engineering. For a more detailed explanation, one of my collaborators wrote an article explaining the origin of this controversial UI/UX acronym.

Regarding your question, it's somewhat broad, because theory and practice often diverge in design. In theory, usability testing shouldn't fall under the responsibilities of a user interface designer. This task is more typically aligned with the roles of UX analysts and researchers.

This is why targeting a widespread term is a bit difficult: on one hand, usability testing is not within the typical scope of a user interface designer's role (at least in theory). On the other hand, usability is just one among many types of research that can be conducted. While there are usability experts who specifically focus on this area, they likely represent a very small fraction – perhaps no more than 0.1% or even 0.01% – of all UX professionals.

In short, the term you might be looking for in this context is Usability Expert, but a more fitting term for the broader role you're describing could be User Interface Designer (UID).

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    Interesting article. Anyway, I feel like Europeans use UI/UX term more often than other regions, for example if you query UI/UX title in LinkedIn, United States gives less than 200 offers, compared to over 2500 offerings in European Union. The reason behind it might be companies size. Small companies who cannot afford both UI and UX specialists usually hire specialists who have experience in both fields. I've also heard about UI/UX specialists who call themselves generalists, or T-shaped if they know one field better than the other...
    – fakermaker
    Nov 27, 2023 at 9:44

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