UI vs. UX Design: What’s the Difference?
UX design and UI design are two of the most interchangeable and confusing terms in web design. The terms are even put together as UI/UX design, but in many ways, they are not the same. But what is the difference? UX refers to user experience, while UI refers to the user interface, and both elements are critical in developing an effective interface design.
To separate the two terms apart from each other, Ken Norton, a partner at Google Ventures, explains it best:
Start with a problem we’d like to solve. UX design is focused on anything that affects the user’s journey to solve that problem, positive or negative, both on-screen and off. UI design is focused on how the product’s surfaces look and function. The user interface is the only piece of that journey. I like the restaurant analogy I’ve heard others use: UI is the table, chair, plate, glass, and utensils. UX is everything from the food to the service, parking, lighting, and music.
– Ken Norton
What is UI design?
User interface or UI can be boiled down as the graphical layout of a web page or application. It consists of text users can read, images, buttons to click on, sliders, text boxes, and any other item that a user sees or interacts with. Any sort of animation and visual elements must first be designed before making their way onto an interface.
The job of creating these visual and interactive elements fall on a UI designer. For the most part, these UI designers come up with how an interface is going to look. UI is focused on the interface’s visual aspect, from the shape of the buttons on a page or app to the color scheme. UI designers must make sure that all the visual aspects of a website or app are aesthetically pleasing, themed appropriately, visually stimulating, and fit the personality of the business.
Key responsibilities for a UI designer
- Attention to detail
Good designers know that the detail of an interface can make or break it.
- Responsive design
UI designers need to ensure that their interface design looks correct on any platform or device.
- Problem-solving skills
No matter what part of the design process a UI designer is in, they will always need to solve problems.
- Creating creative designs
UI designers need to create all the visuals that users will see when using the interface.
- Communication skills
UI and UX design teams work closely together, and to make that work, both teams need good communication.
What is UX design?
On the other hand, we have user experience or UX, and for the most part, UX designers are concerned with how users interact with a website or app. Is your site clunky and confusing, or is the experience smooth for the user? User experience determines how easy or difficult it is for users to interact with the interface elements that UI designers create. To put it in simpler terms, user interface designers create how a website looks, and user experience designers determine how everything on the interface functions. UX designers’ primary goal is to have an interface that feels seamless to the user and for the user to have an overall pleasant experience.
Key responsibilities for a UX designer
- Understanding users
UX designers usually start with research that has a goal to understand the target audience, their wants, needs, and how users will interact with an interface.
- Creating a design strategy
Having a design strategy gives a better understanding of the purpose of an interface and helps map out how users will use an interface.
- Creating a prototype
Designing different prototypes of interfaces so UX designers can then conduct tests on users to see what version of an interface works best.
- Communication skills
For the same reason, UI designers need good communication skills, so do UX designers. They work closely together, and for their job to run smoothly, they will need to be in constant effective communication.
How and why UI and UX designers work together
Now that we have explored the differences between UI and UX designers let’s explain how the two designers work together. In no way is one more important than the other. In reality, they’re both extremely critical in the pursuit of website and app design and development. Expert designer Helga Moreno explained in her article The Gap Between UX And UI Design,
Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.
– Helga Moreno
UX and UI designers work go hand-in-hand, and there are many great examples of websites and apps that excel in either UI or UX but lack in the other. Both UX and UI designers must gather as much useful information as possible to help them craft the most effective designs that are both simple to use and pleasant to look at. Both need to understand what users want fully and figure out they conduct a number of different tests to ensure the best possible design. This research is often iterative, involving usability sessions, where real users will interact with different versions of certain functionality or designs to determine if their design is moving in the right direction.
Feedback is collected with each prototype iteration, and A/B tests are conducted to determine what versions of the interface users prefer. These tests have been shown to improve customer experience, which is a key attribute in revenue growth.
When it comes down to website and app design, UI and UX work to complement each other. In today’s competitive business environment, getting the best of both worlds with user interface and user experience is an absolute must.
Both UX and UI designs need to be in perfect harmony to execute a user interface flawlessly. A beautifully designed website or app can’t be saved if it’s difficult to navigate, and the same goes for a smooth user experience can’t save an interface that is visually unpleasing. Both UI and UX design are critical aspects of an interface’s design, and one is not more important than the other. Both are needed to create the best possible website or app for your business, and hopefully, after reading this blog, you have a better understanding of UI and UX design.