The Difference between UI and UX Design

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In web design, ux and ui designs are among the most confused and conflated terms. Both ui/ux are always used together as ui/ux design and are considered like they tend to describe the same thing. At the same time, it is often difficult to find appropriate descriptions of the particular terms using simple language with no professional terminology. But do not worry!

Below you will find an easy-to-digest guide on ux and ui design. After reading this blog post, you can answer the following questions: what are the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface)? What’s the difference between ui and ux? How can ux and ui work together? And what are the key responsibilities of ui and ux designers? So let’s begin our journey!

ui vs ux

What is UI (user interface)?

A user interface serves as a place where people interact with machines. User interfaces allow operating a relevant machine efficiently for completing a task or achieving a specific goal. That can involve making a purchase or downloading a necessary app.

There can be many various types of user interfaces. But the most popular UIs are the following: command line interface, graphical user interface, and voice-enabled user interface. Nowadays, the graphical user interface (GUI) is considered the most widely used type of user interface for digital products. For example, mobile devices, virtual reality (VR) headsets, or car human-machine interfaces (HMIs) – they all have a GUI.

Thanks to this graphic design solution, users gain an opportunity to interact with a product via visual elements. Thus, when users interact with a product interface, they pass through a suite of pages and screens. Such pages and screens include static visual design elements like text sections and active interface elements like buttons or other visual and interactive elements. Ultimately, the increasing popularity of GUI interfaces has created a demand for employees who can design digital products for the particular interfaces – UI designers.

Core features of well-designed UI

No matter what user interface you want to design, you usually need to double-check whether it has these characteristics:

  • Clarity. All interface elements such as visual metaphors must be clear for users since they should understand correctly the meaning of all design elements.
  • Familiarity. Your visual interface makes it possible for users to apply their previous product experience when they interact with a product.
  • Consistency. If you keep your product’s interface consistent, your users will recognize usage patterns.
  • Effectiveness. A well-designed UI allows providing minimal input for achieving the appropriate output.

Interface design methods

Prototyping and simulation are the basic user interface design techniques. Designers work for creating a prototype depending on the requirements from ideation sessions or interaction specifications. What about simulation – it serves as a part of validating product design decisions via prototyping testing with the representatives of the target audience.

Simulation is a critical component of usability testing sessions. While performing usability testing, the product development team provides test participants with a relevant prototype and a predefined suite of tasks. That helps define what issues they face during the interaction with a digital product.

What is UX (user experience)?

Now, after getting familiar with the UI meaning, we need to explore the term user experience. Thus, user experience is a type of experience that an individual has during his interaction with a product. The appropriate user experience covers all aspects related to the interaction between end users and your company, your services, and your products.

Since any user experience designer focuses on creating a product that will be easy to use and understand, applying a user-centered design approach plays a central role in the UX design process.

User persona

User experience starts with performing user research. Each user experience designer must understand the target audience correctly and define what users require from the product they are developing, thanks to the design research. After collecting user feedback and obtaining the necessary understanding, the UX designers work on creating user personas. That helps users identify their goals, desires, and limitations and designers with creating solutions that provide the best possible user journey and user flow.

User journey

Users’ emotions during their interaction with a digital product (no matter if they are negative, neutral, or positive) make a tremendous influence on their feelings about the product. That makes the user’s journey a core concept within the UX design. The user journey, or the journey through the product, contributes to the success of the entire user experience. Thus, UX design depends on the user’s journey as the concept that helps solve specific issues.

We have analyzed the term user experience, but to understand what makes this experience good, we need to look at a visual pyramid of user needs. This tool is a valuable reference for multiple UX professionals who conduct design research and apply design decisions. According to this pyramid, there are four levels of user needs – functional, reliable, usable, and pleasurable. So if your design solution can satisfy all the needs, you can get a significant increase in revenue.

user needs maslow pyramid

What is the difference between UI and UX design?

After defining both user interface and user experience, there is a need to analyze how they differ. So what’s the difference between UI and UX?

ui vs ux

In other words, the difference between ui and ux is that the user interface refers to different aesthetic elements that allow individuals to interact with a product. Meanwhile, user experience means the experience people have with a relevant product or service. Thus, UI deals with visual interface elements when UX focuses on the user’s journey through a particular product.

Why is UI/UX important?

ui vs ux design difference

Despite the difference between ux and ui, their successful mix allows shaping the entire user’s experience of a product. Of course, the two comparable products can provide similar end results, but their user experience ux design and user interface design reflect how they achieve that. If the one has a better product’s interface, interactive elements, and user flow compared to other competitors, people will choose it more frequently. That is because the particular product can satisfy user expectations by providing an appropriate visual design and user experiences.

These days, the efficient design process serves as the priority differentiator between the competing products. For example, about 40% of users who face bad user experience ux design and find it hard to continue their journey through the product will turn to alternative products. After all, the McKinsey study states that the companies with a focus on the design process increase their revenue much faster than the industry benchmarks.

How do UI design and UX design work together?

When UI designers decide how the interface should look, UX designers decide how it should work. Such a process requires an appropriate collaboration, so two design teams must work closely together. Since the UX team works on the app’s flow and on how different buttons navigate users through their tasks, the UI team works on how all the available interface elements appear on the screen. After all, continuous communication and cooperation between UI and UX teams help assure that the final UI will look good and operate intuitively.

UI Design for Research

UI teams need to assure that the chosen visual language is suitable for the class of app they are writing. At the same time, UI designers intend to predict user expectations.

For example, research can show that users prefer outlined icons, not bold shapes. Such a visual shorthand is comfortable for people, and they enjoy it. Therefore, UI designers should incorporate this lesson to meet user needs. Although the exact aesthetic is the priority of the UI team, they should follow the basic design rules and the need to satisfy user expectations.

Research in UX Design

UX design has an especial interest in user expectations. If UX designers are not familiar with such expectations, they may create an interface interaction that will seem logical to them but break commonly accepted conditions.

In addition, people do not like when interfaces perform differently than they expected. That can have a negative influence on their experience. So if UX designers decide to apply something different, there is a need to have a very critical reason because affecting a deeply trained expected behavior can provoke users to do wrong things frequently.

UI vs. UX designers

Although there is a difference between ui and ux design, they continue to go hand-in-hand. But it also means that you are not obliged to become a master of both. Thus, which career path will fit you the most, ui vs. ux? Below you can read more about the daily responsibilities of both UX and UI designers and try to define which design type is perfect for you.

What does a UI designer do?

The beginning of the UI designers’ job means the end of the UX designers’ job. It takes place at the prototyping stage. UI designers take the wireframes, provide visual design for making them more usable and appealing, and optimize them for various screen sizes.

So let’s analyze the UI designer’s traditional tasks deeply.

The product’s look and feel

  • Design research. This research provides data regarding users and competitors and brings valuable insight into the newest design trends. Conducting design research is critical for finding inspiration and creating interfaces that satisfy user expectations.
  • Visual design. A UI designer has a responsibility to design the product layout and all the UI visual elements such as colors, fonts, icons, buttons, etc.
  • Branding and graphic development. UI design relies on the product’s overall brand positioning. In this case, UI designers need to maintain the appropriate balance between usability and constantly demonstrating the brand identity.
  • Design systems. Each UI designer creates specific style guides, pattern libraries, and elements that provide a detailed description of how all components must look. That ensures product and brand consistency.

Responsiveness & interactivity

  • Responsive design. UI designers must ensure that interfaces are optimized for all devices, platforms, and screen sizes. That involves both form and function.
  • Interactivity and animation. Such designers can apply animations, transitions, and other interactive elements for designing the interfaces’ interactivity.
  • Prototyping. Thanks to UI prototypes, designers can showcase all UI elements along with design interaction in real-time. UI designers create such prototypes to gain a feel of how their future product will perform and for user testing.

What does a UX designer do?

The main role of UX designers is to understand the customer journey correctly. That requires understanding the target users, interviewing them, collecting user feedback, and performing user testing.

So let’s briefly describe the typical responsibilities of UX designers.

Research & strategy

  • Plan. The start of each UX design process requires designers to create a strategic plan to ensure the alignment of all stakeholders and their intention to work towards common goals.
  • User research. In most cases, the UX designers’ job serves as conceptual problem-solving that depends on relevant research and information.
  • Information architecture. Performing this task, UX designers organize and label the content of a particular website, app, or product. Its goal is to provide users with an opportunity to find the necessary information and reach their goals.

Wireframing & prototyping

  • Creating the user flow. Since the UX design is considered the process of talking to users for pinpointing their needs and then creating the appropriate user flow. That will allow users to carry out their tasks efficiently.
  • Wireframing. UX designers create wireframes since they serve as the interface’s skeleton. For designers, a wireframe is a minimum necessary to understand whether their design will work correctly on a functional level.
  • Testing. Thanks to early testing in the design process using rough prototypes or even paper mockups, UX designers can collect user data for validating their different ideas and assumptions.
  • Analysis. Cooperating with product managers and researchers allows UX designers to assess test results and determine the next steps to take.

What are the responsibilities of a UI/UX designer?

In practice, the current difference between ui and ux is eliminated since ux and ui design roles are often mixed, and one ux/ui designer can wear many hats. For instance, the efficient combination of ux and ui design roles allows running the expectation related to focusing on the user’s interaction with a digital product throughout product delivery.

Today, high-quality design teams require ux/ui designers to perform both user interface ui design and user experience design functions for refining the app flow and iterating on the prototyped design examples. That allows creating mock-ups and layouts closer to the production phase of the graphic development process and designing the required color schemes and typography, as in the case of a visual designer’s job.

In addition, small businesses may even hire general product designers. These employees are involved in all steps of the branding and graphic development process or even serve as “design unicorns.” It means that such ux and ui designers should not only have a deep understanding of user research processes and create interfaces. Besides, they need to have the expertise in coding required for writing production-ready HTML/CSS and the ability to refine the delivering branding design solutions.

As a wrap-up

We hope that now you have a correct understanding of the existing difference between user interface and user experience. Although ux and ui designs go hand-in-hand, both have their specific peculiarities. The user experience design is more analytical since it has roots in consumer behavior or human psychology. Meanwhile, the user interface ui design focuses mostly on color schemes, interactive elements, and other visual design elements that make a digital product aesthetically pleasing.

Ultimately, it is critical to determine what type of design you consider the most interesting and start to honor the relevant design skills which allow creating significant product design solutions in the future. If you are a newbie in the design area, we recommend you to try yourself in ux and ui design at the same time. That is because a real-world experience in ui/ux design will help you define the best area for you and transform you into a better ux/ui designer. You can learn more about ui/ux design services to understand what functions you will perform as a designer.

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