UX and UI are often positioned together, and can even be put into the same job description. And while a lot of UX designers will have UI skills, and vice versa, it’s important to remember that there are key differences between the approaches each field requires.
The following article is going to clarify what a UX designer does versus a UI designer and highlight key differences between the two professions.
What is UX design?
The acronym ‘UX’ stands for ‘user experience’. As such, UX design is centred mostly around a user’s experience of an app or product’s interface.
- Is the experience smooth and effortless, or frustrating and clunky?
- Does the navigation path (user journey) make sense, or are there gaps in its logic?
- More importantly, is the user able to accomplish what they need to do, or are there roadblocks in their way?
The UX designer will test and build on the experience of an app’s interface. But they are more focused on testing and re-thinking the components of an interface than actually creating it graphically. That is where UI designers come into the picture.
What is UI design?
The term ‘UI’ stands for ‘user interface’, which can be further defined as the graphical layout of an application. This is the part of the app users will interact with directly. The interface may consist of clickable buttons, images, text entry fields and other components. All of these things must be created and graphically designed.
Enter the UI designer. They’re not only concerned with creating the interface, but also the way it will ‘look’ and ‘feel’ for the user.
Key differences between UX and UI design
There are several main differences between UX and UI design which can make each a distinct and separate profession.
1. While UX focuses on how useful an interface is, UI focuses on how beautiful it is
In designing a new product, a UX designer will complete the research and analysis necessary to develop a minimum viable product. This includes developing wireframes and prototypes that are basic sketches of what the product should roughly look like. Their main goal in creating these wireframes is to determine how the interface will operate and flow.
UI designers will then figure out how to make things aesthetically pleasing. The UI designer will take the wireframes and create specific typography, colour schemes and spacing for them. They’ll also figure out how certain interactions should be performed.
2. UX designers help users achieve goals, while UI helps them connect emotionally
When figuring out what’s best for a particular website or app, a user experience designer will look at what’s important to a user and what kind of value they are after. That could be anything from researching a topic to booking a ticket or making a purchase.
UX designers are more interested in the user's goals and what challenges they face. And while this also involves users emotions, it’s all part of the big picture of the interface’s experience.
UI designers, on the other hand, are explicitly focused on the emotions that are elicited by the interface. A lot of this will have to do with the personality and branding infused into the design. Does the interface make the user delighted? Tickled with humour? Relieved? Emotions at play with the user can be used to increase brand preference and loyalty.
UI effects only the interface, while the effects of UX are broader
UX design is a broad field that encompasses experiences beyond the user interface. This means UX designers could be involved in designing multiple areas which include but is not limited to the interface. Related products and services, as well as customer-facing business functions, could all require UX design.
On the other hand, UI design is mainly focused on the user interface. This doesn’t necessarily mean UI designers are limited to computer or app interfaces. For instance, they could be involved with the graphical interfaces of watches, washing machines, car dashboards and many other physical products.
How they work together?
It’s important to remember that while distinct, UI and UX designers will often work very closely together. They’ll need to collaborate as a lot of the decisions involved in one will affect the other. This is especially true for projects that are iterative, where constant improvements are made to the product. Constant communication between UX and UI professionals is therefore key.
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