What is the Difference Between UI and UX Design? A Complete Guide
In a world of tech jargon and constant evolution, it is important to stay knowledgeable on technology development and vocabulary. For those just starting out, understanding the difference between user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) is necessary. Both have been part of the tech dictionary for some time, but are still easily confused and are not interchangeable.
We break down the differences and design aspects of both here to help you navigate the two. They rely on one another and overlap, so the distinguishing factors really help users understand the difference between them. There are also many professional support services, like our experts here at Icreon, that can clarify any questions you may have about this topic. To engage with this topic, consider reaching out to see how your business can achieve exponential growth through UI and UX.
What is the difference between UI and UX? Let’s dive into this fascinating part of the digital landscape and find out!
What is UI?
UI stands for user interface and encompasses anything a user might interact with to use a digital service or product. It can be physical such as touchscreens, keyboards, lights, and sounds. It may also be digital like web layout, images, and more. UI is the attention grabber and the part that communicates a business brand or message.
The interface will be the first touchpoint a customer comes across and therefore plays a significant role in conversion rate optimization and digital success. UI includes:
- Screen layout
- Color scheme
- Buttons users click
- Typography/Text on the site
- Drop-down lists
- Essentially any visual interaction, element, or animation
UI has evolved over time and has a unique historical context backing up today’s best practices. UI first grew from the command line interface of the 1970s and later evolved into today’s graphical interface. It initially required infinite coding for even the simplest of tasks. In 1984, Apple released a personal computer with graphics and a point-and-click mouse that changed the game for UI and opened the door for UX. Now, UI became visual with buttons, menus, checkboxes, and icons.
This shift meant UI designers would do the coding and create a product where everyday users no longer needed to input a complex code to complete a task. This also opened up the market for more competition as companies began to design with the user in mind. If a user could not easily interact with a computer, the computer simply would not sell.
The UI experience continued to evolve into today’s sleek laptops, multi-use smartphones, tablets, and more. The competition of the early 1990s and 2000s created a race to capture audiences with smooth experiences within the digital realm. UI covers the feel, look, and interactivity of the digital interface. As long as computers and tech are part of everyday life, the need for an easy UI will remain.
What is UX?
UX, or user experience, evolved with the improvements to UI. As a user interacts with the interface, they form opinions and perceptions based on those experiences. UX can be neutral, negative, or positive.
User experience encompasses all parts of a customer’s interaction with a company, product, and services. It is not about the visuals but rather the overall experience and building a relationship between the company, customers, and products. This is a result of the competition formed when UI began to grow. The term first came out in the 1990s to label the experience being created in cohesion with the UI.
This broad definition expands beyond digital experience to include the purchasing process, customer support, and more. For example, Apple has UX in a multitude of platforms. It occurs on mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and in virtual customer support spaces. It also occurs when users step into the physical Apple store seeking assistance. A negative experience in any of these spaces can lead to a lost customer just as much as a positive one can create a loyal base.
UX shapes the best practices for companies by addressing the touchpoints of the customer experience and asking pertinent questions. Some of these questions include:
- · How do clients find the company and products?
- · What are the necessary actions during interactions with the interface?
- · What are the resulting feelings and thoughts as they take those actions?
- · What are the tasks a user might come here to complete?
- · What is the overall impression of the customer forms from UX?
- · Does the site need to adapt to different devices?
A UX designer is responsible for ensuring the answer to all of these questions are positive. The goal is to create a seamless experience to achieve the desired outcome.
Signs of a poor UX is when users cannot easily change their password, locate information, or simply reach their shopping cart. A solid UX will guide users through the process and aid the conversion rate and customer satisfaction.
The Main Differences Between UI and UX
While UI and UX do work closely together, they are very different aspects of the digital design world. UI is formed by the elements that allow someone to interact with a service or product, while UX is the outcome of the interaction from the entire experience. Some of the main differences include:
- UI is purely digital, and UX is not limited to the digital experience
- UX is the overall feel of an experience while UI is how the interface functions and looks
- UI focuses on aesthetics and interaction while UX is about identifying and solving potential problems to make a positive experience
- UX comes first in the development process, and UI comes after. UX design will map out the journey for the user and UI will find ways to fill it in and make it seamless
- UI specifically pertains to digital experiences and products while UX can mean any type of experience, service, or product
Where UI designers focus on how the interface looks, the UX designer will focus on how the interface works. The UX designer wants to ensure navigation is fluid and intuitive to create a positive user experience. The UI designer will focus on an aesthetically pleasing interface that draws people in and reflects the brand or intended message.
Both are essential and cannot be achieved without communication and seamless effort from the other. The skill sets are vastly different, so do not expect to find one person to fulfill all the expectations of a solid UX and UI design.
Can You Design for Both UI and UX?
The short answer is yes – and you definitely should design for both.
When you design with UI in mind, you develop the look and feel of the interface. A UI designer will choose button shapes, font, color schemes, and more to create a positive experience. It is heavily focused on aesthetics and reflective of the brand of the site, app, or device. A UI-centered design will have a unified and purposeful feel.
When designing with UX in mind, designers will determine logical navigation for tasks, the intuitive nature of navigation, and how to help users complete tasks.
Both UX and UI designs need one another in order to be completely successful. The process should be very collaborative to achieve the goal of a positive experience with an effective interface. As the UX design team decides the flow of the interface, the UI team will determine how this flow will translate on the screen.
For example, deciding to add extra steps or buttons on the UX side will affect the UI team. The UI team will have to account for these changes by adjusting the layout, changing button size and shape, or re-ordering the steps to make the most sense. UX is not achieved without UI and vice versa.
Understanding how each works and complements one another is a great step towards learning how to design for both UI and UX. Think of it like this: UX is where the audience is traveling to, and UI is how they are going to get there. A successful marriage between UI and UX will ensure the journey is a smooth, first-class experience, while a lack of communication will lead to a bumpy bus ride with plenty of additional stops along the way.
What Do UX/UI Designers Do?
We have laid out the definitions of the two and highlighted how they differ and complement one another. What about the designers behind the tasks? How do their roles and necessary skill sets differ? The skills and responsibilities of each really highlight how the roles differ and show what your business should be looking for to create UI and UX.
UI Designer Responsibilities and Skills
- Feel and Look through Branding and Graphic Development, Customer Analysis, User Guides/Story line, and Design Research
- Responsiveness and Interactivity achieved through interactivity and animation, UI prototyping, adaptation to various screen sizes, and implementation with a developer
- Navigation and Layout Decisions to determine the best navigation through the site and layout needed to make that possible
- Prototyping to identify gaps for improvement and test online models for efficiency and attractiveness of the design
UI designers focus on the appearance and forming the personality and voice of the brand. While the UI team might not decide the brand, they will be essential in translating the brand or product in a digestible format to encourage conversion rate optimization. It connects users and products while aiming to build trust and brand recognition. Collaboration with UX design elements is essential.
UX Designer Responsibilities and Skills
- Content/Strategy achieved through Competitor Analysis, Product Strategy/Structure, and Customer Analysis
- Prototyping and Wireframing through Development, Planning, Prototyping, Iteration/Testing, and Wireframing in collaboration with UI
- Analytics and Execution through Coordination with UI Designers, Coordination with Developers, Tracking Goals and Integration, and Analysis and Iteration
- Conduct Research to outline the customer experience and identify areas to improve. This includes using personas, or fictional user profiles, to test various metrics.
- Journey Map the user experience to envision the journey through the interaction with the product, from the first engagement to the potential for a long-term relationship
- Wireframing to create visual models and map out the structure of the app or website. It allows for collaboration with UX to plot key elements and branding.
User experience pre-plans and prepares the tech behind the product as well as handling how users interact offline and online. This includes virtual and in-person customer service and analytics.
Why One Does Not Work Without the Other
UI and UX is a divided topic in the tech field. Some see the concepts as drastically different and unable to be compared. Others view them as intertwined and incapable of separation. Another group that we agree with, views UI as an integral aspect of UX.
No matter how dazzling your UI is, the message and effectiveness will be lost without a solid user experience. There is no need for beautiful gradients, images, and branding if the information is not there. The UI brings the customer in, but UX encourages them to stay.
UX and UI require diverse skill sets, but they are integral to the other’s success. Communication between these two teams is essential. A brilliant design will not make up for an interface that is confusing and clunky to navigate. A well-thought out user experience can be dragged down by a sad visual design. Each has to be flawlessly achieved and aligned to satisfy or exceed user expectations and create a stellar interface/experience.
Overall, UI and UX help improve conversion rates and decrease bounce rates. By fully addressing concerns and developing a positive user experience, user loyalty will be fostered and grow.
Reach out to us and lets discuss how we can design, create and integrate fantastic UI and UX into your digital platform. Contact our UI & UX experts at Icreon today.