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What’s the difference between UI & UX design?

Tim Youngs
Last updated November 4, 2020

UI and UX design are mostly used interchangeably by the majority of people. Now, the question is, is it correct to use them in the place of each other? The answer to that is, no, they can’t be placed in lieu of each other.

We know it can be quite confusing to set the boundaries between them, and they do work complementary to each other; however, they’re not one and the same. That’s why our aim today is to help you understand what’s the difference between UI and UX design.

Although it might seem too complicated for a lot of people, the concepts behind these two terms have existed for so long. They were only lately coined, and we’ll try to simplify matters as much as possible.

Both UI and UX are essential to the success of any product or service.

UI

UI stands for the user interface, which is the first thing you come in contact with whenever you're using a product or service. But, before we get into that, let's go back in time to the time when UI design was first invented, post the great invention of GUI, graphical user interface.

GUI meant that anyone could use the computer, not just condors, and that's when people started interacting with computers through the icons, folders, and buttons placed on the screen. All of that happened around the 1980s, and that period marks the birth of UI.

UI refers to the aesthetic and visuals of the product that you're using. The color palettes, buttons, spacing, and layout of each page are UI design aspects. In other words, UI is like the icing on top of a cake.

It makes your experience pleasant, enjoyable, and easily accessible. Another UI identification is that it’s solely centered around digital work as it means the design of the digital interface itself. Hence, it can’t be applied to other products.

Impressively, the UI industry has grown today to include every sort of digital device, from computers all the way to virtual reality. As long as we keep using GUI, UI will always remain a pillar of our lives.

UI Designer Responsibilities:

How can a UI designer reach an interface that's appealing to their target customers? Let's discuss the work done by UI designers to know the answer.

  • Customer analysis
  • Design branding and graphic research/development
  • Creating user guides and storylines
  • Prototyping
  • Animation
  • Customization to fit all kinds of screens
  • Coordination with developers

UX

Now that we’re done with UI design and UI designers’ responsibilities, let’s speak about UX design, which stands for user experience. We know that UI is about visuals; UX, on the other hand, involves everything else.

It encompasses, as portrayed by the term, the experience that you go through when using the product/service, plus all your feelings and attitude towards the product. Moreover, whether you’re pleased with it or not also falls under the umbrella that is UX design.

UX is the efficiency of the product/service, how well it works, and how easy it is to use. Its design is the cake itself present beneath the icing. If you have a house, UX will represent the groundwork, walls, and pillars. Everything that will make the house deserve the title "house," such as providing shelter and warmth, is UX.

On the other hand, UI will include everything that makes this place inhabitable such as all of the decorations and furnishings; it represents the visual aspect of the house.

UX for a product/service means how smooth the process is going. If you start using any product and find yourself navigating the whole thing with ease, you can reach whatever you want, and all the processes are short, straight to the point, and without hassle; all of that screams excellent UX.

One way to make sure that you have state-of-the-art UX design is to follow the “usability honeycomb” created by Peter Moreville. This diagram consists of seven hexagons, each carrying a description that fits your product. These descriptions are useful, usable, findable, credible, accessible, desirable, and lastly valuable.

Hence, if your product checks these seven criteria, your UX is undoubtedly on point. One last thing is that, unlike UI, UX is not solely concerned with digital work, as it can relate to any product.

UX means how well the product was designed in order to serve the customer, making his/her experience flawless.

UX Designer Responsibilities:

So, how can a UX designer reach this desired result? The responsibilities of a UX designer are crucial to the completion of his job, and they include:

  • Competitor and customer analysis
  • Content development
  • Creating product strategies
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Testing and further development
  • Coordinating with developers and UI designers
  • Making sure that the set goals are being met
  • Continuous analysis in the future

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between UI and UX design, you must understand that these two go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other and hope for a successful product. You must have the pillars of the house and the furnishings together to be satisfied.

The cake has to taste well to be sold, have great consistency and texture while still maintaining stylish, attractive decorations on the outside.

If you have a great UX paired with a subpar UI, it means that you can have a neon green background with neon yellow writings, buttons that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, too many pages with little information, and so many irritating features.

No matter how good the process is, nobody will be able to go through an annoying interface for it, and that’s the route to the failure of your product/service.

On the other hand, if you have top-notch UI with everything where it’s supposed to be, cohesive colors, aesthetic vibes, and an overall pleasing look, paired up with a messy process that doesn’t take you anywhere, then the customer is bound to drop your product and search for something else that is easier and simpler.

Never forget how competitive the market can be; every single detail counts. That’s why our last advice is to hire specialized designers in each field. Don’t try to make one do the other’s job, as they’re entirely different.