UI vs. UX Design: What’s The Difference?

Lisa Dzera
Oct 19, 2017 · 5 min read
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Learning the difference between UI and UX design can initially be very confusing. Designers will tell you that UI is part of UX, but UX is not “experienced” from UI only. But what does that mean? Which one is more important? How do you use them together effectively?

Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm, explains, “User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.

“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. Something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.” –Helga Moreno

What is UX Design?

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If you open an app on your phone and it’s confusing and complicated, or if you feel frustrated after using it, that’s an example of bad UX design. On the other hand, if an app is simple and seamless, and you quickly and easily accomplished what you opened the app to do, that’s good UX.

Remember that even though UX design is about how the user feels, good UX design doesn’t mean that after every interaction, the user is overjoyed because the interface was so fun and easy to use. People expect apps to be simple and easy to use. UX design is usually unnoticed––unless it’s bad.

So, how do you construct this perfect user experience? It’s a whole lot more than just design. UX relies on research and data to determine what users prefer. Usability is influenced by visual aspects such as where buttons are, how a menu is formatted, and how you navigate through a product.

“UX designers are concerned with how the user experiences the product. They want the user to come away from the app feeling good.” –Matt Powers

Here’s an example of UX design:

What is UI Design?

“If the UX designer is looking at a website from 40,000 feet, the UI designer is looking at it with a microscope.” –John T. Jones

UI designers create tangible elements that comprise an app or website. They want to optimize the layout and determine which assets appear where. Especially now, digital design is essential to establishing a website’s identity and legitimacy. If your website or app is unattractive, you lose a significant amount of credibility, which is going to hurt you.

How do UI and UX design work together?

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UI design is one aspect of UX design. Larger companies separate these roles, while smaller companies often combine them. Either way, they’re both crucial. You don’t want an elegant interface that’s difficult to use. And you don’t want an app that’s easy to use but is boring and unappealing. When UI and UX combine together perfectly, the result is a clean, simple, stunning product that is both easy to use and engaging to the user.

How can I learn UI/UX design?

Want to learn more about UI/UX design? Check out some of the books below (The Design of Everyday Things is a great starting point).

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