UI Design vs UX Design — What’s the Difference?
You have probably overheard discussions about the great ‘UX’ of a product, or the poor ‘UI’ of a website. But what exactly are those people talking about? What actually is the difference between User Interface Design (UI Design) and User Experience Design (UX Design)?
Often these design processes are banded together and although both are part of the design process, they themselves are quite different, referring to very different parts of the process and the design discipline. Where UX Design is a more analytical and technical field, UI Design is closer to what we refer to as graphic design, though the responsibilities are somewhat more complex.
UX and UI are some of the most puzzling and misused terms in the tech industry field. Yet a great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success. Defined very simply User Interface Design is the part of the product that faces the user when they look at the site or product, and the User Experience is how they feel when they look at the site.
What is User Experience Design?
User Experience Design (also referred to as UXD or UED) is the process of increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty by focusing on the ease of use as well as improving the overall pleasure in the interaction between the customer and the product.
This implies that regardless of its medium, UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential or active customer and a company. As a design process it could be applied to anything — cars, software as service, web development and so on.
Despite being a design term, its use since inception has been almost entirely within the online or digital industry, possibly due to these industries gaining momentum simultaneously at the time of the term’s use.
The responsibilities of Opus Online’s UX Designer are targeted at the development of online products, but the process can be applied to anything:
Strategy and Content
Product Structure and Strategy
Wireframing and Prototyping
Testing and Iteration
Execution and Analytics
Coordination with UI Designer(s)
Coordination with Web Developer(s)
Tracking Goals and Integration
Analysis and Iteration
So part marketer, part designer, part project manager — the UX role is complex, challenging and multifaceted. Ultimately the aim is to connect a company’s business goals to user’s needs through a process of testing and refinement that satisfies both parties.
What is User Interface Design?
User Interface Design is difficult to answer because its wide ranging variety of interpretations. While User Experience is an amalgamation of tasks focused on optimisation of a product for effective and pleasant use, User Interface Design is the look, feel and interactivity of a product. But like UX, it is easily and often confused by the industries that employ UI Designers.
For example if you look at job posts for User Interface Design, you will find interpretations of the profession that are akin to graphic design. Sometimes including branding design and front-end development.
Similar to User Experience Design, User Interface Design is a multi-faceted and complex role. It is responsible for the transference of a product’s development, research, content and layout into an attractive, guiding and responsive experience for users. However unlike UX, UI is a strictly digital profession.
Opus Online’s example of our UI Designer’s responsibilities include:
Look and Feel
Branding and Graphic Development
User Guides and Storyline
Responsiveness and Interactivity
Interactivity and Animation
Adaptation to All Devices and Screen Sizes
Implementation with Web Developer(s)
As a visual and interactive designer, the UI role is crucial to any digital interface and for customers a key element to trusting a brand. While the brand itself is never solely the responsibility of the UI designer, its translation to the product is. Furthermore whilst UX has no need for coding, UI is a role that as time progresses, will rely on it as part of building interactive interfaces.
User Experience is a good place to be if you want to build great products from the user’s perspective — but if you understand those principles and are more visually inclined, you might prefer User Interface Design. Or in other terms, UI design produces a product’s visual presentation, reactivity and interactivity in response to a user’s input or different display environments.
UX and UI Working Together
When working on a web or mobile project a User Experience designer is effectively a chief designer. Though, often times in a more formal team structure the chief designer is someone who works closely with or leading the User Interface team making the project happen. They would oversee the project concerned, but ideally they would not be a joint UI/UX person, unless they were exceptionally talented in both fields. That is not to say that many UI and UX designers cannot perform the role of either, in fact most of them are able to do that if necessary.
To begin any project, the UX designer should be there from inception to completion. They are critical in the project’s life cycle. Without them, the product can end up being detached from the companies and users business objectives as mentioned earlier.
Another point to note is that UI designer is effectively a tool that you will be using, and those working on it are as powerful as a drill or hammer are to a construction job. Always remember to choose the appropriate designers for the job, those who can work together even if you believe UX to be more important.
Whether you are beginning any project or foray into building your own product make certain you thoroughly research both the UX and UI Design aspect. Failing to do so will have design (and financial) consequences later on as changes may be necessary and this will impact both users and costs. The same if you and your business are thinking of a product or website redesign.