You’ve overheard discussions about how product ‘X’ has great ‘UX’, or the poor ‘UI’ of product ‘Y’s’ website. But what exactly are those people talking about? UI and UX Design , are they really that different? 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 actually very distinctive, relating to different parts of the design process. 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.
Confused? UI and UI Design 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 product or it’s website, and the User Experience is how they ‘feel’ when they look at that website.
User Experience Design (also referred to as UXD or UED) is the process of increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty by focusing on the product’s ease of use and generally improving the overall interaction between the product and the user.
This implies that regardless of its medium, UX Design encompasses any and all interactions between a potential or active user and a company. As a design process it could be applied to anything — cars, online tools, mobile apps and so on.
Despite being a design term, its use since inception has been almost entirely within the digital industry, possibly due to these industries gathering momentum simultaneously as the term’s use.
UX Designers responsibilities include (but are not exclusive to):
Strategy and Content
Wireframing and Prototyping
Execution and Analytics
So part marketer, part designer, part project manager — the UX role is indeed complex, challenging and very multifaceted. Ultimately the aim is to connect a company’s business goals to a user’s needs through a process of testing and refinement that satisfies both parties.
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, UI Designers are easily and often confused with the industry.
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. Sounds like UX design all over right?
Wrong. Although similar to user experience design, user interface design is responsible for the transference of a product’s development, research, content and layout into an attractive, guiding and responsive experience for users. Plus unlike UX, UI is a strictly digital profession.
UX Designers responsibilities include (again but are not exclusive to):
Look and Feel
Responsiveness and Interactivity
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. Simply put UI design produces a product’s visual presentation and user responsiveness within different display environments. So that are the differences, but can UI and UX design work together?
Well yes, UI and UX design can, but how? Well 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 succeed. 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 there are many who are able to do just that if necessary. Thus, it is these talented individuals who further muddle the distinction between the two.
To begin any project, UX designer’s should be present from inception to completion. They are a critical component in the project’s life cycle. Without them, the product can end up being detached from the companies and users business objectives.
Another point to note is that UI designer’s are effectively a tool that you will be using, and those working on it are as powerful as a spoon or kitchen knife are to a chef. Always choose designers who can work together on a project, even if you believe UX to be more important.
Whether you are beginning any 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 user experience and your company costs.