UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) are often thought to be the same thing, but they’re not. Although similar, UI and UX are separate enough features that actually work to support each other.
They answer the same business problem by using different approaches that ultimately provide a seamless customer interaction with the technology they work with. Sometimes these designers’ roles are found under entirely different names: Visual Designer, UI Artist, Digital Engineer, UI Developer are just a few. This makes the untangling of UI and UX functions for mobile web app development and other digital designs even more difficult to comprehend.
The fact is, UX and UI design represent different roles requiring specialists that can work together. This expertise is not found usually found within one person.
Same same, but different
So what are the differences between UI and UX? In a nutshell, UX design is all about improving the way that customers use your software by polishing the accessibility, usability, and pleasure derived from interacting with it. UX is customer satisfaction, and it is paramount to your app’s or site’s success.
UX is behind the scenes – the coding that provides the frame for your content, the research that guides you to best practice, and the creation of sitemaps and its elements.
UI, on the other hand, focuses more on the visuals and what elements will make your site or app easily comprehensible, beautiful, and rewarding to use. That’s everything from colors, style of buttons, graphics, fonts, diagrams, widgets, and more.
UI aspects create the overall look and feel of your digital design. UI designers produce app logos, illustrations, audio cues, and a myriad of other artistic, easy-to-see details that influence how a user feels about using your app or site.
The good and the bad of UX
A UX architect’s first concern is how a user will complete specific tasks. Based on research, testing, sketching, and prototypes, UXAs ensure users can do a specific task in an intuitive and seamless way. They make sure the product flows logically, creating an experience that feels so right that users intuitively know what they are doing.
If you don’t know what to do next or get lost in an app or website, that’s bad UX design. Good design goes largely unnoticed by the user; they simply know your app is easy and intuitive.
UX is a science based on specific goals, research, and the findings of that research. It’s meant to provide a solution that fits the intended users of the app or website.
When science becomes art
UI designers take what the UX designer builds and define how that looks and feels. If you think of your app or site in terms of a house, UX builds the flow between rooms and ensure the lights, taps, sinks, and phone lines are in logical places. UI designers provide the ‘final fix’: smooth the rough edges and ensure the decorations and furnishings make the house look like a home rather than a faceless abode.
In terms of a website or app, UI designers define the look and feel of your page, conversion funnel, and flow. They weave iconography, fonts, color, space, and texture together to create a product that is not only logical and intuitive to use, but also feels delightful, engaging, and excites customers.
In terms of how these roles look in action, let’s say you’ve designed an app with monetized features. UX designers decide that submitting a payment to purchase a feature will result in a thank-you message. The UI resource will determine the content of that message (i.e. the colors and imagery used, the font, and in some cases the wording).
Each step is thought through by great UI designers, and small but critical indicators are developed to visually signal to the user that they are on the right track and should continue to the end goal.
Different approaches for complementary outcomes
Both UX and UI designers understand that a customer’s reasons for visiting your site or using your app are generally emotionally charged, but they go about responding to this in different ways. The UX architect allows that customer to complete their goal swiftly and as efficiently as possible, while the UI designer helps them feel good about doing it.
UX architects build the individual parts on a page or app from scratch, making it as easy as possible for the users to comprehend the message the business is trying to convey. The UI designer gives life and harmony to these elements with animations, color, and audio and visual cues that aim to draw the intended reaction from the user.
UX and UI rolled into one
The similarity of these roles has many businesses trying to hire the holy-grail of designers: the UX/UI combo who can do everything that is required to build their app or website. It’s true, these rare beasts (sometimes referred to as unicorns) do exist, but it’s not recommended go in search of such an animal.
Despite the two roles having a lot of overlap, there are very few people who are amazing at both UI and UX. If you have the resources, hire separate individuals who know how to evaluate the overall solution from different angles and understand best practices for UX or UI. It will make a major difference to your digital product’s success.