Many people, regardless of whether they have been working in the tech sector for a while or are just starting out in this vibrant industry, often confuse the terms UI and UX design. While these terms are different, it’s quite common for people to use the two terms interchangeably.
In truth, these two terms mean very different things. While UI and UX are very closely related and one cannot exist without the other, there are some major differences that you need to be aware of when it comes to these two digital design principles.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the key differences between the UI and UX digital design disciplines.
What Exactly Is UI and UX?
Before diving into the differences between UI and UX, it’s important to have a good understanding of what each of these digital design disciplines actually and what they entail, both separately and together.
What Is UI?
At its most basic definition, UI design (or user interface design) refers to the development of a digital interface wherein a user and a computer or software offering, communicate with one another. The user interface can take many different forms. For example, the touchscreen on your smartphone, your laptop screen, the combination of mouse and keyboard and countless other ways that you interact with technology fall under the scope of UI. Essentially, UI focuses on the different elements that the user will interact with such as text, images, and buttons, with everything centring around the look, layout and feel of the interaction between computer and user.
What Is UX?
UX (or ‘user experience’), on the other hand, refers to the design of the user’s actual digital experience. At its most basic level, this is the experience that a user will have with a digital product or a service like a mobile app, website, or any other piece of software.
How good or bad the user experience is can typically be measured by just how easy or difficult it is for users to interact with all the design and functional elements that make up that piece of software. The ease of use of a piece of software is referred to as its ‘usability’.
Usability tests will generally consider a range of different design and functionality factors, including:
- website navigation
- layout of the interface
- clickability and visibility of functional buttons
- system responsiveness
- overall interactivity and responses to unique user demands
The trick to developing a satisfactory UX for modern day device users, is identifying and addressing user pain points in order to specifically build products that provide value to your target audience.
Fundamental Differences Between UI And UX
Understanding the fundamentals of UI and UX, as outlined above, helps to highlight exactly what makes these design disciplines so very different. The differences between these two digital design disciplines are, essentially, that UX is primarily user-centric whilst UI is more design-centric. We’ll elaborate further.
UX is largely concerned with addressing outlined user pain points and meeting user expectations when it comes to interacting with your design offering. Once these issues and user needs have been highlighted, it is up to UI designers to create a UI that will take these issues into account and give the user a streamlined and intuitive interface wherein they can promptly and thoroughly address all their pain points.
In addition, UX is mainly centred on the user’s journey while interacting with a particular product or service. UI, by contrast, focuses more on creating the human-centric pathway that facilitates this user journey. In other words, UI provides the infrastructure, and UX brings personality and charm to the pathway that makes users want to go for a walk.
If you’ve ever considered working in either one of these digital design disciplines, chances are that one particular reason you’ve wanted to read up on the differences between them is to figure out which one could be a good fit for you. Thankfully, we have a few pointers to help any budding UI/UX designers set themselves in the right direction.
As UX is more human-centric by nature, it’s a suitable discipline for any right-brained thinker with an interest in working in tech. UX requires strong spatial thinking skills in order to develop user journey maps to guide UI designers through your proposed design.
Contrastingly, UI designers perform at their best when they’ve bolstered their programming and software development skills. As they work predominantly on responding to UX designs and charts outlining the flow of an application, website or other development project, UI designers are expected to possess more left-brained, analytical thinking skills and an eye for functionality.
Although these two disciplines do exist on separate sides of the left-brained/right-brained spectrum, it’s important to note that they aren’t on polar ends of this spectrum. In truth, both disciplines require a multidisciplinary approach, and as such, the best UI and UX designers tend to be those that have a flair and passion for both raw functionality as well as beautiful and intuitive design development.
UI And UX Are Different Yet One Relies Heavily On The Other
As explained above, UI and UX are very different things and using the terms interchangeably is not the best way forward. In fact, even comparing these two design disciplines might lead to people believing that these can somehow work independently of one another but this is simply not the case. For the user experience (UX) to be the best that it can be, you need the user interface (UI) to be the best that it can be. In a nutshell, UX is all about defining exactly where an audience wants to go and the job of the UI is to help them to get there in the most straightforward and seamless manner possible.