Within development projects, owners and stakeholders often hear a flurry of technical terms, acronyms, and abbreviations thrown around. It can be a lot to decipher. And because of this, the use of many terms becomes interchangeable and even flat-out incorrect.
UX and UI — user experience and user interface — are two abbreviations that fall under this category.
If you’re not familiar with these terms or unsure of the difference between the two, we’ve got you covered.
This article breaks down UX, UI, and their key differences. And it lays out a case for why products need both to be successful.
To clarify the differences between UX and UI, we’ll start by defining both terms and break down their individual functions.
Again, UX refers to ‘user experience’ and UI refers to ‘user interface’. Both functions work together to tell the story of your application and come from the design team. But even though they work together, the two functions are different and deal with different aspects within the product development process.
Regardless, whether your company has one product or thousands of products, your UX and UI determine how you’ll proceed with developing an app.
User experience describes the human interaction element when designing a product. It encompasses every aspect in which an end-user interacts with a company and its products and/or services.
Although that definition is clear, it’s broad and doesn’t mention technical aspects of application development.
That’s because the term is used outside of the digital world.
But from a digital aspect, UX refers to the design elements that shape the experience of your user. Each element determines how your customer will feel when using your product.
And to make the user feel good about your application, designers will design a layout and process that makes it easy for users to accomplish tasks.
For example, Instacart is a company that deals with thousands and thousands of products within each grocery store they partner with.
To create a solid user experience, their application allows users to choose items quickly and purchase with ease.
To ensure a quality user experience, designers may have testers fill out surveys answering questions about the ease of the checkout or selection process.
They may want to find out if it’s necessary to add additional information about the product or process to make things easier. Ultimately, efficiency is key.
User experience deals with the feelings of your users. But the user interface determines what your customers see to create that positive experience.
It encompasses the look and feel of the presentation and compliments the optimization of your funnel.
Unlike user experience, user interface deals completely in the digital world and marks the point where a customer will interact with your product.
To be successful, a product needs an intuitive interface that tells the story you want to tell.
Designers must consider every single visual and interactive element and make the process as stimulating and easy as possible.
This includes color schemes, sizing, spacing, icons and buttons, layout, responsiveness, imagery, and branding.
The goal of UI design is to use aesthetically pleasing visuals to guide a user through an interface seamlessly.
Before diving into the differences between UX and UI, it’s important to reiterate that these two areas must work together. And we’ll explore that further in the next section.
However, UI design skills and UX design skills are two separate fields with different tasks and processes. As stated, UX is about the experience when using a product and UI is about the functionality and look of the interface.
To achieve these goals, UX designers will look at the customer journey. They’ll examine the steps a user will take to purchase a product and identify the tasks they need to complete.
They’ll conduct research to find out if the process is straightforward and easy to complete for their target market.
In fact, UX designers may also conduct research to identify a target market. This is to better identify user needs as they relate to the layout of the product.
And from there, designers will create wireframes to test and ensure the customer journey is a pleasing experience.
With a wireframe in place, UI designers will bring the layout and design to life. They’ll consider every aspect of interaction between a user and the interface down to where customers will tap and how and where they'll scroll or swipe.
So the key difference is the UX designer creates the customer journey and the UI designer creates the details — colors, layout, readability, etc. — that guide the customer on that journey.
There are hundreds of analogies out there to describe the differences between UX and UI. But the best one uses classical art to illustrate how the two also work together.
UI without UX is like a painter painting something with no idea in mind. UX without UI is like creating the frame for a sculpture and putting no clay on top. In either situation, you need both elements to create something masterful.Both elements must work together to create the full design. You don’t want a website or application that looks great, but doesn’t work properly. But you also don’t want a functional design that looks like a child developed it.
Think of a beautifully designed website. It has a pleasing color scheme and outstanding animations. But clicking the process to purchase requires the customer to click through four steps before purchasing.
And customers have difficulty leaving the shopping cart page to explore more inventory.
These are elements a UX design team plans for and addresses. The team works to research and create a pleasing and enticing customer journey that’s specific to your target market.
And they complete these tasks before the UI team begins their processes to ensure the team doesn’t waste time and money.
If UX is a cake, then UI is the icing — yes, there are so many analogies! With UX, you can have a great idea and even create a solid customer journey.
But if you don’t have a solid UI team in place to develop things, then the product is doomed to fail.
On sites with a poor UI, you’ll see illegible text, mis-positioned buttons, broken links, and more.
It’s the classic situation where solid planning on one side gets degraded by the other.
Though the terms get mixed, UI and UX are separate entities. They’re two elements of the design team that must complement each other to create a successful product.
If you want your product to be successful, then work with a team who has the UX and UI experience to create the product you envision.
Contact our team and see what we can develop for your business.