UX and UI design are similar and are often used interchangeably. In actuality, these two terms have completely different meanings and relay different activities. These two professions have essentially been around for years, but have only recently been associated with the tech industry, prompting the renaming to UI and UX Designer. 

Both of these elements are essential when it comes to a digital product, but the roles are very different. They refer to different aspects of both the product development as well as the actual design process. Although UX stands for “user experience” and UI stands for “user interface”, both jobs encompass a lot more than they might seem, making it all the more important to learn UX & UI at the same time. 

User Experience Design (UX)

Originally defined by a cognitive scientist named Don Norman, the term “user experience” was defined before the 21st century. He described UX as encompassing “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

UX can be applied to anything in life that creates an experience. Whether that is a website, a mobile application, a theme park, or even a tea strainer. UX does not need to necessarily relate to something in the graphic design world. User experience is the user interactions and user “experiences” with a product or service. 

When it comes to a digital product or service, UX relates to how the web page, mobile application, or software makes a user feel. It might include facilitating website check out process to go smoothly, or making an application easier to use in general.

You could say that a UX design job requires marketing, design, and project management skills. It is a complex role. Regardless of whether it is being applied to a car, shoes, or a website, the main purpose of a UX designer is to create an easy and pleasant experience for the user. The goals of the product owner need to be communicated, while the needs of the user need to be met as well.

Responsibilities of a UX Designer

  • Improves the quality of the interaction between a user and parts of a service, company, or product.
  • Understands that UX is a cognitive science role, but is often used in the tech industry by designers.
  • Focuses on how the user feels, what they experience, and facilitating an enjoyable experience. 
  • Provides competitor analysis as well as research on users.
  • Creates a strategy for the product.
  • Creates wireframes, and prototypes.
  • Develops content.
  • Provides testing.
  • Executes the product by coordinating with UI designers and developers.
  • Tracks goals as well as integration to push the product to completion.

User Interface Design (UI)

UX and User Interface (UI) are often compared or grouped into the same job description. These two positions are wildly different, leaving UI to be misinterpreted. 

Often when looking at job descriptions for UI offerings, you will see a description closer to that of graphic design. Although UI positions do sometimes deal with branding or even some parts of frontend development, that is not what the original position dictates. 

User interface design is a digital term. This is primarily where it differentiates from UX. UI is solely the interaction between the user, and the digital product or service. This might include the touchpad that allows you to select your coffee from the automatic coffee machine or even your computer screen. It also relates to applications and websites regarding the look and how the user interacts with the product.

The main purpose of UI is that the designer will use design tools that enable better communications between designer and development. This in turn will make the implementation with developers easier. 

The user interface is an incredibly important element that facilitates a user to trust a brand. The UI designer is also responsible to relay the message of the product, as well as it’s research and content, into an attractive display or experience. 

Responsibilities of a UI Designer

  • Considers every part of the visual or interactive elements that the user will encounter.
  • Thinks about icons, typography, colors, buttons, imagery, and even spacing.
  • Guides the user through the product visually. 
  • Allows the user to absorb the product without having to think too much.
  • UI design creates the opportunity not only to make a good design but also one that is consistent and beautiful.
  • Provides customer analysis and design research.
  • Is sure to create a good brand, and develop graphics to tell a story.
  • Creates UI prototyping, as well as interactivity and animation if applicable.
  • Ensures the product is adaptable to all screen sizes and devices.
  • Implements the product with the developer.

UX vs. UI

Comparing UX and UI is almost like apples and oranges. If you take the human brain with the right side representing creativity (typically left-handed individuals), this would be UI design. If the left side of the brain is representing analytics (typically right-handed individuals), then UX on the left.

UI design is creative, vain, beautiful, and presentation. UX design is, alternatively, an optimization, organization, and structure of the data to implement. Without one or the other, the project cannot be completed. To fully push a product to completion, you cannot lack either UX or UI. Despite this, they are completely different roles with different tasks.

Typically a UX designer will need to fully map out the entire user journey to solve one particular problem in the product. Most of the work of a UX designer is to understand problems for the user and how to solve them. UX designers work by researching to understand the users they are targeting, and what their needs will be. 

Alternatively, UI designers consider all aspects of visual elements. From the first screen to the last screen and everything in between. The UI designer will make sure that the colors are readable. This can also include making sure that a partially blind 65-year-old will feel as comfortable using the same screen as a typical 13-year-old.

Be sure to practice and study both areas of this design field if you’re looking to secure a career in this industry. A UX/UI design course like Uxcel can help you with the foundational knowledge needed to tie these two areas together in a format that makes sense.

UI/UX In Tech

The bottom line is that the difference between UX and UI is huge. Despite this, the tech industry has slowly created a job description that encompasses both experience and interface designers, which is why it’s important to be working to improve both your UI & UX design skills together. Even though UX can be regarding any type of product or service and UI is solely digital, they work hand in hand when it comes to digital products. 

UX is about the entire feel of the whole experience for the user while identifying problems. UI is instead about how the product looks and functions, how the user interacts with the elements. Despite these differences, in the tech industry, a product cannot exist without one or the other, and thus the joint term, UX/UI, was born.