There is often confusion regarding these two terms, UI and UX, especially among people who are just starting to dabble in the vast universe of Software Development. Many even use these terms interchangeably but there are quite a few differences between them. Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the matter and should clarify the different characteristics of UI and UX, the relationship between them and how they work together.
What is UI
First of all, UI stands for “User interface”, therefore, when we’re talking UI, we’re referring to the visual aspect of the body that forms said interface. It’s the aesthetic aspect applied to a collection of objects unified under one or more complementary graphic styles.
We find that UI focuses on the look and feel of the product, not its functionality.
In this regard, the UI designer uses different best practices to give the user a pleasant, familiar and even exciting experience when navigating the product.
So, what are some of the main responsibilities of a UI designer?
Since we’re talking about visual aspect, a UI designer may need to do the following:
- Research design trends and collaborate with the client to find a graphic style that is both modern and aligned with the list of expectations that’s been given
- Everything related to visual design including typography, colors, spacing, buttons, forms etc.
- Maintaining style guides
- Prototyping products
- Working closely with the team (and the UX designer) to meet guidelines
As we can see, the creative effort of the UI designer lies in the styling of the interface and sometimes will start his section of work where the UX designer leaves off.
So, what about UX?
What is UX
It stands for “User Experience” and it focuses on the interaction between the user and the product.
It doesn’t cover any styling, but it uses common design elements and techniques to guide the user through the app’s functions.
A good UX means that the flow of any type of action performed on a product will be easy and intuitive for as many users as possible. This involves lots of research to understand the common user expectations are when trying to reach various goals. Take, for example: creating an account or buying a product on an e-commerce site. If these are similar to the common, already well-established user flows for these situations, the user would have an easier time reaching those goals.
Having that said, what does the UX designer job look like?
Usually, the UX creation process starts before the UI design and it may involve the following:
- Collaborating with the stakeholders to develop a strategic plan
- Research of similar products and user behaviour
- Organising the content of the product
- Speaking to actual users to devise a good set of procedures for fast and easy task completion
- Creating the wireframes for the interface
- Testing and analysing results to see what changes may be needed to the strategy
As you can see, the responsibilities of UI and UX designers are quite different but, although that’s the case, they are still linked and depend on each other to deliver a good product.
How do UI and UX relate to each other?
Helga Moreno wrote in her article, The Gap between UI and UX Design, a sentence that describes how these two sides of the same coin can be so different:
“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.”
Not only does that further clarify the separate nature of these terms, but it also strengthens the idea that you shouldn’t have one without the other.
While a good UI keeps a user focused and engaged in a pleasant environment, the UX aspect ensures that the same user doesn’t get confused in his attempt to operate the product.
It’s best that both UI and UX complement each other and, just as the UX designer should be mindful of UI design best practices when creating wireframes, so should the UI designer maintain the hierarchy and important structural parts of those wireframes or even improve them through his own UX knowledge.
Both parties should be aware of what they can and can’t do, not only to make the other’s job easier, but to help each other boost the quality of their own work even further.
This means there has to be a significant knowledge overlap between UI and UX designers and that is one of the main reasons there is confusion about the two roles.
Why are they important?
It’s safe to say that a bad UI may appear unpleasant or downright untrustworthy, while a bad UX can lead to frustration.
Both these problems can potentially end in a loss of conversions and, of course, no one wants that.
The bounce rate of a website (percentage of visitors that leave without taking any action) is directly linked to UI and UX and, if the two are well crafted, it may result in pushing a product to break ahead of the competition.
A low bounce rate means that when users land on an app, the UI captivates and invites them, right from the start, to make use of its functionality through a quality user experience that never leaves them searching for ways to reach their objective.
Nowadays, the market is highly saturated with well-crafted apps and people expect a certain degree of efficiency in each one they encounter.
Both UI and UX are crucial here and should create a perfect synergy resulting in highly competent apps that are as fast and easy to use as possible.
Author: Claudiu Trăistaru