UI vs UX Design – Really Know the Difference?
Similarities and differences between UI vs. UX, the responsibilities of UI and UX designers, and a typical 10-step UI/UX design process.
UX design refers to the term “user experience design”, while UI stands for “user interface design”. Although both roles are essential to product design and work hand in hand, they focus on different aspects of the product development process. This is why this blog post will explain the similarities and differences between UI vs UX, the tasks and responsibilities of UI and UX designers, and walk you through a typical 10-step UI/UX design process.
When it comes to designing for the user, it’s essential to make an important distinction between user-centered design and user experience (UX). These two terms are often confused with one another since they are both essential components of a successful design.
User-centered design (USD) refers to a design approach that focuses on gaining a deep understanding of who will be using the product and aims to actively involve users at every stage of the design process.
Stages of the UCD Process:
- Research and analysis: During this stage, you identify the people using the product and what they will use it for.
- Concept and requirements: During the second phase, you identify user goals and business requirements that your product must meet to succeed.
- Design solution: This stage includes all design stages, from a rough sketch to the final prototype.
- Evaluation and testing: Includes usability testing, quality testing, and adjusting requirements.
While user-centered design (UCD) refers to an entire process you apply to create an experience, the user experience (UX) refers to a specific concept of how your users will experience your product.
This means UX is an essential part of UCD. In fact, UI and UX designers use the UCD approach to solve problems and eliminate as many user limitations as possible.
The Basics of UI Design
User interface design (UI) refers to a product’s look, interaction, and overall presentation. It focuses on the design of the interface and individual screens on a user’s journey.
UI is strictly a digital term, as the function optimizes the interaction between people and digital systems, making it fluid and intuitive. For example, the UI of a complex mobile application can establish a clear content hierarchy through images, typography, colors, shapes (buttons), and other visual elements.
Tasks and Responsibilities of UI Designers
The UI designer works with the final product prototypes and creates the visual design to make the product attractive, intuitive, usable, and responsive. The role of the UI designer consists of the following tasks:
✅ Design research and analysis: This includes researching users and competitors, the latest trends, and finding inspiration.
✅ Visual design: Planning and designing all the visual elements of the interface. This includes page layouts, typography, spacing, colors, graphics, icons, buttons, etc.
✅ Animations and micro-interactions: UI designers also create animations, hover effects, and transitions. Also, interactive elements such as buttons, toggles, and drop-down menus.
✅ Branding: Implementing brand visual style into the product. This means when working on the interface, the UI designer works on color schemes, typography, and other visual elements that correspond to the general brand concept of the product.
✅ Style guides: UI designers also create style guides and libraries that include all design elements used for the product and how they should look.
✅ Prototypes: Preparing mockups and high-fidelity prototypes. These are ready for user testing.
✅ Collaboration: Working with the developers to implement design into a functional product.
The Basics of UX Design
User experience (UX) refers to providing meaningful user experiences such as usability, function, and design. As it focuses on the experience users have with a specific product, UX aims to make these products functional, accessible, and pleasant to use.
Unlike UI, which exists only for digital products, UX can also be applied to non-digital ones. As technology rapidly evolves, UX can provide multimodal experiences, such as voice, gesture, and touch.
Tasks and Responsibilities of UX Designers
UX designers don’t concern themselves with the visuals as much as UI designers, rather than creating a user-friendly journey for the target audience. The role of the UX designer consists of the following tasks:
✅ Planning: Includes researching and identifying goals and behaviors related to the product interaction. UX designers create a strategic plan and ensure all stakeholders are on the same page.
✅ Research: Includes researching, identifying, and fixing any pain points involved with the interaction.
✅ Information Architecture (IA): Organizing the information within the product to form the basis of the user experience. This includes content structures, navigation systems, and other factors that will make it easy for users to find the information they need.
✅ User journey maps: The UX designer maps how the users interact with the product, from the user perspective. These journey maps show what happens at each stage of the interaction and what obstacles and barriers may occur.
✅ Wireframing: Preparing a wireframe that shows how the design functions.
✅ Evaluation: Performing evaluation on design usability with real users, quality testing, validating design decisions, identifying design flaws, and adjusting requirements.
What Makes UI and UX Similar?
As part of the user-centered design, UI and UX develop processes with the user in mind. The reason why people might confuse the two terms is their similarities:
- Both UI and UX plan, think, and design user-friendly products.
- They complement each other to create a meaningful, interactive, and pleasing final product.
- Both processes build creative designs that best deliver the final product.
- UI and UX help raise the brand value.
- Research is a crucial phase for both UI and UX.
- UI and UX design skills naturally relate to one another.
What Makes UI and UX Different?
Although both terms are related and overlap, they are certainly not interchangeable. Let’s have a look at the core differences between the two.
- Concept: UI design is what users see when using a product. UX is what they experience.
- Function: UI focuses on the look, aesthetics, and interactivity. UX takes care of the architecture, structure, navigation, and overall experience.
- Focus: UI designers focus on each screen in detail. UX looks at the bigger picture and designs a broader view of the product experience.
- Research and analysis: UI requires designers to research users and visual design trends. UX requires a deeper dive into the competitors and market analysis.
- Experience: UI has an artistic component by handling the product’s environment, actions, and movements. UX has a social component by handling the user’s needs, emotions, pain points, and needs.
- Goals: UI designers build the experience for each step towards the user’s goal. UX identifies what the goal is.
- Prototype: UI designers prepare high-fidelity prototypes ready for user testing. UX designers design user flows using wireframes.
What is a Typical UI/UX Design Process?
Let’s walk through a typical 10-step design process that includes both UI and UX.
✅ Step 1. The UX designer kicks off the project by researching the market, competitors, and user base.
✅ Step 2. The UX designer then works with the stakeholders in order to identify user goals and business requirements. This includes goals and behaviors related to the product interaction.
✅ Step 3. The UX designer creates the information architecture. This includes content structures and navigation systems, as well as the creation of low-fidelity prototypes or rough sketches.
✅ Step 4. Once the low-fidelity prototypes of the information architecture are approved, the UX designer tests the navigation and user flows to identify their flaws and adjust them based on the results.
✅ Step 5. When ready, the UX designer hands the project to the UI designer.
✅ Step 6. The UI designer takes the low-fidelity prototypes and proceeds with research. They identify which color palettes, patterns, fonts, and other visual elements would work best.
✅ Step 7. When ready, the UI designer styles the prototypes by adding all the visual elements of the interface: page layouts, typography, spacing, colors, graphics, icons, buttons, etc.
✅ Step 8. The UI designer creates animations, hover effects, transitions, and other micro-interactions. Once done, they create a high-fidelity prototype that includes the screen and all the interactions.
✅ Step 9. The UX designer tests and evaluates the prototypes. When needed, they send the prototypes back to the UI designer for changes.
✅ Step 10. Once the final design is approved, the design team sends the prototype to the developer’s teams and proceeds to work closely with the developers.
FAQ about UI/UX
👉 What’s the difference between UI and UX?
In short, UI design refers to the look and visual elements users experience when interacting with a product. This includes colors, shapes, typography, graphics, icons, buttons, and micro-interactions. UX, on the other hand, refers to the user journey and how easy, intuitive, and efficient it is to use the product. This includes the information architecture, navigation, and user flows.
👉 What is UI/UX research?
Research is a vital part of UI /UX design to determine the product’s target audience, and to identify user goals, and business requirements that the product must meet in order to be successful. The process includes two types of research:
- Qualitative research: The “How?” s of the project. This means gathering descriptive data that gives you insights into the user’s realistic experience. Methods for gathering such data include target audience interviews.
- Quantitative research: The “What?”s of the project. This refers to gathering numerical data that you can easily turn into statistics. Methods include surveys, product analysis, etc.
👉 Why Is it Important to Know Both UI and UX?
UI and UX design skills naturally relate to one another as the two roles are an absolute must to create a successful product. Whether you’re a UI designer or a UX designer, it’s important to have an understanding of both roles in order to contribute to a more cohesive design process that will result in a better final product. In addition, such versatile skills will drastically increase your hiring potential.
When it comes to UI vs UX, the short answer is UX design focuses on identifying and solving user problems in order to create a usable product, while UI design handles the creation of intuitive, aesthetically-pleasing, interactive interfaces. Both terms are related and overlap, playing key roles in the product development lifecycle. Hopefully, this blog post helped you clear up the similarities and differences.
In the meantime, why not check out some of the related UI UX articles to gather insights and inspiration for your next project: