“What a great website! It had a memorable UX”
“Yeah but the UI was poor…”
“Wait, aren’t they the exact same thing?”
In the tech world, few words contain as much controversy and confusion as UX (i.e. User Experience Design) and UI (i.e. User Interface Design).
To the lay person, such acronyms sound like confusing tech jargon, the lingo of computer geeks.
One common myth surrounding these concepts is that they are interchangeable with each other – which could not be any further from the truth! The gap between them is as large as the Grand Canyon.
I mean, sure, both relate to the design of the product and the ease with which it can be used.
Many companies post job openings for UX/UI designers reinforcing the misconception that both mean the same thing.
“User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.”
Simply put, UI concerns itself with how easy it is to use a site while UX cares about the overall experience for users. Let’s dig our teeth a bit deeper to find out what they’re all about.
User Interface Design or UI is the level where the interaction between human and machine occur. To make this experience as enjoyable as possible for the user, the product needs to be intuitive, attractive and responsive. Ideally, UI focuses on maximizing the product’s usability.
We’ve all visited websites that made you feel frustrated and/or confused… The internet is overflowing with examples of poorly-executed UI!
A properly designed website makes the experience thoughtless even enjoyable for the person behind the screen. Arrows and page tabs visually guide visitors through the structure of a website. Designing a website that adapts to all device sizes ensures fluidity across all platforms.
A website without UI would be just like a confusing labyrinth with no way in or out!
The goal is to be clear and make the end user think as little as possible.
This joke perfectly captures the spirit:
The colors, the layout, the font, the spacing of the content of a website… All these things contribute to how the website resonates with end users (and ultimately, how successful it will be).
UI designers reduce navigation confusion by using familiar conventions. For example, logos traditionally occupy the upper-left corner of the page whereas the username and password boxes generally appear on the upper-right corner.
Facebook clearly follows this rule, making it an intuitive experience even for first-time users.
Ultimately, User Interface Design is responsible to produce a visually-appealing, understandable and interactive product to be enjoyed by the end user.
Now for the second part of the riddle…
“UX is the intangible design of a strategy that brings us to a solution.”
Let’s break it down…
UX concerns itself with how you feel. Have you ever visited, let’s say, an e-commerce website and felt like you could trust it with your credit card information? You had a positive one that inspired immediate trust.
Mainly, UX aspires to create a positive emotional response within end users which crystallizes into loyalty towards in the long run.
UX designers deal with the realm of human emotion. The three most sought after emotional color zones after are the yellow (happiness), orange (interest) and light green (trust) petals of the flower.
To maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty by inciting positive feelings within users, UX designers conduct a great deal of market research on their target audience.
What do they like?
What gives them a sense of comfort?
What are their tastes and preferences?
Knowing how to cater to a specific niche involves a great deal of research, testing, development and prototyping.
People’s attitudes, emotions and behavior towards a product or website depend to a large extent on their experience with it. The six factors below contribute majorly to that experience.
The UX designers’ role depends on choosing the appropriate elements to give off a specific atmosphere. If you think about it, UX is strategic (or left-brained) although it wishes to create an emotional (or right-brained) response.
Ultimately, UX designers fine-tune their product until they hit the sweet spot: connecting business goals with the user’s needs. Satisfying both sides of the relationship means a job well done.
When it boils down to it, your overall experience (UX) is quite simply the result of your interaction with the interface (UI).
It’s as simple as that.
The series “UX mastery” clarifies concepts and offers building blocks for the curious: See Video
For an eye-opening, bullet-pointed list of characteristics that distinguish UX and UI,Know More
So… Which is more important than the other? While UX and UI encompass different sets of responsibilities, their roles cannot be separated.
“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.”