The debates over the definitions of UX and UI have been going on for almost as long as the terms have been around. UX stands for User Experience, and UI stands for User Interface.
But what do UX and UI actually mean? Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together. But despite their professional relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different aspects of the product development process and the design discipline.
What is user experience (UX) design?
User experience design is a human-ﬁrst approach of designing products. Rewind to the 90s when Don Norman helped coin the term User Experience while working at Apple. At the UX Conference in San Francisco, Norman explains in a video interview that UX is about the entire experience that the user has with the product, the company, and the services. Everything from the way customer service is perceived to how easily the product is released from the package.
Essentially, UX applies to anything that can be experienced—be it a website, a coffee machine, or a visit to the supermarket. Furthermore, the “user experience” part refers to the interaction between the user and a product or service. User experience design, then, considers all the different elements that shape this interaction. A UX designer thinks about how the experience makes the user feel, and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their desired tasks. For example: How easy is the checkout process when shopping online? How easy is it for you to grip that vegetable peeler? Does your online banking app make it easy for you to manage your money? The ultimate purpose of UX design is to create easy, efficient, relevant, and all-round pleasant experiences for the user.
For now, here’s what you need to know about UX design:
- User experience design is the process of developing and improving the quality of interaction between a user and all facets of a company.
- User experience design is, in theory, a non-digital (cognitive science) practice, but used and deﬁned predominantly by digital industries.
- UX design is NOT about visuals; it focuses on the overall feel of the experience.
What is user interface (UI) design?
User interface (UI) design is the process designers use to build interfaces in software or computerized devices, focusing on looks or style. Designers aim to create interfaces which users ﬁnd easy to use and pleasurable. UI design is c refers to graphical user interfaces and other forms—e.g., voice-controlled interfaces.
UI design is more concerned with the surface and overall feel of a design. It is a craft where you, the designer, build an essential part of the user experience.
For now, here’s what you need to know about UI design:
- User interface design is a purely digital practice. It considers all the visual, interactive elements of a product interface—including buttons, icons, spacing, typography, color schemes, and responsive design.
- The goal of UI design is to visually guide the user through a product’s interface. It’s all about creating an intuitive experience that doesn’t require the user to think too much!
- UI design transfers the brand’s strengths and visual assets to a product’s interface, making sure the design is consistent, coherent, and aesthetically pleasing.
The main diﬀerences between UX and UI
As Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm puts it:
“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 a 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.”
The main difference to bear in mind is this: UX design is all about the overall feel of the experience, while UI design is all about how the product’s interfaces look and function.