On the surface, comparing UI vs. UX might seem like splitting hairs, but while UX and UI are interdependent terms, they are separate concepts. Whether you are concerned with web or mobile app development, you will want to be familiar with UX and UI design. Good app design could be the difference in your app’s success or failure.
In this post, we will look at the differences between UX and UI design. As we go through what makes these terms different, we will also learn more about the visual design process and what makes a good UX and UI.
UI Vs. UX: Understanding the Differences
Let’s begin by thoroughly defining User Interface and User Experience. In many cases, these terms get used interchangeably, and understandably this confuses people. Before we can understand the differences between UX and UI, we need to first understand and define the terms we are using.
What is UI (User Interface)?
The UI or User Interface of a digital product is any element that a user interacts with. That definition covers a lot of ground. Let’s narrow our focus to make the concept more understandable. Visual elements such as buttons, text, color schemes, forms, etc., are all considered part of the User Interface.
Even your phone screen, video game controller, keyboard, or mouse are User Interface elements, but since we are focused on app development, we won’t spend too much time talking about hardware.
When we discuss UI design, most of our focus is on the visual design and the various visual interface elements, but content architecture and mobile responsive design are also a part of it. A good mobile design tip for User Interfaces is to keep it simple and keep it intuitive. A good User Interface is easy to use, consistent throughout the app, and is regularly updated.
What is UX (User Experience)?
UX or User Experience refers to the overall experience a user has with a product, service, or brand. UX design is more about the emotional response of a user than any specific design element. So if you’re trying to design a great User Experience, you have to understand your typical user.
Understanding who your users are, what motivates them, etc., requires user research. To create a great User Experience, you have to understand your user journey. A good User Experience will help your app retain users. A poor User Experience will drive users away from your app and brand.
Apps that have good UX designs are built with the end-user in mind. If you want your app to be successful, you have to keep your target user in mind at every stage of development. Losing focus on your user during development or after you have launched your app will cost you. Even after you have launched your app, your business should be performing regular maintenance and updates to improve your users’ experience.
The Differences Between UI and UX
UX and UI are very closely related, but they are still different. For example, let’s imagine that you have an eCommerce website. Now let’s imagine that users cannot add more than two items to their shopping cart due to an error. This is a bad UI element, but this bad UI element also contributes to user frustration, which leads to a bad User Experience.
User Interface consists of every element that gives a user the ability to interact with a product or service. User Experience is what that same user feels about their interaction with the product or service. UI is an important part of good UX, but it is not the only part.
Let’s look at another example. Imagine you have an app that shares the latest scores and news from the sports world. This app has a great User Interface, the visual design is stunning, and all of the visual interface elements work flawlessly. Now let’s imagine that a user comes to find the score of the Chicago Bulls game and the latest news surrounding the team. However, when they check the score, it is missing, and the team news has not been updated in two weeks.
Despite the great UI design in the above example, the user still had a poor User Experience. You could have a great UI design and still have a poor User Experience. On the other hand, you could reverse the above example and have a great UX with a poor UI.
The examples we have shared in this section illustrate how closely related UX and UI are. Therefore, it is no wonder that many people often confuse these terms or even use them interchangeably.
What Comes First in the Design Process UX or UI?
Since UI is part of the UX, you might think that the UI design process comes before UX design. However, while every development team has its own design process, UX design typically will precede UI design.
UX designers typically begin with user research. This gives them a deeper understanding of their target audience, their goals, and common pain points they experience. Following user research, UX designers create a detailed map of the typical user journey, and they find ways in which it can be improved upon. A UX designer might also make a wireframe to better illustrate the user journey and the things they constantly find out.
Once the UX design has been laid out in a wireframe and the user journey thoroughly documented, a UI designer will bring the UX recommendations to life on the website or in the app. In many cases, a designer will work on both the UX and UI elements of an app.
In other cases, there will be separate UX and UI teams. If there are separate teams, it is important for UX designers to give feedback to UI designers as they implement new design elements so improvement can be made continuously.
UX and UI are closely related, and they are both very important to the success of your app. You cannot afford to ignore one in favor of the other. If you need help with UX and UI design, reach out to an app development partner.
A partner can offer you industry experience and technical expertise that will guide you throughout the development process so that you make the best design decisions for your app. We know that comparing UI vs. UX can be difficult if you don’t have a good working knowledge of what each entails.