UX vs. UI: The Differences in this Dynamic Duo

UX vs UI differences

It’s no secret that web design and development are a hot topic. Web usage is climbing through the roof with more than three billion Internet users in the world. The fact that you found this article suggests you’re online at least a few times every day.

With an onslaught of useful and entertaining phone apps, websites that adapt to the dimensions of your device and a host of social networks and interactive ways to communicate, the Internet is easier to access than ever before. Users can order food, book tickets or purchase products with a few taps on their touch screens.

This obsession with apps and mobile internet use has paved the way for a whole new career field in the web design industry. Companies are realizing the benefit of having responsive, user-friendly websites in order to satisfy their customers. This has resulted in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) becoming top priorities.

You’ve probably heard these terms used in similar conversations, but do you really understand the distinction of UX versus UI? We enlisted a pair of web design experts to help explain the difference between these similar acronyms.

UX vs. UI: Clearing up the confusion

With such similar abbreviations, many people assume the terms are interchangeable. Others assume that they are an either/or scenario. We’re here to tell you that these are both false assumptions.

UX and UI are different concepts that both play critical roles when building a new app or website. It’s important to understand that they are not competing concepts; instead they go hand-in-hand in creating intuitive, user-friendly experiences.

What is user experience (UX)?

“User experience (UX) designers and developers are concerned with the feel of the product or how the user experiences the product,” says Matt Powers, web designer at Blue Soda Promo. “They want the user to come away from the app feeling good.”

The goal of UX design is to promote a positive perception towards a product. UX designers have failed if a user walks away feeling frustrated or confused after interacting with an app or website. The way to avoid this is to create an experience that’s as simple, seamless and satisfying as possible.

"If the UX designer is looking at a website from 40,000 feet, the UI designer is looking at it with a microscope."

The format of a menu, placement of buttons and other important features of a website all impact its usability. Great UX designers can predict what the user will think feel and do in order to create an intuitive experience. People should be able to navigate through the website without even thinking.

“Simple things such as animating an app opening from the icon or a menu sliding smoothly in and out of view all add to a comprehensive and pleasant experience,” says Powers.

The truth is that successful UX is often overlooked simply because it’s so effortless for the consumer. For most people, the only time UX is actually noticed is when it has failed in some way.

What is user interface (UI)?

“The user interface (UI) designer is very concerned with the specifics of each individual landing page,” says John T. Jones, digital marketing and communications manager for USA Financial. “If the UX designer is looking at a website from 40,000 feet, the UI designer is looking at it with a microscope.”

Put simply, UI refers to the tangible elements that make up a website or app (e.g., colors, images, buttons, etc.) As we described above, UX refers to the emotion evoked in the user while interacting with the product.

UI designers are concerned with optimizing the layout of the page. The size of the elements, the order in which they appear, the format they in which they’re included – all of these fall into the UI category.

“This can include the tutorial the first time a user opens the app, the choice between a slider or a checkbox when trying to narrow price ranges or what is available to a user in a drop-down menu,” explains Powers.

How do UX & UI work together?

In a sense, the UI makes the UX dream come true. Once the vision for the user experience is created, the user interface designer can determine the details to help elicit the preferred user experience.

Let’s use a real-life example. Think of your favorite place to shop online. The UI is the overall layout, the color of the buttons, the ability to filter by product or price, the checkout process, etc. The UX is the delightful experience of finding what you were looking for in less than a minute and receiving it the following day. Both of these elements encourage you to return to that site in the future.

Now you know

It’s clear that these alike abbreviations go hand-in-hand: you really can’t have one without the other. If you’re considering a career in UX versus UI, you’ll be happy to know there are exciting opportunities in both facets of design.

Learn how a graphic design degree can help you get your start in either field!

Lauren Elrick

Lauren is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys helping current and potential students choose the path that helps them achieve their educational goals.

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