In the world of web and app development, we frequently encounter the terms UX and UI within the same sentence. Often, professionals will unintentionally confuse us by labeling themselves as both UX and UI designers.
Nevertheless, the two terms cannot be used interchangeably, especially since one encompasses the other.
Namely, user interface design (UI) is a part of user experience design (UX). And both are equally important when it comes to product design. So to create a marketable and easy to use products, one must work on UX as well as UI. Now let’s dive a bit deeper into the muddy waters of user experience and user interface design.
What is UX Design, Anyway?
User experience design (UX) is a complex, multidimensional concept that incorporates a host of disciplines. These include human-computer interaction, usability, visual design, information architecture and interaction design.
According to Oxford journal “Interacting With Computers”, UX design in business is all about improving customer loyalty and satisfaction through the ease of use, utility and pleasure of interacting with a certain product.
Basically, UX design is all about the process of creating easy to use and useful products users will love interacting with. By enhancing the user experience of your products, users will be able to find value in what you have to offer. That being said, there is no comprehensive explanation of what user experience design is.
But here’s an expert opinion.
According to John-Amir Abbassi, UX researcher at Facebook:
UX design is an approach to design that considers all of the aspects of a service or product with the user in mind. These include function, beauty, accessibility and usability of a product or service. It also includes emotion and delight, which are not entirely easy to engineer.
This is why UX encompasses all of the things that make the entirety of a user experience the best it can be. Product managers, user researchers, information architects, content strategists and interaction designers all work together toward creating exceptional user experiences.
Now, let’s talk about UI.
Understanding UI Design
Fundamentally, user interface design is concerned with the visual elements of an experience or a product. This incorporates the design of text, images, buttons, icons, screens and all other visual experiences a user will perceive and interact with. Although it sounds straightforward, companies approach UI design in different ways, but with the same goal in mind.
According to a Wikipedia article, the end goal of UI design is making the user’s interaction with a product or service as simple and efficient as possible. UI designers use the principles of user-centered design to make it easy for a user to accomplish their goals.
Basically, it is all about making the interaction with a product as seamless as possible. To get a better understanding of user interface design, let’s hear it from the experts.
Ken Norton, partner at Google Ventures and ex-product manager at Google explains user interface design in a rather simple way. According to Ken, UI design is centered around a product’s surface, i.e. how the product looks like and the way it functions. He also states that UI is only a part of a user’s journey.
Furthermore, Norton gives us a straightforward restaurant analogy to explain the difference between UI and UX:
The user interface is the chair, table, glass, plate and utensils, while UX encompasses the entire experience including the service, food, music and parking.
Since technology is evolving at an extremely rapid pace, we need to think about the broadening of the user interface. According Leah Kaufman, Senior UX Research Manager at Lenovo, keyboards and mice are no longer the default ways of interacting with an interface.
We use phones to swipe and tap, while Kinect and Alexa recognize our gestures, postures and movement. Machine learning has brought new advancements as well, with AI systems tracking our behaviour and reacting accordingly.
UX vs. UI Design in Web Development
Now that we have (I hope successfully) differentiated UX from UI design, let’s take a look at how they can be applied to the most popular piece of technology today – a website.
Peter Molville, a Fortune 500 user experience advisor has compiled the following seven factors that influence the user experience of your website or product.
According to Peter, in order to have a good user experience, your website should be:
- Useful – The website needs to benefit its users. If your website doesn’t satisfy this condition, you are paving the way for your competitors to overtake them. Fill your site with useful features and content.
- Usable – The users of your website have to be able to navigate it without any difficulties, distractions or problems. Improve your design with large click areas, intuitive click spaces, etc.
- Findable – This means your website needs to be easily crawlable by search engines. It is closely related to SEO and good UX ensures you will appear in front of your users in the SERPs. Your products and content need to be easily findable, headlines have to stand out and you need easy navigation and easy to spot landing and service pages.
- Credible – You should instill trust in your users. You can achieve this through testimonials, certificates, images of your team, industry recognition badges etc.
- Desirable – Think Apple. They do a great job of being more desirable than other brands.
- Accessible – Your site needs to be easily accessible by all types of users. Therefore users with disabilities also need to be able to access and use your website.
- Valuable – To design a good user experience, you need to provide users with value. When a user lands on your website, they expect the value to be immediately visible. This is how you will convert users to loyal customers.
Web UI Best Practices
Without an exceptional user interface, chances are your website budget is going to waste. Your UI design must be clean, intuitive and efficient while not distracting the user from using the site. WordPress uses its backend as the UI, which is why developers and designers must be able to create a functional dashboard with a proficient and highly operative UI.
To be able to do this, professionals must keep learning and to stay updated with all the WordPress best practices, important plugins, efficient themes etc. There are educational websites that help you with issues around WordPress and keep you in the loop when it comes to the latest in web design and development.
But what constitutes an intuitive and interactive user interface? A good UI needs to be:
- Intuitive – The website must be easy to use. Users expect websites and apps to work in a rational way.
- Consistent – The behavior and design should be consistent across the entire site.
- Responsive – The layout and the design of the website should be flexible and functional enough to work smoothly across various types of devices.
- Clean – The design should be simple and well organized.
- Familiar – Changes in the design shouldn’t surprise or confuse the user.
- Efficient – This is essential, especially if your site or web app requires users to interact with it for extended periods of time.
- Elegant – The design and layout need to be aesthetically pleasing.
- Content-focused – Text and visuals are powerful ways to add value to your UI design, which in turn enhances the user experience.
UX vs. UI: Huge Difference but Equal Importance
User experience design encompasses user interface design, but when it comes to UI vs. UX design this doesn’t mean that UI is less important. The fact is, a poorly designed UI can drastically affect the UX of your web application or product. The user interface is the very surface of your product and if not executed correctly, it could deter users and make them seek help from your competitors. Therefore, it is wise to make sound investments in favorable UX and UI design.
Learn about and understand the difference between user experience and user interface design. This will help you immensely in discerning what you should do to achieve success in your endeavors.
Your website is the most important point of interaction with clients, so make sure to design it properly. Learn about UX and UI best practices and only hire designers and developers that are actively learning and staying on top of the contemporary design trends.