Before going into details, lets get 3 things straight…

  • UX = User Experience
  • UI = User Interface
  • UX & UI are two different terms, having two different meanings, and yet surprisingly they’re not the same thing.

UX Design and UI Design are confused with each other because of the ‘Design’ part. Both terms sprung from the IT industry, and despite the disparity they do go hand in hand; they may even overlap at some points. Generally speaking, we can associate UX with the internal design of a product and UI to the external design of the same product. UX and UI have different roles in product development and naturally require separate sets of skills.

I’ll try and distinguish the two terms further by using human’s best friend as an example, i.e dog. So you go to the pet store to get yourself a fine furry buddy. It’s our first instinct to be propelled by the appearance. Anyway, you’re suddenly fascinated by the cutest and fluffiest golden retriever; you take it home no questions asked. Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn out anywhere near nice when it comes to manners; littering all over the place, destroying random objects and barking at night for no apparent reason. Here we can say that your chosen pet has a great UI, but a terrible UX.

On the contrary, you encounter a stray on your way back home from work or something. It looks like an old dog (you can’t tell what mixture of breeds) that looks pretty shabby overall. Nonetheless, you take it home and feed it. Later you realize that it’s really nice having it around; keeps you company without causing any annoyance, lets itself out when nature calls, and even demonstrates the capabilities of a guard dog. Here it’s simple to conclude that despite the poor UI, the UX is awesome.

As one can imagine, UX defines the functionality and performance as opposed to UI that revolves around physical appeal. As the above example suggests, both are significant in their own way. When the UX and UI are mutually good, the result is an optimum product. Even though these terms are particularly used to evaluate computer related technology, they are applicable to multiple spheres of life. UI can be used for everything that the eyes meet, which is on the surface of an object. UX is what’s hidden and we experience it through expressions or behavioral patterns.

Comparing duties of a UX Designer & a UI Designer

The scope of the job of a UX designer can be fairly robust, depending on the scale of a project and the owner’s demands. They are basically architecture engineers that have to formulate a feasible design for a tech product that developers will build and UI designers enhance, simply by making it aesthetically pleasing on the exterior. It’s extremely relatable to building a house where the UX designer is once again an architect who draws up the plan, the builders who construct the grey structure are the developers and finally the UI designers can include painters, carpenters and other decorators.

The process of coming up with a practical design for software can be a lengthy and challenging process. One of the key practices that a UX designer has to carry out is ‘Market Research’. They will have to understand the target audience, look out for their interests and preferences, survey what’s in demand and then figure out a practical model. This involves numerous brainstorming sessions and discussions with the development team.

When developing a website, the UX designer devises strategies to make it work and the UI designer has to make it stand out. A good UI will convince the user to check out a website and a good UX will persuade them to stay and possibly return oft. You cannot impress a customer/client with a beautiful interface that leads to nowhere. If they click on something they like, the site should deliver what’s requested and do that fast.

UI is responsible for many micro-interactions, dealing with a variety of text, audio and visuals. The way content is laid out on a page can trigger different emotions and reactions. For example, an E Commerce website that sells wedding dresses and accessories would seem right with light color combinations (white/pink/lilac), sophisticated font and soft background music. If you replace that with bold jumpy text, louder or darker colors like black/fiery orange/neon green and pair that with death metal, it would look weird. Actually, the response could be opposite, depending on the brand. If the website is specifically for maybe goth couples or outrageous wedding themes, that could be a totally different story.

Both the UX and UI designers have to fully embrace a brand or business in order to deliver the best. However UX shifts more towards macro-interactions, for establishing long-term relationships with the respective audience. For an E Commerce website this could be transaction methods, delivery mechanisms, customer support features, inventory updates, etc.

In spite of everything, it is possible to specialize in UX and UI at the same time. You stand a better chance if your creativity has no boundaries. UX requires some technical knowledge and marketing skills while UI leans more towards artistic sense. If you qualify in all aspects, that is wonderful! Many companies confuse the terms with one another or put them together; you’ll certainly be very useful to them.

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