UI/UX — Differences & Principles
Many people make the mistake of using the words — User Experience Designer (UI) and User Interface Designer (UX) interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. The truth is that these two are completely different concepts that overlap and go hand in hand. You cannot have a good UI without a good UX or a good UX without a good Ui. The right combination of these two creates beautiful & useful designs. Before we go on, I need you to know that all UI is UX, but not all UX is UI. You’ll get what I mean soon.
UI & UX design is not just about creating a website or a mobile application, they go way beyond the digital realm. Remember that time you were frustrated when you used that machine or that feeling of excitement you got when you used that beautiful coffee maker and you were even more impressed by its ease of use. These emotions we feel when interacting with any kind of product — digital or physical are a result of a good or bad UI/UX design.
Now, let’s talk more about these concepts to understand them better
WHAT IS UI DESIGN?
User Interface (UI) focuses on anticipating what users might need to do and ensuring that the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand, and use to facilitate those actions. User interaction design is considered a crucial subset of UX design. UI design focuses on the user’s visual and interactive experience. It is all about the look and feel of a product. To achieve this, UI design involves the mastery of colors, layout, white spaces, and typography. It is more related to visual communication and graphic design.
In simple terms, a user interface is the features of a device or an application that allows a user to interact with it. Let’s say you are filling a signup form on a website, your user interface, in this case, would consist of a text box, a drop-down list, a radio button, and any other component which would allow you to enter your data. A good User Interface is important because it can turn potential visitors into buyers as it facilitates interactions between the user and your website or web application. UI design anticipates user preferences and then creates an interface that understands and fulfills those preferences. The UI not only focuses on the aesthetics but also maximizes responsiveness, efficiency, and accessibility of a website. In other words, UI design will help improve the conversion rate on your website.
UI designers are primarily concerned with how a user navigates through a digital product. The UI designer considers all the visual aspects of the user’s journey, including all the individual screens and touchpoints that the user might encounter; think tapping a button, scrolling down a page, or swiping through an image gallery. While the UX designer maps out the journey, the UI designer focuses on all the details that make this journey possible. However, UI design is not all about looks; UI designers have a huge impact on whether or not a product is accessible to everyone and inclusive.
The day-to-day activities of a UI designer may include:
- Executing all visual design stages from concept to final hand-off to the developer
- Determine how users interact with products.
- UI designers work closely with UX designers to make sure the user journey reflects the UX team’s product vision.
WHAT IS UX DESIGN?
User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. User experience (UX) designers are responsible for creating an optimal experience for the user when they interact with a digital or physical product.
The main scope of UX design is studying users, understanding their behavior, and architecting a user’s journey that enables the user to achieve their desired tasks with minimal effort. A UX designer is concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.
UX designers do not just focus on creating usable products; they concentrate on other aspects of the user experience, such as pleasure, efficiency, and fun, too. There is no single definition of a good user experience. Instead, a good user experience is one that meets a particular user’s needs in the specific context where he or she uses the product.
UX designers usually consider the users’ motivations for adopting a product, the things people can do with a product — its functionality; the design of functionality in an accessible and aesthetically pleasant way. With the skeleton of the product mapped out, the UI designer steps in to bring it to life.
The day-to-day activities of a UX designer vary widely between companies or even between projects within the same company, but some general job functions include:
1. Conduct user research.
2. Create user personas
3. Determine the information architecture of a digital product.
4. Design user flows and wireframes.
5. Create prototypes.
6. Test products on real users.
At the core of UX is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing to them. Peter Morville represents this through his User Experience Honeycomb.
Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need
Usable: The site must be easy to use
Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite
Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities
Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UI&UX DESIGN
The major difference between UI & UX Design is that while UI design deals with the visual appeal and aesthetics of a product, UX design deals with the general feeling user experiences while interacting with a product.
UX design usually comes before the UI design. UX design can be said to be the skeleton of a design while UI design is the flesh added to to the product design.
PRINCIPLES OF UI/UX DESIGN
The foremost of all UX design principles is to focus on users throughout the design process. The term user experience itself makes it clear that your work needs to center on improving your users’ experience with your product or service.
Thus, you need to learn what users are looking for in a design you can then find out their needs and wants, and design the perfect design that will meet their desires (through user testing and other methods). A design may seem brilliant to you, but remember that you are not the user.
This is a key principle of UX design. It allows the users know what to expect when you are reusing colors, behaviors, and aesthetics which reduces the need for them to figure out the interface. When users are familiar with some of the aspects of the design it makes the process clearer and easier to use.
In the image below, there is an obvious consistency — the use of a floating button feature.
A hierarchical approach to design involves thinking through all of the functionality and information that your website will contain, and then mapping this into a tree-like structure in which every aspect of your website flows “naturally” from the last. A visual hierarchy is a way that designers help users navigate more easily within a section or page. A visual hierarchy should be created by making more important content that should stand out. For instance, headings are typically larger than the body text and frequently use a different color, font, and weight (like bold). Similarly, interactive elements like links and buttons use different colors to draw attention to their interactiveness. By using principles like contrast, scale, balance, and, more, you can help establish visual hierarchy and help the most important elements stand out.
This means making your designs easy for everyone to use, including people with disabilities. Since we design products for people, our products should be usable by as many people as possible. Some accessibility guidelines can help UX designers create websites and applications with a great user experience for every user. For more on accessibility guidelines, check out w3c’s accessibility on the web and mobile accessibility guidelines.
For example, try to avoid color combinations that are known to cause issues for the colorblind. Having subtitles and transcripts for videos is also a great example of accessibility. Coursera is a great tool to use for this.
UI is not UX and vice versa but they complement each other. They require different skillsets and perform different roles in determining how the end product of design will be like. It is however possible for one person to be both a UI and UX designer. Most job opportunities today require one to have the knowledge of both UI & UX design, so it is of great advantage to have a solid knowledge of both aspects of design.