UI and UX design have elements in common – and there is definitely some overlap – but the fields are fundamentally quite different when it comes to their focus and responsibilities.
“UX design is a little more analytical and UI is a little more visual and more closely related to something like graphic design,” says Digital Designer and Web Developer Jesse Showalter. “Though the two are similar in some ways, they are also very, very different.”
Often people in these roles are working in tandem on the same team — or, at times, it’s one person wearing both hats. Ultimately, both fields can boost an organization’s ability to create products that look good and work well for end-users.
“But they do use different tools, different skills, and approach the problem in a different way,” Showalter explains.
What Is UI Design?
UI design stands for user interface design, and it’s a field with a narrower focus than UX. It’s also closer to traditional graphic design, though the day-to-day challenges can be more complex.
UI design, like graphic design, plans individual elements of the user experience, with a narrower focus than UX design. UI Designers are typically responsible for the design of each screen or page that users interact with, making sure they function as individual interaction points and work together to create the overall experience a UX Designer is aiming for. Alongside designing these touchpoints, UI Designers are often tasked with:
- Creating a cohesive style guide
- Maintaining visual consistency
- Working alongside Graphic Designers and Copywriters creating content for the product
Often, UI Designers and UX Designers work in tandem on the same team – and at times, it’s one person wearing both hats. But ultimately, they rely on different tools and skills to approach different challenges; while UI Designers focus on individual moments of interaction between the user and the product, the UX Designer’s outlook is much more comprehensive and holistic, and must consider how each of these moments adds to the overall user journey. UX design, after all, refers to user experience design; it’s the process of boosting someone’s satisfaction while they’re using a particular product.
That makes UX design a “human-first” approach to design, where many more elements are in play. Gaining insight into how those elements interact with one another to create the user’s overall experience requires layers of research, prototyping, and testing.
“For example, they might study the checkout process of an e-commerce website to see whether users find the process of buying products from the website easy and pleasant,” explains Jacob Gube in Smashing Magazine.
UX Designers working in this space are looking at the bigger picture of how all the moving pieces in a product work together and how users interact with it. In short, it’s not just about how a product looks, but how someone feels while using it.
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