The debate over the differences between UI and UX design is nothing new. Some argue that all designers should focus on both, while others argue that they should be two distinct roles performed by two different designers. There are some out there who even argue that one discipline is significantly more important than the other.
So what, exactly, does each role do? What are the differences? And is one really more important than the other? Read on to find out.
What is UX?
User experience (UX) design is less concerned with the look and feel of a site or product, and more concerned with the way that it functions and how users interact with it. That’s the key to remember: UX design is focused on the user rather than the aesthetics of the design.
UX designers focus on data surrounding how users actually use a product, website, or app. In general terms, they focus on creating a positive emotional response from users. In other words, they focus on delighting users. That requires an understanding of common design patterns and expectations as well as a healthy dose of psychology.
If a design is created without a focus on UX, it might look pretty, but users are more likely to find it lacking in some way. They’ll be frustrated with the way it functions, have trouble finishing the tasks they’re trying to complete, and be more likely to abandon the product in favor of a competitor.
While some UX designers will create pixel-perfect mockups, in many cases they create wireframes and testable prototypes to make sure that users can make sense of the flow of an app or site.
UX designers are an important part of the design process and should be involved from the discovery stage of every project.
What is UI?
Where UX designers focus on the functionality of a design, UI designers focus on the aesthetics. They want the look and feel of the site to delight users.
That doesn’t mean they disregard function, though. In order to create designs that work, UI designers are in tune with common design patterns and conventions but tend not to dive as deeply into the psychology of how a product works or makes users feel.
UI designers create the finished designs, which are then generally passed off to developers to create the finished product. They may also be involved in creating prototypes of a site or app, though sometimes at a later stage than the UX designer.
Is One More Important Than the Other?
The short answer: no.
A pretty design that doesn’t work well is going to frustrate users. And a site that’s functional but has a bare bones (or downright ugly) design may turn off a large segment of users.
UI and UX designers need to work in tandem to create a finished product that delights users both visually and functionally.
UX and UI designers each have a part to play in the design process, and while the roles are sometimes combined (especially on smaller projects), it’s preferable if different people are tasked with each role. This ensures that there is someone focused solely on the functional experience, and someone on the visual experience.