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What's the difference between UX and UI design?

From the outside, UX/UI could be a distant cousin of R2-D2 or C-3PO, but they are actually forms of design which most of us come in to contact with on a daily basis.

We all use apps and websites as part of our daily lives, and these have been carefully designed to understand and focus on our needs as a customer, maximising the satisfaction we get from the user experience.

What do UX and UI stand for?

In short, UX is User Experience Design and UI is User Interface Design. They are very often confused and misunderstood and from the outside, they do appear to be the same thing, but they are two very different design disciplines which complement and support one another to generate the best possible product. Think of the black and white keys on a piano and how they work on their own but to make a tune, they really need to blend together.

What is UX Design?

The User Experience is a non-digital design process which aims to connect business goals with user needs and build relationships between a company, its products, and its customers. It is the user’s journey to solve a problem so UX design works behind the scenes testing and refining the process through research, content, prototyping, testing for quality and anything else that focuses on the optimisation of a product for effective and enjoyable use by the user.

As an example, when you are shopping online, the UX design element is what creates the pleasurable interaction/experience between the customer and the product or service and the ease at which the customer can navigate their way through the process.

What is UI Design?

The User Interface is how the product is visually designed for effective user experience and is more in line with graphic or branding design. The designer has to choose colour schemes, button shapes, fonts used for text etc. which all combine to create the look and feel of an application’s user interface. The design process transfers the development, research, content and layout into something which looks attractive and provides a responsive, easily navigable and pleasantly aesthetic experience for users. Customers use visual interaction to move through the process by tapping a screen or a button, scrolling, swiping, using drop-down lists, tags etc which maximises the user's visual experience and ease of use. 

The two need to work in harmony. If not, your digital project could fall flat with users.

How they work together

Both UX and UI design involve very different skill sets but rely on each other to succeed. The project fails if something looks beautiful but is confusing and clunky to use or the process works beautifully but looks visually unattractive; the two elements, despite being vastly different, need to work in harmony to create an excellent experience and interface. A successful collaboration will satisfy customers through the pleasurable participation they have had in terms of using and interacting with the interface, the look, the feel and how it makes them respond, which hopefully means customers can achieve what they have set out to do. This will build trust in the brand and make them want to return to the product or service time and time again.

In summary, although the two design processes are hugely different, they are inextricably linked and need each other to create a product or service that the consumer wants to use, succeeding in connecting the goals of the business to user needs, whilst also looking the part. Now that’s definitely music to our ears!



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