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UX vs UI

Updated on December 29, 2015

Drawing the line between UX and UI

In order to define the terms, I shall draw an analogy between a website and a…car. If you want to buy a brand-new Mercedes, you will probably choose a particular model, study its technical specifications and visit a car dealer to make a purchase. Before you sign a check, you will try the car to see how soft it moves & how it feels in general. Color and interior may impact your choice, but won’t be the most significant factors.

For a website, technical specifications represent coding. The general feel and ride comfort stand for user experience. Color and interior, therefore, refer to user interface. As you see, UX and UI are closely connected and both contribute to customer appeal of an IT product.

UX is all about analytics, right?

A UX designer is bound to enhance and control users’ emotions; it certainly takes a great share of technicality. Thus, UX involves:

  • Strategy and content development. In order to design a landing page that converts or a mobile application that will increase brand awareness and generate positive reviews, a UX designer must know his target audience and be well aware of the strategies employed by rival companies;
  • Planning and prototyping. The next step is to carefully plan a website/application infrastructure, observing data hierarchy. It is important to choose a cost-efficient prototyping tool that would allow designer to gather user feedback;
  • Project execution and analysis. At this stage, UX gurus cooperate with developers and UI designers, conduct tests and analyze feedback.

So, what is user experience design? According to Dan Makoski (CapitalOne), the term is inaccurate as it is: “An experience is a personal moment felt by people; something we don’t own as Designers. However, we can design for it”. In other words, UX designers simplify search and navigation, take care of visuals and text content, track software performance and make sure an app or a website does its job.

UX surely requires analytical skills; yet, it’s the art of making users happy.

Web UI design: more than appealing colors

Just like UX, user interface design is meant to showcase a web product in all its glory, make it responsive and easy to interact with. It deals with all the elements a website/application consists of, including pop-up windows, buttons, menus and layout. In fact, UI incorporates traditional graphic design and UX techniques. User interface designers are responsible for:

  • Customer research and graphic development. In order to provide a seamless and joyful customer experience, UI designers monitor user behavior and collect data for further analysis. Visuals are then created in Photoshop, Illustrator and 3D graphics editors. Branding is also an important part of UI, since the choice of colors and overall concept is determined by corporate style;
  • Prototyping and project implementation. The process involves software testing and adaptation to various screen sizes. Once the tests have been conducted, developers bring design ideas to life.

Basically, web and mobile UI design requires (at least) general knowledge of user experience design principles and coding, as well as artistic skills and a great command of graphic editors.

It turns out UI is even more about technology than UX!!!

The importance of user experience & design

The fact that major tech companies including Samsung, Apple and Dell develop new products with usability in mind speaks for itself. Every dollar invested in UX/UI brings $2-100 back. And here’s why.

Back in 2006, Microsoft launched its Zune MP3 player to snatch some of iPod’s sales. Despite similar functionality and competitive pricing, Zune was a commercial failure due to considerable design issues and narrow marketing. Apple’s focus on customer experience, on the contrary, eliminates reluctance to switch brands and increases willingness to spend more (by 15.8 and 14.4%, respectively).

Another UI/UX related story comes from Jared M, a retailer who made $ 300 million in revenues through user interface enhancement. Initially, online purchases on his website required registration; new users had to either fill the form or leave the page. A small conversion rate survey revealed serious problems; it turned out the security measures annoyed even registered customers who shopped via the website on a regular basis! UX designers introduced a new button (“Continue”) and added a small text below, inviting unauthorized customers to make a purchase without the registration. The change resulted in a 45% conversion rate growth and extra $ 300 million profit in 12 months!

Web and mobile application development often goes beyond coding and cold stats. A great UX/UI designer is bound to understand human behavior and the factors it is driven by. Sometimes a minor change in user interface design may bring unbelievable results. That’s why you should neither confuse UI with UX nor underestimate their impact on sales.

Difference between UI and UX


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