The Difference Between UX and UI Design

Scott Batchelor

As the quality of web and mobile applications on the market continues to improve, UI and UX are no longer considered luxuries. In fact, thousands of applications fail to meet their user or revenue targets every year as a lack of focus on usability makes them seem subpar- regardless of their ability to perform.

What are UX and UI design? Why are they important and why can’t we afford to ignore them? Read on for our insight into why usability is so important in 2021.

What are User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)?

User Interface or UI refers to all visual elements that can be seen when interacting with a digital product. Everything from the text we read to the buttons we press, UI is the part of the application that ensures you understand and navigate through the app as intended.  

User experience or UX is the overall perception/feel/attitude a user has when interacting with a product. UX doesn’t start and end with the opening and closing of an application. User experience can both be online and offline and can be considered a collective of every interaction between a user interacts and product.

UI/UX designers work to bridge the gap between user and device in a way that helps users understand their task within the app and allows them to seamlessly navigate the interface.

In order to gain a sense of what attributes to successful UI/UX, we spoke to the Netsells design team: Lead Designer Scott Broughton and UI/UX Designers Connor McLeod and Bartek Marzec. Here are our key takeaways:

What Makes for a Good UI?

  • A good UI acts as an extension of the brand, continuing core messaging.
  • Designed with accessibility consideration according to documentation such as Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Material Design foundations.
  • A responsive interface that follows the user journey, providing feedback as the user navigates the app.
  • Easy to use and understand.

What Makes for a Good UX?

  • Good UX is always intuitive.
  • Designed according to the scenarios and environment users will interact with the final product. For example, a fitness application intended to track active training sessions will need to be designed so that users can spend their time performing the activity without monitoring the application. 
  • Good UX moulds to meet the changing habits/demands of the user. There is never an endpoint. Great products learn from how users interact with the product and constantly iterate.

What Makes for Bad UI/UX?

  • Designed in isolation from user needs and business goals. Design that is solely based on assumptions without user research cannot properly cater to their needs.
  • Not having a clear purpose. As UI/UX are processes for delivering high quality and performing product it is vital for the success of any app to answer the why question early and use it as a guiding star to build upon. 
  • ‘Reinventing the wheel’ with unnecessary or over-complicated design. Pushing the boundaries is great if done correctly, but most often complicated design attributes to the downfall of a product. In our experience, this is most often through the poor structure of visual elements and overly focusing on trendy aesthetics rather than usability.

How do UX and UI work together?

Both UI and UX supplement each other. UX can be considered the framework of human interaction with a product, whilst the UI is the visual aspect that the user actually interacts with, be it the buttons on a mobile application or the drop-down menu on a PWA.

Whilst it is important that all product team roles collaborate closely from the beginning of a development lifecycle, UI teams tend to form the primary building blocks for most projects. Throughout this process, the features and functionalities that are required from both a user and stakeholder perspective are gathered, mapped and planned. 

The UI team then takes the framework developed by the UX team, creating and developing the wireframes that will ultimately inform the user interface for the final application. This happens regardless of platform (mobile, web, etc.)

Throughout the entire process, stakeholder and user input is vital to ensuring the success of the UI and UX processes.

Is UX or UI more important for Digital Product Development?

User Experience is more important in the early stages of product design, with designers working to balance stakeholder and user requirements for the creation of a viable Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

It's vital to strike that balance when creating a UX framework so that UI Designers can work from this pool of knowledge and form an enhanced understanding of how certain sections need to function in terms of interface.

Simply put: UI and UX are Inseparable in their nature, and they should be considered equally important to success. A functioning application needs to have an informed visual design just as much as it needs to perform against it’s target goals.

In today’s market where there are millions of mobile applications, web platforms and digital products available, good UI/UX is no longer a feature- it is expected. Applications with no consideration to aesthetic usability create the impression of a subpar product, regardless of their ability to function or solve a specific problem.

Interested in learning more about how our dedicated design team can help with UI & UX on your project? Read about our UI/UX Services.

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