What’s the difference between UI design & UX design?

November 04, 2019

UI and UX design are the same thing, right? That’s certainly a common opinion, but while the two may have some similarities, they’re very different propositions.

What is UI design?

The User Interface (UI) is essentially how the product looks. It is made up of the buttons that users click, the images, sliders, form fields and everything else the user sees, clicks or touches. UI encompasses all elements of the product that the user sees – whether that’s the screen layout, how users are transitioned to another part of the product or how elements are animated. The job of creating these UI experiences falls to UI designers. UI designers are graphic designers and their main priority is aesthetics – how something looks. It’s their job to make the product look beautiful and stimulating. That can be done through colour schemes, font usage and the shape and size of various elements of the product.


What is UX design?

User Experience is what happens when the user interacts with the product. Is it easy to use and simple, or is it clunky and confusing? Does using the app make the user feel like they’ve easily achieved something they wanted to do, or was it a struggle? The job of creating UX experiences falls to UX designers. I think it’s difficult to give a clear definition on what UX designers ‘are’, however I would categorise myself in simple terms as a problem solver. It is a UX designer’s job to find the right experience and, to do that, they must research and test until they reach a conclusion. They can do this by running testing sessions with users, observing users using a product or just having a conversation with users. They use all of these techniques to find out how to make the experience of a product as good as it can be for the user.

As both a UI and a UX designer are concerned with the product’s user interface, unsurprisingly it’s easy to get confused about the difference between the two. However, to try and clear this up, UI designers decide how the product will look, UX designers decide how the product will work.


How UI and UX work together

UI and UX designers tend to work very closely together, as they essentially want to achieve the same thing. As the UX designer is working out the flow of the product and how to get the user to achieve their desired goals, the UI designer is working on how all of these elements will appear on the screen.

For example, after doing some testing, the UX designer decides that some content from the page needs to be moved further up and displayed in a different way to make it easier to understand. The UX designer will decide on the placement of that content and in what format it appears. The UI designer will then adapt their designs to fit the new layout. This constant communication between the two designers helps to make sure that the final user interface looks the best it can be, while also providing the most intuitive and efficient experience.

UI and UX design involve very different approaches and skills sets, but they must work hand in hand. An amazing UI design can’t save a product that’s difficult and confusing to navigate, and a perfect UX design can fail through bad UI that makes the product look unpleasant to the user. To create the right product, you need both UI and UX to align and, when they do, the results can be game changing.

To find out why it’s important to invest in UX, read our blog here. And if you suspect your UI or UX is letting your site down, why not find out with our Creative Health Check?

David Edward-Jones
David Edward-Jones

David joined Weaveability in 2018 as a Lead User Experience Designer after 16 years at o2. David is responsible for creating and developing the best user experiences using research and testing to drive decisions.
In his spare time, David builds websites, tries to catch up on sleep or can be found watching princesses with his two young girls.