UX vs UI Design (How to Easily Tell the Difference)

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Alexander Georges
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Lydia Chamberlain
October 15, 2019

Every time you apply for a job, you’ll notice that for every job labeled “UX Designer” or “UI Designer”, you’ll find two jobs labeled as “UX/UI Designer”.  Does that mean UX and UI Design are related to one another? Are they interchangeable?  Or is the HR rep in charge of writing the job description trying to mess with you?*

The answer: UX and UI are related to each other, but are not interchangeable.  So what are the differences between UX Design and UI Design?

*To any HR reps that might be reading this article as part of their background checks, I have the utmost respect for your profession!

UX Design (User Experience Design)

UX Design stands for User Experience Design.

Great. But what does that mean to somebody who is trying to learn UX Design for the first time?

Wikipedia (as of the publication of this article) defines UX Design as such:

“User experience design (UXD, UED, or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product.”

You might question why this definition has no mention of digital or technology at all.  That has to do with the origins of the industry; after all, UX Design as a term was coined during the 1990s (a time when digital interfaces, particularly the internet, had begun to flourish) by Don Norman and Jacob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group.  They define UX Design as such:

“‘User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Essentially, UX Design refers and defines the interactions between an user and the product regardless of the medium used!  Overall, a good UX Designer will analyze and research the user’s needs alongside the market’s needs, ultimately using this information to create a finalized design for a certain product.  For most UX designers in the industry, UX designers create functional, initial layouts that are designed to optimize an user’s experience with a digital product.

UI Design (User Interface Design)

UI Design stands for User Interface Design.

Similar to UX Design, the definition of UI Design is somewhat difficult to answer based on the myriad of misconceived notions and interpretations of the industry.  

A simple way of viewing User Interface Design is by comparing it to that of User Experience design.  While User Experience design is defined by the tasks a designer would focus on towards the optimization of a product’s effectiveness and usability, User Interface designers complement these tasks by designing and showcasing the look and feel of the product that best reflects

Many User Interface Design positions will be riddled with descriptions or interpretations of graphic design, and some will add responsibilities unique to UX Design.  If there’s one thing to learn from this article: UI Designers do not perform the same tasks as UX Designers!  UI Designers are responsible for translating a product’s layout, research, and user response into responsive, attractive designs.

What Do These Differences Mean?

Simply put, User Experience and User Interface can be condensed into the following:

  1. User Experience Design deals with creating a template of a product’s interface through client, market, and user research that best enhances a user’s experience.
  2. User Interface Design deals with the creating aesthetic and interactive elements that help guide the user through the product interface designed by the UX Designer.
  3. User Experience and User Interface Design are not interchangeable, yet are interdependent of one another while also depending on the expertise of coders!

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