Written by Brad McElroy
If you work in the magical world of marketing or advertising, chances are you’ve heard the terms UI design and UX design before. Even if you don’t work in marketing or advertising, it’s very possible you’ve overheard someone discussing the great UX of a website or the poor UI of an app, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here reading this right now. While these two terms are often fused — “UI/UX design” — they have distinct meanings and refer to totally different aspects of web and app design. So, what are the differences between UI design and UX design, and why does it matter? By the end of this blog, you’ll have a solid understanding of each and how they work together. So, let’s get started!
UI stands for user interface and refers to the graphical layout of a website or application, otherwise known as the visual design. It consists of all the graphical elements, including text, images, buttons, forms — anything that the user can see and interact with on the website. UI design also includes screen layout, transitions, animations, and micro-interactions. Essentially, it covers any sort of visual element that must be designed.
At the end of the day, UI designers are just graphic designers that specialize in website and app design. It’s up to them to make sure a website or app is attractive, visually stimulating, and designed to match the purpose and personality of the project.
Aesthetics are important in pretty much every aspect of our lives, from choosing a partner to eating and everything in between — people like it when things look good, and websites and apps are no exception to this truth. You could even argue that aesthetics are even more important when it comes to web and app design.
A study conducted on this exact topic actually concluded that the average person develops a first impression of a website in a mere 50 milliseconds. Since this happens long before the user has the ability to interact with the site, it’s fair to assume that this opinion is formed purely on aesthetics. If that first impression is a negative one, the user is likely to leave the site and never return. So, how important is UI design? Important enough to make or break your business, that’s for sure.
UX stands for user experience, which refers to how a user experiences or interacts with a website or application. User experience is determined by how easy or complicated it is to interact with the elements that UI designers create. The goal of UX design is to make a website or app as easy to use as possible, thus creating great experiences for the user. So, if a website is confusing to navigate or requires multiple steps to perform simple actions like getting to a page or downloading a file, this can be referred to as poor UX design. Try throwing this term out there in your next big meeting; everyone will be totally impressed by how savvy you are.
In terms of design, many would argue that user experience is just as important — if not more so — than user interface. Yes, seriously. It doesn’t matter how good something looks if it doesn’t function properly. Think about it this way: If you go to a car dealership to test drive a brand new Porsche only to find out it’s difficult to start, the seats aren’t comfortable, and it drives like a golf cart when you finally get it up and running, you’re not going to buy that car. It doesn’t matter how nice it looks from the outside, right? Exactly. The same thing is true with a website.
The website can look great, but if it’s frustrating to navigate, the user will eventually get frustrated and give up. But don’t take our word for it. According to InVision, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. The bottom line is that UX design is massively important and can make or break a business’s online success.
UI and UX design involve very different skill sets, but as you now know, they are imperative to each other’s success. A beautiful design can’t save a poor user experience the same way a killer user experience can’t save a bad design. It’s when UI and UX work in harmony that incredible websites are created.