If you’re new to the world of interface design, it can be a pretty confusing place. So many things to learn! So many things to get wrong! So many things you’d never thought about before! So many weird job titles! Two of the latter are ‘UX’ and ‘UI’ designers. Here, things become even more complicated because the two are sometimes considered separate designations, and sometimes conflated. Some companies have a single designer who’ll do both UX and UI. Others section off the roles ad infinitum, perhaps having a myriad of people working on individual aspects under the broad headings of ‘UX’ and ‘UI’ design. What’s a newbie to make of all this? Well, it’s not that difficult once you take a deeper look.
The Ultimate Aim
Let’s start by looking at what the two roles, combined, aim to provide. Both UI and UX designers aim to make the user’s experience of anything (although the terms are usually used to indicate digital interfaces) agreeable, intuitive, and enjoyable. If you were to design and build a tablet, for example, the UI and the UX designers would come together to make sure that the thing not only worked effectively and intuitively from a user’s perspective, but felt good to hold, good to use, and presented an overall enjoyable experience. If they were good at their jobs, they’d also look into making sure that the thing wouldn’t frustrate the customer through glitches, accidents, and so forth. However, they would not be responsible for putting together the nuts and bolts of the tablet. They’re more user-focused than technicians and coders. There’s quite a lot of overlap between UI and UX roles, as both are ultimately interested in user satisfaction, and the user’s experience of the final product. UI and UX designers, ideally, should communicate with each other quite a lot. This is why the two roles are sometimes combined. However, there are differences in what they do:
UX (User Experience) Design
‘UX Design’ (or ‘UXD’) stands for ‘User Experience Design’. The roles of a UX designer are multiform, but all ultimately work towards enhancing the user’s experience of the interface (or whatever you’re working on). A UX designer may start their project by researching the market and getting customer feedback regarding what works, what does not work, and what is desired in this field. They may then put what they’ve learned to use in designing or developing content in accordance with what they’ve learned (or intuited) about users’ wishes. It may also be the UX designer’s job to put a prototype before customers and glean feedback in order to refine and improve. It sounds like a lot, but it’s all focused on making the user’s ultimate experience of the product a good one. The UX design job is not really about things like writing software or coming up with technical solutions – it’s about discerning how these things will be perceived from a user’s point of view, and working towards making that perception a positive one.
UI (User Interface) Design
‘UI Design’ (or ‘UID’) stands for ‘User Interface Design’. What’s the difference between that and ‘User Experience Design?’ Well, it can’t be denied that there is a fair degree of overlap. However, UI Design is, broadly speaking, more craft-based than UX Design. If the product being created were a mural, the UX designer would go out and ask the customer what they wanted on their wall, and the UI designer would put it there. Both would have input in working out whether or not the mural would fit in with the surrounds, be easy on the eye and so on. But the UI designer would be the one blending the colors and working out just how the composition would best please the customer. If this sounds like a graphic design job, don’t be fooled. There is an element of graphic design and artistry involved, but overall the aim is to make the interface pleasing to the user – which means that technical as well as artistic input is needed from the UI designer. It’s a highly skilled job, and one which can make all the difference from a customer point of view.
Post written by Anne Farrimond