UI Vs UX: What’s the Difference?

UX and UI

If you’ve ever worked in a creative or tech environment, chances are you’ll have come across the terms ‘UX’ and ‘UI’. They sound impressive, and as with any acronym in the business world, get thrown around a lot by a lot of people who don’t really know what they mean. There must have been countless meetings in boardrooms across the world regarding UX and UI where nobody quite knows what either mean, but nobody quite dares to ask.

The terms

Giving their full names helps: User Experience and User Interface.

The Experience is all about usability. Is the product easy and enjoyable to use, and does it achieve the desired results?

The Interface is all about the look and feel. Are the visuals appropriate, is there continuity, and does it match the brand?

A UX developer is in charge of making sure the user has a great experience when using the product. They need to understand exactly what the end user wants. This requires continuous testing and market research, with every iteration refining the product’s usability. There’s a good deal of psychology involved in UX, as the ultimate aim is to connect the needs of the business with the needs of the user in a way that satisfies both.

A UI developer is in charge of the product’s interface. They’re closer to a graphic designer. They are responsible for making sure that all of the visual and interactive elements of the product are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also logically arranged so that they compliment the UX. A menu on a webpage will often appear on the left hand side, so that’s where a user will expect to find it. An arrow pointing left will usually take the user to the previous page, and red text usually denotes an error or element that requires attentions. These may not be the most aesthetically pleasing designs, but they are the most appropriate.

As you can see, the UI feeds into the UX, as a large part of the user’s experience will be affected by the visuals of the product.

They’re not totally distinct disciplines; rather, they refer to different areas of expertise. Some tech whizzes can cover both, but generally developers will specialise in one or the other.

Design is where these two areas overlap. The UX comprises of research + design, whereas the UI comprises of design + build.

An example

Take one of the most famous webpages in the world: Google’s homepage. Google has dominated the internet for nearly 20 years because it understands what the user wants.

It’s UX has kept up with the times, but ease of use has always been prioritised. As more and more people used the internet for images, videos and then social media, Google accommodated each. All are very well integrated, all very clickable.

The UI makes it look simple, and so makes it feel simple. Despite how much is going on “behind the scenes”, the interface is kept clean, tidy, and mostly blank white space. No unwanted bells and whistles (looking at you here Bing), just relevant content displayed in a logical arrangement.

Both the UX and UI are key to Google’s success. They’ve both been designed with the user in mind, and importantly, with each other in mind. Like the best examples of UX and UI, in Google Search they come together to make something greater than the sum of their parts.