User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are among the most complicated, misused and misinterpreted terms in software development. In the last few years as an industry, we’ve been focusing on responsive and intuitive designs of interfaces in the contexts far beyond mobile apps. Non-responsive and unintuitive designs have been rightly ditched. That is why good UX is so important. The product must be well-designed if it is to attract users. In addition, to satisfy the user, a friendly and simple look is essential.
The terms UX and UI designs often go hand in hand, and are often confused. So what do they have in common and what are the differences? In both cases the aim is the same – to help the product succeed. But can it be achieved by focusing only on one of the areas?
A few words about User Experience Design
The term User Experience suggests that it encompasses the whole set of emotions and thoughts as well as impressions that a user has when she or he interacts with the interface. The design of those experiences involves a few different processes, and finding a compromise between them so that the user is satisfied. The role of UX is complex, demanding and multidimensional, and it is difficult to imagine that a good UX can be created by one person. The ideal UX team would consist of the following roles:
- Product owner
- Information architect
- Graphic designer
- Web Developer
To quote Monika Mikowska, the author of jestem.mobi blog:
Let’s say it once and for all – a UX designer does not exist. UXD is such an interdisciplinary domain, that it is impossible to find one person with all the necessary competencies. Build TEAMS instead of hiring individual UX designers.
I personally agree with her opinion that the distribution of responsibilities within the UX work has a positive impact on the final product. In reality I see more and more UX designer job offers, which require such diverse skills as analytical thinking, argumentation and cooperation, empathy as well as aesthetic intuition and technical acumen. An advantage would be experience in specific technologies, color use and understanding of design trends as well as design patterns… Of course meeting all the criteria is not entirely impossible, but it cannot be reasonably expected that one person will individually do a job of a whole team to a satisfactory standard.
To sum up: UXD is the whole process of research, tests, development, content and prototyping that allows to reach optimal results. The goal of a UX person/team is to create the most intuitive solution for a specific target group. For a project to succeed, we must understand humans and their behavior. It’s a process of constant development and improvement of the quality of interaction between the user and all the app’s components.
A few words about User Interface Design
UI Design stands for User Interface Design, which boils down to the looks and distribution of elements on the website or app. This domain of design deals with interfaces and is based on graphic design. The product with good interface is visually attractive, simple and user friendly. Without the interface, true communication between the user and the product would be practically impossible. Thus UI is responsible mainly for the visual reception of the product.
User Interface Design is also a multidimensional and complex role. A UI designer is responsible for translating the product development, research, content and structure (the overall effect of the work of UX designers) into attractive, responsive and intuitive solutions. It is a craft that – contrary to UX – is a strictly digital job, which can easily be done by one person. A UI designer is expected to see and feel more than everybody else. Interface prototyping and creating responsive designs based on mock-ups are key skills. In addition, knowing how to blend the beautiful with the functional, and how to work with developers are also expected.
At first glance, UI can be seen as the less important component of the whole. Nice looks attract the client, but it’s the ease of use that sells the product. That is why an aesthetic and innovative look are not enough. Functionality, speed and ease of use are the key to success. But is it really that one is more important than the other? The designer Helga Moreno sums up the relationship between UX and UI in this way:
Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.
Following this lead, it is safe to say that none of the two products mentioned by Helga Moreno would succeed, due to incompleteness. Only well-designed and usable projects become hugely popular.
Both UX and UI are indispensable in a successful product and interweave with each other on many levels. But despite the connections, the UXD and UID roles are completely different in terms of their relation to the process and project discipline. UX is a more analytical an technical domain, while UI is closer to what we call graphic design, yet a slightly more complex one.
I have to stress that both specializations are indispensable for the success of the product. Even though they require different tools and skill sets to solve problems, each of them is important for a successful project. UX and UI work only in tandem, never alone.