In web and app design, UI and UX top the list of most confusing terms. While they are usually put together in a single term, they have different meanings. If you are one of those who do not know anything about these two terms and UI vs UX, this article will help you.
What is UI?
UI or user interface is everything a user interacts with while using a digital service or product such as touchscreens, keyboards, lights, and sounds. To understand more about UI, let us dig into its history.
Back in the 1970s, computers required a command-line interface. This meant that users had to communicate through programming language that required infinite lines of code while performing a simple task on the computer.
But in the 1980s, scientists at Xerox PARC were able to develop the first graphical user interface (GUI.) This innovation let the users interact with their PCs (personal computers) by visually submitting commands through buttons, menus, icons, and checkboxes. This groundbreaking innovation meant even novice users could use a PC without embedding any codes. This is how the PC revolution began.
In 1984, Macintosh PC was released by Apple Computers that included a click mouse and point. The Macintosh PC became the first commercially successful home PC to use such type of interface. The rising use of computers meant that interfaces required to be crafted with users in mind. This was because if users could not interact with their PCs, the computers would not sell. And this is how UI designer was born.
With the growing technology, the role of UI designer has evolved as preferences, systems, expectation, and the accessibility has demanded a lot from the devices. Now UI designer not only works on computer interfaces but also on mobile phones, virtual reality, screenless interfaces like gesture, voice, and light.
What is UX?
UX or user experience was developed to enhance UI. A user’s experience of an app is determined by how users interact with it; is it smooth and intuitive, or confusing and clunky. Therefore, UX is defined as the ease with which users interact with the user interface elements.
This means that UX designers are concerned with an app’s UI as well. And this is why people often get confused between the two terms – UI and UX. So, while talking about UI vs UX in layman’s language, it can be said that UI designers decide on how UI will look but UX designers determine how the UI operates. Since UX designers are responsible for how a UI operates, these designers have to work on the basis of user feedback and integrate those feedbacks into designs.
UX is an umbrella term that can be divided into 4 main disciplines – Experience strategy (ExS), Interaction Design (IxD), User Research (UR) and Information Architecture (IA.)
- Experience strategy is all about making a holistic business strategy, which incorporates both the need of the customer and the company. So, UX design is not only about the end-user but also about bringing value to business offering product or service.
- Interaction Design looks at the way a user interacts with a system, acknowledging all interactive elements like page transitions, buttons, and animations.
- User Research means noting feedback from potential or existing customers. During the research phase, a UX designer will launch surveys, take interviews, conduct usability testing, and develop user personas to understand the end needs of users.
- Information architecture means organizing content and information in an accessible and meaningful way.
UI vs UX
A UI designer decides how the UI looks while a UX designer is responsible for how the UI works. This is a collaborative process, which requires the two design teams to work together closely. While the UX team works out the flow of the app, decides how all the buttons guide you through the task and how the interface serves information to the users¸ the UI team works on how these interface elements appear on the screen.
To explain UI vs UX in simple terms, let us take the example of a car. The UI of your car is the pedals, the steering wheel, the shifter, and every element of the car you come in contact with while UX is your driving experience.
Even though they are completely different, people think they are the same. The primary reason why people think UI and UX together are that UI is the low-hanging fruit and the most evident thing to work on when a person aims to improve the UX of their product.
Let us take the example of the car to understand UI vs UX in this aspect. If your car has a small steering wheel with a diameter of only two inches, then the whole car is unusable. Thus, the whole UX goes into vain. This proves that the UX is most affected by the UI. And because UI is the easiest to work on, it is often treated like the only thing a person needs to worry about if they want a good UX.
UI vs UX, The Endgame
Many designers get angry when they are asked about UI vs UX since they say that these two terms are completely unrelated, and should not be discussed together. However, it is impossible to think about one without the other. There is no such thing like UI vs UX but the fact that both of them work together for the smooth working of a product of service.