UX and UI Are Not The Same

Clare Bittourna

November 20, 2015

5 min read

Potential clients ask me all the time:

So, do you guys have a great UI/UX guy?

To most, this will seem like a simple enough question: it’s either yes, or no, right?

Not really.

In fact, we get asked this question so often, that we felt compelled to write a blog post on the subject.

Here's a breakdown.

UI = User Interface

UX = User Experience

User Interfaces are characterized by the various elements of graphic and visual design that go into designing them. User Experiences are characterized by the many aspects which define the qualitative experience of using a product, including, in part, its User Interface.

The UI of a product is one of the many components which contribute to the particular UX of a product. They are both equally fundamental, however they are not the same, and they are not done by the same people.

User Experience Designers spend their days defining user types, sorting tasks, making wireframes, organizing sitemaps, and designing everything else that goes into the creation of a cohesive experience for the end user.

What do these things even mean? It’s all about strategy.

  • User Types : Before you can design an experience, you have to understand who your audience is and who your audience could be
  • Task Sorting : A task refers to a finite action that a user is likely to need to take, within the application or site. For example: signing up, logging out, messaging a member, etc.
  • Wireframing : Wireframes define the visual layout of an application or website, which may seem to overlap with the work of a UI designer, but it does not. The idea here, is to design the most intuitive layout, then to pass off the visual design work to the UI designer.
  • Information Architecture : This refers to the task of organizing the information on the site — specifically how will the user get from the homepage to each of the other pages? And how will the user arrive at each important section of the site?

Often times, the hard work that goes into UX design is never explicitly seen by the end user, as it is an early-stage component in the lifecycle of application development. This can be ironic, as each task directly affects the experience of the user—without each component there wouldn’t be a cohesive experience.

User Interface Designers spend their days creating pixel perfect designs that are ultimately what will come to be intimately known by the user as “the application”. UI design occurs later on down the pipeline, once all the UX-work has been completed.

The work of a UI designer can be boiled down to one fundamental task: bring to life the vision of the UX designer.

So, the next time you want to ask someone about their “UI/UX” guy, remember, they are two different people.

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