UI vs. UX Design: What’s The Difference?

Learning the difference between UI and UX design can initially be very confusing. Designers will tell you that UI is part of UX, but UX is not “experienced” from UI only. But what does that mean? Which one is more important? How do you use them together effectively? Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm, explains, “User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.

“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. Something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.” –Helga Moreno

What is UX Design?

User Experience Design is the overall “feel” that a user gets from your product. It’s their entire experience. UX designers succeed if users have a positive and satisfying experience using their product. For example, if you open up an app on your phone and it’s confusing and complicated, and you feel frustrated after using it, that’s an example of bad UX design. On the other hand, if an app is simple and seamless, and you quickly and easily accomplished what you opened the app to do, that’s good UX. Remember that even though UX design is about how the user feels, good UX design doesn’t mean that after every interaction, the user is laughing and smiling because the interface was just so fun and easy to use. People expect apps to be simple and easy to use. So (unfortunately), UX design is not usually noticed unless it’s bad. It’s kind of like how people get annoyed if you forget to wish them a happy birthday, but when you remember, they just say “thanks!” and move on.
 

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So, how do you construct this perfect user experience? It’s a whole lot more than just design. UX relies on research and data to determine what users prefer. Usability is influenced by visual aspects such as where buttons are, how a menu is formatted, and how you navigate through a product.

“UX designers are concerned with how the user experiences the product. They want the user to come away from the app feeling good.”
Matt Powers, web designer at Blue Soda Promo

Here’s an example of UX design: Most apps go to a loading screen (known as a splash screen) when you first open them. This splash screen usually is colorful and prominently features the app logo. And, it usually features some sort of animation. Why? Because when something is loading and a user sees a circle turning or a bar filling up, they can easily see that their app is indeed loading. If a loading screen is a static page, the user may wonder if the app is frozen, or they may get impatient waiting. If an app says it’s 90% loaded after a minute, the user is a lot more likely to wait than if they’ve been waiting a minute and have no idea what percent of the app is loaded yet. Little things like that contribute to the overall user experience.

 

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What is UI Design?

User Interface Design is more visual. It’s how a user interacts with your interface and is a part of UX design. UI design is comprised of the visual aspects of a design, including the colors, buttons, images, etc. With the demand for digital products only increasing, UI design is the future of graphic design. Some UI roles require coding knowledge or proficiency, while others have a separate team of developers. Knowing coding as a designer definitely won’t hurt, though.

“If the UX designer is looking at a website from 40,000 feet, the UI designer is looking at it with a microscope.”
John T. Jones, digital marketing manager for USA Financial

UI designers create tangible elements that comprise an app or website. They want to optimize the layout and determine which assets appear where. Especially now, digital design is essential to establishing a website’s identity and legitimacy. If your website or app is unattractive, you lose a significant amount of credibility, which is going to hurt you.

How do UI and UX design work together?

UI design is one aspect of UX design. Larger companies separate these roles, while smaller companies often combine them. Either way, they’re both crucial. You don’t want an elegant interface that’s difficult to use. And you don’t want an app that’s easy to use but is boring and unappealing. When UI and UX combine together perfectly, the result is a clean, simple, stunning product that is both easy to use and engaging to the user.
 

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So…how can I learn UI/UX design?

Because these fields are very new, there are very few college programs specifically tailored for UI and UX design. If you’re interested in UI design, you can enroll in a graphic design, interactive design, or visual design program and apply those concepts. A background in visual design, computer science, or psychology/sociology can help you with a career in UX design. Learning about emotional intelligence will also be helpful. For a more specific, immersive experience, look into UI/UX bootcamps or courses, especially if you live in a major metropolitan city. There are also online courses or tutorials you can try. No matter what route you take, pursuing a career in UI/UX is a great career move, as these skills are in extremely high demand.
 

Why Designing for Mobile Devices Is Like Eating Ice Cream

Mobile devices account for more than half of online search traffic, and that number is only going to increase. Designing for such a small screen is significantly different than designing for a computer screen, and it’s crucial to design unique interfaces for both. And don’t forget about tablets, either! Each device should have a design that is optimized for its dimensions. All these factors to consider might seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, I have a solution. During my research for this post, I found quite a few connections between mobile-first design and ice cream. Whether you want a career in UX design or you really like ice cream, these five points will definitely interest you.

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1. You keep the size in mind.

If you go to an ice cream shop and order an extra large cup that you load with sprinkles and chocolate chips, you’re going to put less sprinkles/chocolate chips if you get a size small. Yes, either way you’ll have sprinkles, but not nearly the same amount. This is true for mobile design as well. If your website has a video, 5 photos, and an interactive map, you’re not going to put ALL of those items on the home page for your mobile site. You could stagger them so they appear as you swipe down, but you won’t see all of them immediately above the fold. Don’t try to cram in all your desktop features to your mobile site. Design with the space you have in mind.

 

2. Options are essential.

Why do ice cream shops serve cups and cones? Because some people prefer cones, and some people prefer cups. You’re serving the same thing, just in two different ways. Compare this to a slider in a mobile design. Some people want to swipe to see the next image, while others prefer tapping an arrow. So, which do you put? Both. If you just put arrows, people who prefer swiping will be annoyed. If you just put swiping, people who like tapping arrows will be annoyed. Options ensure that each user has the experience they want. And then everyone who wants an ice cream cone gets one.

 

3. You don’t want too much in one bite.

Your website has a ton of cool stuff. Great! But you need to space it out. White space is definitely your friend, and a clear and clean user interface provides a much more pleasing experience. If you eat too much ice cream too fast, you’ll get brain freeze. If you throw all your content at us at once, your user is going to get overwhelmed.

 

4. It can make people happy.

People use their cell phones when they’re bored on a bus, annoyed that their friend is late, and frustrated that their plane got delayed. The last thing they need is an app that is boring, glitchy, and confusing. Mobile apps can be fun, interactive, and engaging. Use that to your advantage! Just like eating ice cream, using a cool mobile app won’t make all your problems go away, but it can make you forget about them for a few blissful moments.

 

5. It’s fun for all ages.

The fact that toddlers can and do use iPads and smart phones is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Mobile interfaces are extremely intuitive, which is why they’re so easy for people of all ages to use. Use that intuitive aspect to your advantage. As explained here, minimize the interface chrome (buttons, tab bars, check boxes, sliders, etc.) to make your content as easy-to-use as possible. Hopefully, I don’t need to explain to you why ice cream is kid-friendly. I think that one goes without saying!

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5 Common UI Mistakes, Explained by a Puppy

UI stands for user interface, which is how a user interacts with the interface you create. This includes menus, navigation, buttons, and more. It’s a part of the overall UX (user experience) that’s focused on the visual aspect of the user’s overall experience on a particular website or app. Good UI involves consistency, simplicity, and clarity. It is crucial to organize complex information in ways that are easy for a user to understand and navigate. You do this by creating a visual hierarchy that is easy to follow, designing clear and concise labels for actions, and ensuring that the layout and design stay consistent among pages. UI designers are very intentional with everything they do. Every action is added only if it’s absolutely necessary to the user’s experience, as designs need to be as intuitive as possible. Simplicity is key; however, simplicity is difficult given the large amount of information on most websites. As UI/UX Designer Pär Almqvist said, “A modern paradox is that it’s simpler to create complex interfaces because it’s so complex to simplify them.” The direction and flow of the website are managed through a clear UI, allowing the user to focus on what is most important. Ironically, the best UI design is invisible; if you don’t notice any usability issues and confusion, then you did your job right. Below are some of the most common UI mistakes that designers make, using illustrations of puppies to help explain the concepts.

 

1. Overly Complex/Cluttered Design

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UI design needs to be simple so it’s easy for the user to navigate where they want to go. Many designers get overexcited and start adding lots of links, buttons, graphics, gifs, videos, motion graphics, etc. While these features are beneficial in moderation, overusing elements just clutters up the page and confuses the user. It should be simple and straightforward for anyone to navigate your website, and adding a lot of features that are cool but ultimately not useful is a common mistake. Ask yourself if you’re putting something on the page because you need it or because you want it. Adding a photo of the mansion you’re writing about is something you need. Adding a 3D tour of the mansion that the user is forced to navigate through in order to go to the next page might be cool, but it’s not necessary, and it’s just going to confuse or frustrate the user.

 

2. Too Much Text

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The majority of website reading is done on mobile devices. That means that large blocks of text are not very user friendly. Paragraphs should be short and spaced apart so it’s easy for someone to read them on their phone. Make sure you test out your website on mobile before you publish it. If you’ve got long blocks of text, find logical breaking points to start new paragraphs. Even if the user is looking at your website on their computer, breaking up text into shorter paragraphs still makes text a lot easier to read and comprehend.

 

3. Non-responsive Design

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Mobile-first design is extremely important now with the prevalence of mobile browsing. Designing for mobile first means you know your site will be responsive and look right in the smallest size, which makes it a lot easier to resize for larger screens. Designing for a computer first and then trying to cram all that information into a mobile device is going to make it look cluttered and disorganized. Make sure your content can adjust to desktop, tablet, and mobile screen sizes, and that you’re taking time to design the website for each. Too many websites have a mobile site that’s exactly the same as their desktop site, just smaller. That means it’s hard for viewers to read and navigate, so they’re going to have a bad experience.

 

4. Lack of Hierarchy

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When looking at a website, it should be obvious where you want someone to look first, second, third, etc. Otherwise, viewers’ eyes will just wander aimlessly around the page, trying to figure out what’s going on. When you have very prominent elements that lead to somewhat-important elements that lead to less important elements, then the page makes sense to the viewer, and it’s easy for them to figure out what the most important information is. Using size, color, and layout, you can establish a hierarchy that helps your user navigate the page. Plus, if they’re only going to spend a short amount of time on your page, you need to make sure it’s obvious what the main topics are. It’s a good idea to test this out on people and ensure that the hierarchy you’re trying to establish is working the way you want it to.

 

5. Too Many Clicks

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Good UI designers consolidate similar content on a page, rather than spacing them out through multiple pages that involve clicking and waiting for pages to load. People expect instant gratification now, and if you’re making them click, wait, click, wait, etc., then they’re likely going to get bored and leave your website. Think about what’s best for the user. If you’re looking at a list of ten items, are you more likely to read all ten if all you have to do is scroll down a page, or if you have to click “next” after each item and wait for the subsequent page to refresh and load? Be intentional with your content and think logically about how to display information so it’s optimized for the user.

 

Good luck designing!

Hopefully, these tips help you optimize your UI design for your next project. It’s an important part of web design and the overall user experience. Plus, it’s puppy-approved.