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Understanding the important differences between UX and UI

It seems that more and more employers are looking for designers with skills in not only UX but also in UI. While you could be forgiven that assuming that these two concepts are one and the same, there are important differences between them which all designers and SEOs need to understand. It may be that your skills lean more towards one than the other – and that’s ok – but to maintain a competitive edge in the employability market, you need to have a working knowledge of both. This article will introduce the important differences between the two disciplines as well as the areas in which they overlap.

The Definitions

UX stands for user experience and focuses on identifying user needs and problem points within a website. Once the issues are identified, a prototype can be drawn up for testing and either approved or disapproved based on the results.

UI stands for user interface design is a combination of interaction design and visual design, i.e., the way a website looks and ‘feels’ in terms of branding and the way users interact with your site, e.g., clicking buttons which change color.

Another way to explain the difference is through the concepts of macro-interactions and micro-interactions. A UX designer focuses on macro-interactions, which are the interface functionalities and controls that enable the user to complete their goal. A UI designer is responsible for the micro-interactions or details which make the macro-interactions possible and as effective as possible. For example, a UX designer may design the steps a user will follow to place an inquiry on your website, but a UI designer will then optimize the design to help users navigate their way through the journey.

Check out some great examples of UI and UX design.

UX = Usability and UI = Beauty

When designing an interface, it is the process of UX design which determines whether or not it is a useful product for the user. The UX designer will research and analyze competitors, create customer personas, and design a product which offers maximum value to your audience through continued testing.

When all the wireframes and user flows are complete and tested, the UI designer will work on the aesthetics from the colors and typography to interactions which help the user to navigate through the website so they can achieve their goal.

UX = Goals and UI = Emotions

Users visit your website to complete a goal. It may be to make a purchase, to research a purchase, to compare products or simply for some information, but the job of a UX designer is to find out what they need in order to complete that goal – what’s important in their decision-making process – and provide it. A UI designer is slightly different in that they will then look at what will engage a user and encourage them to stick around on an emotional level. If your website rewards users with humor, for example, they are more likely to be loyal to your brand.

UX Happens First and UI Design (Usually) Comes Second

In most cases, the UX research, competitor analysis, and testing will happen first in order to determine whether or not a product is worth investing in, for example, will it be useful for website users and help them to complete their goals. When the prototype has been drafted and tested several times, and a final version is ready, the UI designer begins to work on the finer details (micro-interactions) and visual design which will engage the user. Of course, no website design is ever final, and as the market, technology and customer demand evolves, so will the UX and UI designer.

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