UX/UI design. What is that really all about?

August 29, 2016

UX and UI are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. Today we’re debunking some of the mysteries.

Let’s ease into this conversation with an analogy: if a product would be a human body, the code would be the bones that give it structure. The organs are represented by UX design that measures, optimizes and supports life functions. And last but not least, UI design is the cosmetics of the body – its looks, senses and reactions.

Now that we got that straight, let’s dig a little bit into each of them.

UX (user experience) design is…

… a  process of development and improvement of usability, accessibility and pleasure caused by the interaction with a product. It is about making the user’s experience go as smoothly as possible, and the purchase journey easy and fun. It is an activity that goes hand in hand with research, testing, development, content and prototyping.

The concept includes various disciplines like interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability and human-computer interaction.


Author of UX for Lean Startups, Laura Klein suggests : “If UX is the experience that a user has while interacting with your product, then UX Design is, by definition, the process by which we determine what that experience will be.”

Senior UX Researcher at Google, Tomer Sharon:“UX design is the art and science of generating positive emotions through product interactions”.

Director of Research at UserTesting, Marieke McCloskey talks about commitment: UX design is a commitment to building products that are created with the customer in mind. It starts with studying who the customers are and what they need, and taking that information to provide products and services that improve the quality of people’s lives.”

When speaking about design, most people think about creativity, colors and graphics. But really,  the true meaning of UX design doesn’t lie in visual aesthetics but in functionality; and the process behind creating products that work well for people interested in using them.

The responsibility of the UX designer is creating a product experience that is rewarding and delightful, regardless of the medium. He or she is basically part marketer, part designer and part project manager. The UXer’s role is complex, challenging and multi-faceted. Sort of like the Many-Faced God. And the ultimate aim is to connect business goals with user needs in a way that satisfies both sides of the relationship.

The deliverables of a UX designer are : wireframes of screens, storyboards and sitemaps. Their tools of trade are Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks, Invision, UXpin.

It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

UI (user interface) design is…

…the looks and feels, the presentation and interactivity of a product. What it does is that it takes the  product’s development, research, content and layout and it transforms it into an attractive, guiding (via interactive elements and across all sizes/platforms) and responsive experience. It transfers the brand’s strengths and visual assets into guess what? The product’s interface, of course; that being the visual/graphic presentation, reactivity & interactivity, guides, hints and visual leading throughout the experience.

The primary purpose of the UI designer is related to graphic/visual front-end design and his main attention should be on improving the overall feel of the product and the way that it is being laid out there in the website/app. Secondly, he or she ensures that the created UI is doing the job in visually communicating the path for the user. Whether you think about a style guide or maintaining consistency in visual elements, the UI designer takes care of everything that falls under the eyes of the user.

The UI designer tools of trade are: Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, Fireworks.

So UX & UI…

… are crucial to a product and work very closely together. But despite their professional “relationship”, they are quite different. Where UX Design is analytical and technical, UI is closer to what we refer to as graphic design (yet way more complex).

What do they have in common?

  • Main purpose of improving customer satisfaction
  • Focus on the user and his/her interaction with a product/service
  • Can be applied to any product

To sum up and to put emphasis on the importance of both UX and UI, here’s a saying by renowned designer and expert Helga Moreno:

“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.”


1 Comment. Leave new

Weekly digital bites, episode 12: news, trends & wisdom - 4ideas Interactive Agency
August 31, 2016 1:04 pm

[…] UX design is something that you might want to look into if you are a prospecting a long term job in design. Here’s a guide to landing your first UX design job, while maintaining your sanity and positivity in the proces. Disclaimer: it might take a lot of patience, but it’s worthwhile! […]


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