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The differences between UI and UX – Two often fused terms

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UI and UX are two of the most obscure and fused terms within technology management, website design and applications. And with good reason; the terms are often used in the connected form ‘UI/UX design’ and are both related to the design of digital solutions.

Today, the terms are often used synonymously, and in many places. There is an expectation that UX- and UI designers have the same capabilities, and this is not (necessarily) true. Even if you are not a digital expert, it is important to know the difference between these concepts as you could potentially end up hiring the wrong person for the job.

But what’s the difference?

In this blog post we will clarify the differences between UI and UX design, as well as how both design principles contribute positively to the development of digital products.

What is UI?
UI stands for ‘user interface’. In short, UI is ‘the look and feel’ of everything a user interacts with, such as a web-shop’s menu, an app’s interface, the color of the buttons, etc. The concept of UI was born along with the personal computer, as back then, as well as now, it was necessary for users without an understanding of coding to be able to interact with the computer.

Today, UI designers work not only with computer interfaces, but with all kinds of technologies, even augmented and virtual reality, as well as invisible interfaces – such as light and sound. The goal is to design an interface that creates an effective and painless interaction.

What is UX?
UX stands for user experience – and focuses on the entire user journey. UX is therefore about ensuring users a satisfactory experience when they interact with a product or solution. The UX designer focuses on the users and their needs, wants and requirements, from start to finish in the user journey. With a UX designer, the design choices are not just based on subjective or collaborative opinions, but an understanding of users’ needs. It helps to ensure a user-friendly design.

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Good UI does not equal good UX
For example, a web-shop could be visually appealing, but the overall experience lacks because the process of ordering is burdensome, it is difficult to get through to customer service and delivery is delayed. In this example, the user interface (UI) is appealing and functioning, but on the flip side, a bad user experience is evident.

A bad user experience often leads to frustrated users, and often causes them to look for alternative solutions, or in the above example, a different web-shop.

Therefore, it is with good reason that a combined focus, on both the user interface and the user experience, in the development of new products and digital solutions, is vital for retaining your customers and reducing your bounce rate. Including a UI designer who wants to design a visually appeasing and easy to use interface, as well as a UX designer who focuses on designing positive customer experiences is more important than ever.

UX is the journey, UI is the destination
So, overall we can state that:

  • Yes, the two concepts are related
  • Yes, they overlap
  • No, they are not the same. They are two different sets of competencies. No matter how many times the terms are used synonymously

Slightly simplified, one can say that UI is the very bridge that leads us to the destination, while UX is the feeling we, as individuals, are left with when we have arrived at the destination. The user interface is of course a big and important part of the user experience, but not the only component. Therefore, the focus of a UX and UI designer lies two different places. Both design theories should be involved in the development of digital solutions; if you want to ensure a visually appeasing, user-friendly solution.