Think of any web or mobile application you’ve been using today. You’d most likely notice two elements:
1. User Interface (UI): What you touch, click, speak to etc.
2. User Experience (UX): How you felt about your interaction, how soon you found what you needed, how easy it was to find it etc.
But even the smartest of designers across the globe don’t agree on where the lines of UI end and the land of UX begins. To set the context, today, let’s explore what is UI UX design, as we see it.
What is UI UX Design?
UI UX design is an area of application design, where user interface design and user experience design are treated as complementary to each other. Instead of separating them into two different siloes, application teams today bring them together into one ambit. Let’s understand each of them and see how they come together.
What is UI Design?
User interface design is the process of building interfaces for machines. Traditionally, user interface design has been about the look and feel of the product — including colours, shapes, typography etc. Let us take the example of the checkout page of an e-commerce website. Good UI design will focus on:
- Presenting the information clearly and effectively. For instance, product information, price, shipping, taxes etc. will be shown clearly.
- Making the user feel reassured about their purchase. They’d use colours that are soothing and positive.
- Making the journey easy and attractive. The buttons and calls-to-action would be clear and appealing.
What do UI Designers do?
UI designers work on two specific parts of the application: They strategise the look and feel, and also execute it.
Develop look and feel
- Design trends research: UI designers will keep track of the latest trends in design such as material design, parallax videos, indefinite scrolling etc.
- Brand research: They will conduct research to identify ways to make their brand stick. This could be in the form of using their logo, motif, colours, even tagline and language.
- Typography and design language: They will build the design language of the application including fonts, colours, sizes, shapes etc.
Executing user interface design
- UI prototyping: They will build mock ups of the UI they are designing, and take it to beta users to collect feedback. Based on the response, they also iterate and modify the UI.
- Interaction and animation: They will design interactions on the application. For instance, this could be how the checkbox appears on the screen. Most designers today also design animations for the UI. The tick mark could be animated into the checkbox when you click on it.
- Coordination with developers: They work closely with the developers to ensure that the interactivity on the product is just as they had imagined.
What is UX Design?
User experience design is the overall experience a user has with a company’s products or services. UX design is the process of tailoring the experience for the user in a manner that’s appealing to them and profitable to you.
Let’s take the same example. Good UX in an e-commerce checkout page will focus on:
- Keeping the user undistracted. You may have noticed that most checkout pages have no links/buttons other than the payment call-to-action.
- Presenting offers and bundles to induce impulse purchase.
- Offering personalized recommendations like buying products you’ve purchased earlier, choosing preferred shipping method etc.
- Communicating clearly if the payment is successful, when can the user expect the product, how can they return it etc.
What do UX Designers do?
UX designers work one level up from UI designers. They think of the users’ problems and how to solve these problems with the application.
- Market research: UX designers conduct their own research on market trends in their area of business to determine how the product fits in.
- Customer research: They will begin by getting a thorough understanding of their target user through surveys, interviews etc. Even after they’ve got an idea about customer preferences, they will constantly keep themselves updated over time. They create user personas based on customer research to model their experiences.
- Customer journey: They will create user stories and information architecture to create product solutions.
- Prototyping: They will build wireframes and prototypes of the product (not to confuse this with the prototypes of the interface we discussed earlier).
- Beta testing: UX designers will conduct early testing of the product in controlled environments and analyse results.
- Iterations: They will iterate the solution until they create the right product experience for the users.
- Coordination with the design team: They will work closely with the design team to ensure that the product experience is delightful both visually and architecturally.
- Coordination with developers: They work with the development team closely to make sure that the customer has a smooth experience with the product.
- Metrics analysis and feedback: They will collect data and analyse feedback about the product and tweak experiences accordingly.
UI UX Design: How UI and UX Design Come Together?
In modern applications, user interface design and user experience design are inseparable. UX guides the UI design principles and in turn UI stimulates a good UX in the user’s mind. Yet, UI alone isn’t enough. Without a fantastic experience overall, users are soon to be disillusioned with the product. Let’s take the example of the Google search page. The UI is simple, clean and offers the user an undistracted solution. This is evidently a great UI. However, if the user doesn’t get what they search for, the UX is bound to be bad. No amount of great UI can save an app from bad UX. Which is why UI and UX always go hand in hand. Doesn’t mean that every UI designer will also do a UX designer’s job or vice versa. In fact, in large application teams, there might be several UI designers, each focusing on a very specific area. Here is a video with DesignUp conference co-founder, Narayan Gopalan explaining what is a UI UX Designer, job roles and elaborates on the growth and career opportunities in the industry today.
Whether you’re a user interface designer or a user experience designer, in-depth knowledge of both UI and UX will take you a long way. If you’re looking for a UI UX design course, consider Springboard’s online learning program that includes 1:1 mentoring, project-based curriculum and career coaching along with a job guarantee.