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User interface vs User experience design

Back in the good old days, when people talked about design, chances were high that they were probably referring to “graphic design.” Gone are the days when all you had to do was craft a fancy and splendid graphical user interface (GUI) and hope users would fall in love with it. In the ever-fluctuating digital world we live in, you have to constantly update your design skills. Else, prepare to be crushed. You often hear professionals in the field of design talk about User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). As a matter of fact, these two term refer to ideas, techniques and methodologies that have been around since the 1980s. Admittedly, we’ve come a long since then. In today’s uber- creative world, User Interface and User Experience could make the difference between thriving among a fierce competition and seeing your own demise. The two terms are becoming buzzwords and they are often used interchangeably in the design’s parlance, but one must bear in mind the differences between UI design and UX design.

User Experience

Basically, User Interface (UI) is what people see and touch when they interact with your site or app. On the other hand, User Experience (UX) is the feeling they get when while using your site, mobile or web application. UI is the sat-nav, gears, clutches, brakes, odometer, speedometer and the gas pedal of a car. UX is the feeling you get when you drive that particular car. A faulty brake and you might as well start praying you don’t fly off a cliff. By the same token, you don’t want to confuse users by presenting them a complicated navigation between pages of a website, or app. They might feel like they’re in a maze, desperately looking for a way out. Now, don’t get me wrong. Both UI and UX designers are insanely dedicated to small details. They are constantly tweaking and fine-tuning their creation, and they know that the devil is in the details. However, before setting sail for the dangerous waters of UI and UX design, it behooves everyone involved in the process to have a holistic approach. Point is, how can we align the efforts of UI and UX designers in order to achieve the desired outcome?

To answer that, we first need to distinguish between User Interface design and User Experience design. At its core, UI is basically a mixture between visual design (how it looks and feels), and the interaction design (how it really works). UX, on the other hand, is how user feel about a certain product (which might be a website, a mobile app, a software, or oven a wearable.) A UX designer looks at element such as visual design, usability, accessibility, interaction design, prototyping, UI design, development, experience and content strategy. In contrast, a UI designer is primarily concerned about how a website or application appears in the interface (“should I make this button blue or purple” or “does the button has gradients or is it flat?”). User interface designers are also responsible for the overall information architecture. UX designers, on the other hand, know that the feelings user have about your product can make the difference between success and failure.

In fact, User Experience (UX) is a rather vague term. Apart from possessing immense creativity, grasp of architecture and graphic design, a UX designer should also have strong analytical skills and a have a firm grasp of psychology and human factors. Granted, without a perfectly crated interface and interaction design, you cannot appeal to the users. But, sleek design and a fancy user interface are simply not enough to make user fall head over heels with your product. In fact, there is an overlap between UI and UX design. That’s because there is a connection between ‘what you see’ (UI) and ‘how you feel about it’ (UX). Is there a way to compromise between the two? You bet so. At the end of the day, users might and will forget certain details of a website or an application, but they certainly won’t forget the feeling they get from using and interacting with that webpage or app.

As Steve Jobs once put it “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”. Here’s the plea to both UI and UX designers: Make it work! The rest will just follow.