The world of web design is replete with acronyms, many of which have similar or overlapping meanings.
Two of the most prominent ones are UX and UI. Standing for user experience and user interface, respectively, these two words help shape the design constructs that define every website and app on the internet.
Yet, what do they mean, exactly? More importantly, which one should you prioritize in your own web development efforts?
Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at the answers to these questions. Read on to learn everything you need to know about UX vs UI from their definitions to their profitability.
What Does UI Mean?
The “UI” in UI design means “user interface.” It encompasses all of the interactive elements that make up the graphical layout of a digital product or service.
It sounds oversimplified, but the reality is that applications and websites don’t create themselves.
Behind every interaction, visualization, or animation, there is a choice to make and a design consideration to weigh. Experts in UI design are the ones at the helm of that decision-making process.
The elements they must create, position, and optimize include buttons, sliders, text fields, images, videos, text entry fields, and others. In addition to those more obvious components, there are other, micro-interactions that cannot be dismissed. Consider, for instance, the technicalities behind interface animations, screen layouts, and page transitions.
What Does a UI Designer Do?
A UI designer is primarily interested in the aesthetics of web design.
From the onset, this expert will determine what the application should look like, down to every tiny detail. From button shapes and color schemes to image sizes and text fonts, he selects it all. The intended result is an attractive user interface that drives web traffic and engagement.
As such, UI designers are more akin to graphic designers. In addition to making sure the application looks great, they’re also concerned with making sure it’s visually interesting and appropriately themed. Taking into account the site’s intended purpose and personality, they’ll work to ensure that all of the components work together to create a unified branding scheme.
What Does UX Mean?
A great-looking website might be nice to have, but if it’s functionally inoperable, it won’t deliver the results that its creators require. This is where UX design comes in.
Standing for “user experience,” UX looks at the human side of an app or website. How do the user interface elements created by the UI designers translate in real life? They might look great, but how easy or difficult is it to interact with them?
In other words, how do users navigate the site, and what kind of experience do they get when they do so? Do all of the components flow together seamlessly for smooth and intuitive site navigation, or is the process clunky and challenging to follow?
This design step takes a close look at why a person might interact with a given website, and whether or not that website meets their needs. A UX-friendly webpage, therefore, is one that provides users with a sense of accomplishment when they click on it. They’re able to navigate the pages logically, find the exact information they require, and close the tab without feeling defeated or confused.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
Like a UI designer, a UX web designer is also concerned with an application’s user interface. However, this expert is considering it less from an aesthetic perspective and more from a usability one.
They have a direct role in deciding how the interface will be structured and how it will function. They’ll determine how the components will be organized and how they will interact with one another.
Ultimately, if the user interface feels seamless and works smoothly, the user experience will be good and can generate repeat visits. Conversely, an unintuitive interface can drive users away and inspire them to share that sentiment with others.
To understand what drives a good user experience, UI designers will perform what’s known as iterative analysis. In short, this involves creating initial, wireframe renderings of their interfaces and releasing them to limited audiences to gauge user feedback. Otherwise, what they believe to be a well-performing website could wind up being anything but.
Taking user ideas, comments, and pain points into consideration, UI designers will then go back and make edits to their interfaces as necessary.
UX vs UI: Bridging the Gap
Knowing that UX and UI mean different things but are part of the same overall web design process, it’s essential to understand that these two roles are collaborative. In most cases, the teams will work in tandem with one another to ensure a consistent final product.
This means that while the UI team is busy working on how the interface elements will appear, the UX team is simultaneously working on the flow of the interface. For example, the UI designer will determine the shape, size, and color of the buttons, while the UX designer positions them in the correct order to facilitate effortless navigation.
Navigating UX/UI Design Changes
What happens, then, if a change needs to be made halfway during the design process? What if, for instance, the UX designer decides that there aren’t enough text fields on a given screen, and wants to add a few more?
This proposed change doesn’t only affect the operability of the site. It also affects its visual elements.
In this case, the UI designer will need to get involved to reorganize the text fields, and possibly even change their size. However, the UX designer has the final say over how the page is laid out, and the UI designer will need to adapt their components to fit into the new scheme.
When there is a UX change that drives a UI edit, it should be one that improves the user experience of a site. These two teams must work in close contact and harmony with one another to create a digital product that looks as good as it operates.
The ROI of UX: The Value of User-Friendly Design
Investing in UI is critical to any business with an internet presence. You naturally want your site to look sleek, modern, and competitive. Yet, you can’t afford to skip the UX side of the equation.
Not only does UX make the web experience more pleasant for your user, but it can also deliver a tangible ROI that can benefit your business in myriad ways. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Research shows that 88% of online shoppers report that they wouldn’t return to a website if they had a bad user experience there. Moreover, other studies reveal that 70% of e-commerce businesses fail due to poor usability.
Especially if your online storefront is a viable part of your business revenue, you can’t afford to scrimp on UX design. It’s critical to getting your customers onto your page and leading them down the path to purchase.
Lower Long-Term Costs
Prioritizing UX now can save your business money down the road. How? Consider the costs incurred if you discover a significant design flaw once your site is already live. One researcher found that for every dollar you spend fixing usability issues during design, you’d pay $10 more to fix it later during development, and up to $100 or more to undergo a full website redesign post-release.
Thus, a robust UX approach helps you avoid these issues right out of the gate. When your design is correct from the onset, your overall costs are lower, and you can avoid costly re-dos in the future.
Your bottom line hinges on repeat customers who visit your site often and tell their friends and followers to do the same. If your interface is simple and easy to navigate, your user retention rate will show it.
Considering that a 10% rise in retention can boost your company value by 30%, this isn’t a step to skip.
The Critical Collaborative: Merging UX and UI in Web Design
Both UX designers and UI designers are necessary team members when you’re seeking to revamp an existing website or create a new one from scratch. Each role has its own place and purpose, and the two must work together to create a successful launch.
The user interface of any site cannot be merely beautiful, nor can it be merely operable. The key to driving traffic is creating a website that looks as good as it works and vice versa. Therefore, UX and UI cannot exist in silos and must work collaboratively throughout the entire design process.
In terms of ROI, UX design delivers accurate results, but again, requires UI design to be successful. These two processes form the backbone of every successful web launch and should be critical components of yours.
Stephen Gagnon is a company director who works with small to medium-sized businesses and helps their websites rank on the first page of Google search. Stephen trusts his work allows companies to build a robust online presence. Stephen has worked with clients in many different niche markets and has the experience and knowledge to rank many kinds of websites in major search engines.