Design Understanding: UX versus UI Design

May 22, 2019

You’ve just downloaded an app and you know you’ve had a bad customer experience when you end up deleting it soon after your first use. It leaves you frustrated and less likely to be a loyal customer. On the flip side, a good customer experience can make you a loyal devotee for life. Thoughtful design can make all the difference between products we use all the time and the ones we ditch. Design has come to mean a lot of things over the years, so naturally there are terms to specify which kind of design we’re talking about. As we’ve moved into the digital age, we’ve collected even more design lingo. The design terms UX and UI pop up frequently these days.

Back in the stone age (pre-web), if you needed a design for your marketing or advertising campaign, graphic design was the only game in town. Your designer took your needs and turned them into a beautiful shiny printed solution thus creating a lasting, static design. With the advent of the web, design evolved to include even more valuable aspects, User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI). These terms are used when designing for an interactive product such as websites and apps, rather than print.

UX is all about creating the best customer experience with a company and its products and services. Using a new app as an example, a UX designer would begin a long-term relationship with their client by researching the needs and wants of the users and business goals of the client. They will dig deep into data, speak with actual customers and try to truly understand what would delight the end-user. Then a concept and logical structure for the app is mapped out called a wireframe. This can simply be black and white sketches because the details will be added later. Next, a prototype of the app is developed using UI design (more on that in a bit) and is shared with users for testing. From there, adjustments are made from user feedback and a cycle of constant improvement continues.

UI is like the bridge between UX and graphic design. It takes the wireframe from the UX design and delivers the actual interactive product complete with functionality and pleasing aesthetics. In our app example, the UI designer would ensure the colors and fonts of the app’s buttons would be easy for users to navigate. UI design is exclusively used for digital products and enhances the user’s experience.

Good design means so much more than just good looks. It’s brains and beauty combined to deliver enticing, useful products to satisfy your customers.