What are the differences between UI and UX design in Layman’s terms?

Have you ever coincidentally overheard random conversations where the people involved use words like UX of a product or the bad UI of a website? If you feel unfamiliar with design slang, don’t worry, we got you. Today we are looking at the terms UX and UI and how these two work side by side. More importantly, we are looking into what are the differences between UI and UX design.


If you are just starting to learn about design, you might feel a bit confused when trying to understand the differences between UX and UI. They may sound quite the same, but can often be misunderstood. The two concepts are in fact two professions that have been around for quite some time. Therefore, technology made it possible to classify them as part of the innovative world. But before we begin, in order to define what are the differences between UI and UX design, let’s look at them separately and see their purpose altogether. 


What is UI design?

In simple words, UI stands for user interface and it is used by the user when interacting with different digital products and services. For example, touchscreens, keyboards, sounds, and lights. In order to understand how the UI has evolved, it is interesting to look at history and see how it has developed over the years. 


History of UI design

In the 1970s the only way to use a computer was through the command-line interface. Basically, users needed a specific program before they finished a task that used a specific program written in a specific programming language. All in all, it was all very technologically advanced.


During the ’80s, the first graphical interface (GUI) was developed by Xerox PARC. This new GUI was considered quite the development in the innovative industry because users would now interact with their own computers through visible commands like icons, menus, and checkboxes. 


With this new development in technology, it was clear that soon anyone will be able to use a computer without knowing how to code. In 1984, Apple released their first commercially successful Macintosh home computer which at the time incorporated a point and click the mouse. And thus the revolution of personal computer development started. 


difference between UI and UX design
Source: macrumors.com


The demand for personal and office computers was increasing, which meant that the requirements for a user-oriented interface were also becoming more demanding. Therefore, as a result, the UI design concept became a thing. 


Throughout the year, UI designers also became an important part of each system, focusing more and more on user preferences, expectations, accessibility. Nowadays UI design is everywhere, on smartphones, virtual reality with invisible or screenless interfaces such as voice, gesture, or light. 


It has evolved into unlimited opportunities in order to work on websites, mobile apps, smart home devices, and so on. With the constant progress of the computers, the need to improve interfaces will continue enabling users of all ages and technical experience to operate efficiently. 


What is UX design? 

User Experience, or UX for short, arose soon after the new improvements to UI. As Don Norman describes it, user experience “encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products”. In other words, UX experience applies to any service or a product – whether it is a website, a smartwatch app, a smartphone interface, even a smart fridge command panel.                                                                                                                                                                                                  


User experience design takes into consideration all the different elements that would structure the overall experience. The UX designer is supposed to consider the experience it offers and how accessible it is for the user. For example, how easily you manage your online banking through an app, or how fast the checkout process is when consumers shop online, and so on. More precisely, the user experience design is the process of developing and improving the quality of the collaboration between a user and a business. It is defined mainly by the digital industries and it is not focusing on the visuals. You can check out some of the best UI and UX designers in this post


What are the differences between UI and UX design?

Even though UI and UX work side by side, the main differences between them can still be identified. 

  1. UX is the one that makes interfaces valuable and UI is the one that defines how it looks like.
  2. UX design is the one that precedes UI design. 
  3. UX design exists through interfaces, products, and services while UI design exists only in interfaces. 

So, despite the fact that they are two different concepts, they align with each other in the process of work. 



Otherwise, good user experience can literally go sideways if the user interface design is unpleasant to look at. The same applies to bad UX. Good, structured design can’t compensate for inconvenient and bad user experience. 


Is UI design more important than UX design?

In case you are wondering which one is more important, the right answer would be both. A successful idea in the form of products or services requires both good UI and UX. Whether you choose to work as a UX designer or a UI designer, it is important to have a comprehension of both. 


What does a UX designer do? 

The UX designer role includes a great variety of tasks and elements like research, testing, business analysis, project management. But it also involves more hands-on design-focused tasks, such as wireframing and prototyping. There are some general functions that a UX designer performs, such as conducting user research, creating user personas, determining the information architecture of a digital product, designing user flows, and conducting user testing.



In other words, the UX designer is not focused on the visual design of a given product. They focus mostly on the experience they deliver and how the product is structured for a better and smoother process. 


What does a UI designer do? 

Being a UI designer offers a variety of elements which would include soft skills and a sense of using the right methods and tools. In order to be a successful UI designer, there are several competencies that need to be taken into consideration such as communication, collaboration, and empathy. By having them, the UI designer is able to explain their decisions into details, collaborate with the team members on every level, and create something that all users will enjoy. 


One of the hard skills that this job position requires is knowledge in some of the industry-standard design and prototyping tools such as Sketch, Adobe XD, or InVision. UI design demands a good comprehension of the fundamental methods, theories, and practices. For one, color theory, typography, and UI design patterns are crucial. Then there are the Gestalt Principles that provide an insight into how users perceive and interpret the work. All of these elements seem small, but they are the vital tools on a UI designer’s belt.


differences between UI and UX design


At the end of the day, the role of the UI designer is both visual and interactive as well as conclusive for any digital interface. They are the ones who make users remember the brand, and eventually trust it. They are the link between a successful company and its users.



Summing up on the differences between UI and UX design. Both UI and UX design work with each other and offer varied career paths. But, there are some key differences between the pattern of their work and the needed skills. 


The UX designer needs problem-solving skills and an approach that is analytical and creative at the same time. So although their focus is strictly on the user experience, they still need to understand the basic UI principles. Similarly, the UI designer needs to understand the basic user experience principles but their focus is on the visuals.



Every product has its own UI and UX design. In order to make it more successful, be sure to invest enough time and effort to have a better understanding of how to improve them and make them easy to be worked with and pleasant to be looked at. This is possibly one of the most important aspects of developing in order to make your product more successful. 

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