UI vs UX: What’s The Difference?
Whether you’re an aspiring designer or a current designer that wants to design a user interface to optimize your website design for user experience, it’s important to first acknowledge the differences between the two. Before diving in, I want to remind you not to get hung up on the specific terminology as each term is being redefined in the design industry. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) don’t mean the same thing they did ten years ago, and they won’t mean the same in ten years as they do now at the rate that the design industry is actively evolving. However, having a solid understanding of user interface vs user experience will provide current and aspiring designers with a stronger grasp on how tasks between designers are connected.
What Is User Interface?
When you think about user interface designs, think of any element that a user is likely to interact with on a website. Screens, keyboards, audio, lights and touchscreens are some things that users interact with when browsing a website or using a product on a computer. Simple enough, right
Well, it wasn’t this simple back when computers first became available to the general population. In order to work a computer in the 1970s, users needed to enter a line of code. This required a knowledge of the coding language, which meant that the average person couldn’t access a computer. With the 1980s came innovation that enabled people with no coding knowledge to use their computers via elements such as menus, checkboxes and buttons.
Fast forward to today, where everyone who is fortunate enough has access to computers in their homes, at school, at work or at their fingertips on a mobile device. UI designers now have the responsibility to ensure that the design of a screen or a website creates a seamless experience for the user. In other words, you could say that the various user interface designs contribute to a user’s overall experience with a product, website, etc.
What Is The User Experience?
The term “user experience” was coined in the 1990s by cognitive scientist, Don Norman, who worked for Apple. Here’s how he defined user experience:
“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
Some could argue that this definition is broad in the sense that “user experience” includes any and all interactions that a person could potentially have with any product or service - digital or not. Regardless of the specific definition, Don Norman encapsulates what today’s digital UX designers strive to accomplish on a day-to-day basis: laying the foundation for a website’s visual and functional capabilities to create a frictionless experience for the end user.
User Interface vs User Experience: How Do They Relate?
Although UI vs UX design definitions vary slightly, they work closely in that one would not be successful without the other. Let’s pretend that you’re online shopping, and you stumble upon a beautiful website that appears to follow all the eCommerce design principles that it needs to convert users into customers. You continue to click around the site and realize everything is not as it appears. The CTA buttons don’t direct you to other pages; a few of the buttons in the navigation menu don’t work and the site takes a long time to load.
Nuisances like these all contribute to a negative user experience, leaving people dissatisfied and frustrated when they exit out of the website. Even though the user interface looked beautiful when you landed on the site, the user experience makes the likelihood of returning to shop again on that site extremely low. In this circumstance, the user interface alone cannot sustain the website and drive revenue without a positive user experience.
The same concept works in reverse. As an eCommerce design agency, Groove Commerce works with clients to analyze their business goals, competition, buyer personas and website history to create user journeys that move users through the sales funnel. From there, we use the client’s overall strategy to design the website’s wireframes and architecture. This step lays the foundation of the front end of the client’s website. We can do all the user research and testing we want to ensure that the user experience is top tier, but if the client has design errors and a messy user interface, such as dark text on a dark background, then users will likely be disappointed when shopping around on the client’s website and exit out.
eCommerce merchants cannot have a successful, revenue-driving website without designing for user experience and creating a frictionless user interface. These two elements work together to create the best possible experience for people that browse a website.
When analyzing user interface vs user experience, remember that they’re a package deal. So if you’re looking to work with an eCommerce design agency to launch your website, be on the lookout and ask questions about how their design team can help in both aspects.
If you’re an experienced designer looking for a new career, whether it be in graphic design, product design or UX content writing, we hope you leverage your newfound knowledge of UI vs UX design in your interview and land your dream role!
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