UI VS UX DESIGN: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
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UI is the saddle, the stirrups, and the reigns.
UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse, and rope your cattle.
At least that’s what they used to say in the olden days. Rather, that is what I wished they’d say. Despite how simple that may have sounded, there are many complications and misconceptions when it comes to the differences between UI and UX design, and they cause the design community to go into quite a stir whenever they are brought up.
An interesting note to that is that I’ve found the people who work at jobs with titles such as Interaction Designer to get paid more simply because they know and act on the differences between those two fields (typically harnessing a little of both). And in fact, I think there are more differences in the people behind these roles than the ideas behind UI and UX design.
Let’s jump right into a standardized definition that we will try to metaphorically elaborate on. Defined very simply a User Interface design is the part of the product that faces the user when he looks at the site, and the User Experience is how they feel when they look at the site, aka the broad scope.
More pointedly, good user experience is the art of a drill going through wood, or a surfboard gliding through water effortlessly. The feelings those give you is unparalleled because they just work, simple as that. Though, in contrast, the shape of that board that helps it make those turns on the wave is good UI, and the surfwax on the top so you don’t slip off is also good UI. In short, the ENTIRE package is what makes it good UX, whereas good UI is always a very important inner-element of that.
Just look at that image; that is such a glorious illustration of exactly how much is incorporated in User Experience design. Now you can tell why the people in these roles have to be able to think critically and creatively on an almost constant basis. Though, don’t be thrown off if you are a bit confused thus-far, because we have indeed mainly related UX and UI design to physical products like the surfboard, or animals like the horse.
The reason for that is, this is obviously a bit of a confusing topic, and it is mainly that way because it is heavily fractured. That is, little pieces of one make up the larger view of the other, and that can be sort of confusing or challenging to a lot of people. But even designers have a hard time with it, so don’t feel let down.
Let’s imagine that we convert those ideas we already spoke about into the web or mobile spaces. The UI would be a series of buttons and how they look, and the UX would say that button should physically press down when you click it. The responsiveness of being clicked, and then having the button pressed down on a 2D website is so satisfying after all, how could a designer not do it? Well, it happens all the time, and I think we get spoiled by the ones that do.
For instance, I have been to tons of sites that have nice big beautiful buttons with shadows under them like they are just itching to be clicked on, and then when you do, they don’t inset into the page. No responsive animation, and all I know is that it makes me feel disappointed in the design or designer of that product.
Now, I don’t believe that is because I am some sort of weird button elitist, but instead I think it is because that is how powerful good user experience is. I believe that when we come into contact with user experience that is so over the top, and so amazing (as the buttons that inset are, for some reason) then we literally feel like all things should be that awesome. Of course, I wouldn’t judge an entire product because some buttons don’t press down, but that is a big part of how I feel in that given moment going to press that button.
There are tons of outside factors that influence how we feel on a website at any given time, and we need to do all we can to make sure that website presents itself in such a way that we curb all those outside influences into not being as apparent as the inner-influences of our UX is. In general, always think of UX as an umbrella that houses all the points that make up your product’s experience, in the now, in the future (though that’s some strategy), and in the past.
When everyone decided that true beauty online meant a lot, it really took a lot of us by the reigns (horses again, I know), but it actually did. We all took notice, we all started to become obsessed with these products that were designed with these amazing little UI facets that sort of have become overly worn by now. jQuery has had an effect, responsive media queries in CSS have had an effect, so too has the actual design.
It has been argued time and time again, based on all this talk regarding UX and Interaction, is how someone feels on a 2D website actually important at all? Well, if you are trying to get conversions it is; if you are trying to get people to be fascinated by your product or blog it is; if you are trying to get people to understand you it is; if you are trying to get people to listen to you it is; if you are trying to get people to spread your message it is; if you are trying to get people to do pretty much anything then yes, it is very important.
I’m sure you can tell that yourselves, but the reason we often have this seemingly unnecessary debate is that designers who are in one field really don’t know how to define themselves. And for good reason. Designers often end up doing a number of different jobs within the design realm, and that is why it is actually even more important to find someone who knows exactly what they do best and how they fit into the team – unless of course you are looking for a jack of all trades.
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