When it comes to any development project, the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are fundamental. However, the two important terminologies are frequently confused. While it might seem like they’re describing the same thing, they are in fact distinct disciplines that go hand in hand to achieve the ultimate goal of user satisfaction. That means that for every development project you work on, the team needs to have distinct skill sets as well as the ability to collaborate towards achieving the end goal.
Defining UX and UI
The first step towards understanding how UX and UI can work together is understanding what they are and how they work in their own right:
- User experience relates to the overall experience that the user has while interacting with a product. The aim, of course, is to ensure the user experience is as positive as possible. To achieve that, UX designers need to understand the needs, expectations and mindsets of their users before designing the product. So, UX is the design of the internal experience that a user has and constitutes any action that causes a reaction.
- The user interface, on the other hand, is any medium that facilitates the interaction between humans and machines. These interactions often occur through screens as graphical user interfaces operated via touch but can also be menu-driven or voice-controlled. So, the UI is the design of any interactive elements that help the user to navigate and interact with a digital product.
Based on these definitions, it’s easy to see that UI and UX aren’t the same thing. An excellent user experience is the aim, but the user interface plays a big part in achieving that. In a world full of competitive marketplaces, it’s crucial for developers to address both UI and UX elements during the design process.
The Relationship Between UX And UI
UI and UX have an incredibly close relationship, but they have subtle yet noticeable differences. When they work together, developers are able to deliver unforgettable user experiences through cleverly optimised user interfaces. To help understand the relationship, there are some key differences when it comes to the core focus of the two disciplines:
- Cognitive vs Technical – UX focuses on cognitive science and how a product impacts and influences a user. UI is far more technical and provides a digital interface to facilitate interactions.
- Needs vs Usability – UX focuses on core user problems and tries to design a solution. UI focuses on how that solution will appear and operate to deliver the solution.
- Feel vs Function – UX is all about how the user feels when engaging with a product. UI is much more functional and is about how the user interacts with the product.
The concepts of UX and UI rarely exist in isolation when it incomes to digital products and have an incredibly close relationship in design thinking. The moment the UI design involves the user, it touches on the UX. In fact, the UI needs to impact the user to be able to add value. UI design patterns are often used that cater to common problems like payment pages, which saves time during development. However, these patterns need to be adapted, so they suit the context of the specific product and user to ensure the user experience isn’t negatively affected. While the development team wants the user to notice the experience they have when using the product, they don’t necessarily want them to notice the user interface. The better it works, the more seamlessly it blends into the background so the experience can shine through.
The Collaborative Development Process
To develop an incredible digital product, collaboration and communication between UI and UX designers are fundamental. After all, that is the only way to create an intuitive, interactive and functional design that delivers an exceptional experience. What’s more, by working well together, the team will be more productive and deliver greater value. When it comes to a development project, UX should always come first before UI design. The UX designer should be involved throughout the whole project, ensuring the user is always kept front of mind. The UI designer, on the other hand, is needed within a given time frame to add visual and interactive elements. It’s all about laying strong foundations first.
UX and UI design tasks do often overlap, but often for large-scale projects there will be separate design teams. User experience should always come first before product development begins. The work of the UX designer includes identifying user needs and then mapping user journeys. The designer focuses on the steps a user needs to take to achieve a specific goal and works to make that process as simple and satisfying as possible. The question always comes back to what the product needs to do to solve the user’s problems and give them an excellent experience.
Once the bare bones of functionality are mapped out, the UI designer can start designing the visual aspects of the solution, assuming there is a screen involved rather than a voice-activated interface. When it comes to graphical user interfaces, the UI designer will consider things like the design of buttons, how users will scroll or move between screens and what happens when forms are completed or information is entered. UI design is far from superficial, however. The choice of colours, fonts and interactive elements can all impact usability and, therefore, the overall user experience.
Finding the Right Team For Your Next Development Project
UX and UI design are both crucial to any digital product development project. If they don’t work well together, you can end up with something that looks incredible but offers very little value. Alternatively, you could have a great concept for solving a real user problem, but without the visual elements that make the product easy to use and aesthetically pleasing, the user experience won’t deliver on its promises. To make sure your next development project is a success, it’s vital to ensure your design and development team have the right skill sets as well as the ability to work collaboratively to deliver an incredible user experience.