Many misinterpretations exist among people concerning UX and UI, and the terms are used interchangeably and together to define a specific part of the web/app design and development process. 

In simple terms, UX/UI design is part of the web design/development process, which is a subset of the entire product development cycle. From the user’s perspective, it should come across as a delightful or memorable experience, but beneath the principles of UX/UI is the art and science of making things usable — be it an app, a website, a physical product or a digital platform. 

Let’s first understand the phases of the bigger cycle of web/ app development. 

The main stages of a product development cycle include:

  • Concept and content creation
  • Sitemap, Prototyping, wireframes to create the underlying architecture of the website/app. 
  • Creating the visual design
  • Site/app development (coding, programming)
  • Testing and launching

Within the above stages, UX/UI design plays a crucial role. Core components of a good UX/UI design are: 

  1. Vision/strategy: What is the goal of the product/service? What is the value you’re offering? The information architecture is built accordingly using UX/UI design principles.
  1. Wireframes: Wireframe is a working sample of the application and is created to check the looks, features, usability, and functionality of the app before it is launched. It is a layout of a web page that shows what interface elements will display on critical pages. 
  1. Interactive/visual design: This involves prototyping various elements that will interact with the user and how they will appear. For instance, ‘will there be a drop-down sub-menu in the navigation bar’, ‘what type of typography will increase readability?’ and all such factors. 
  1. Usability: This is heightened when the underlying design decisions align with user-centred approaches through intensive use of data and insights from experience, experimentation and feedback. The usability depends on a well-made wireframe in the early stages and constant improvements throughout the design cycle. 

What do UX/UI designers do?

UX roles

  • Researching and analysing user requirements in the context of product/service 
  • Create interactive prototypes, user journeys, sitemaps, user flows and personas

UI roles

  • Visual design and concept creation
  • Designing and choosing images, typography, space, layouts, colors, etc. 

Understanding UX design

UX design is a much broader field than UI as it considers the whole gamut of the customer-facing aspect of the interaction, from the moment the customer opens the website/app down to the call to action and everything in between. 

Wikipedia defines UX as “User experience (UX or UE) is about how a user interacts with, and experiences, a particular product, system or service. It includes a person’s perceptions of utility, ease of use, and efficiency.” According to ISO, the three factors form the basis are the system, the user and the context of use (the ensuing of the experience during and after use).

UX is subjective. Different factors come into play. Some designs may be elegant, inviting, and on point, yet a minor technical glitch or even a bad internet connection can ruin a user’s experience. On the other hand, a user’s emotions, behaviors, triggers, preferences can influence their individual user experience even though the website or app may be expertly designed. 

The role of UX/UI is of vital importance in the technical development of the product and how the user will receive it. Let’s go deeper to have a detailed understanding.

UX designer is short for ‘user experience design’ while UI means ‘user interface design’. 

UX Design is designing digital or physical products with optimum ease and valuable functionality that generate maximum delight and satisfaction. It encompasses strategies for leaving a positive or productive experience after a user goes through a series of interactions with a device, platform or product. 

The functions of UX design

UX design has a core function of controlling the environment. The user interacts with the product/website or app, recording and acknowledging user feedback and reducing and eliminating negative emotions and feedback. While efficient UX design focuses on improving usability, functionality, accessibility, and service quality through neatly designed wireframes, pleasant visuals, and customer-first features, the effort is also to yield higher revenues for the company. 

UX is solely user-centred and integrates all aspects of the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the product or website to understand and serve the user’s motivations in the context of use. 

It includes everything the user will see, touch and feel, such as navigation menu, buttons, call to action, and visual elements like color palettes, copy, content, photographs and videos. S deeper dive into the layers of UX also includes the subliminal messaging and promotional features or products that you want to divert the user’s attention to, such as a new product launch or overall messaging. 

A good UX  design ensures that the website navigation process is easy and smooth, technically functional, or else the user loses interest and leaves the page. For example, if the checkout takes too long, pages don’t load, or the copy is wordy and vague, the user loses interest and drops out, increasing the bounce rate. 

The elements of a good UX design

  • Intelligently designed IA

Information Architecture is the underlying mechanics of how the content will be structured, how the software will be used, how the content will be organised and labelled on each page, maintaining effective search systems and coding easy to use navigation functions.

  • Visually appealing design

The user should be lured in by the aesthetics of the design and how colors, words, images, shapes, patterns are blended to create an attractive vision. At the same time, it should be designed to align with the brand image and message. 

  • Interactive

Users should be able to get from one place to another easily and quickly with the least effort. All the elements like words and visuals should work together to invite the user in, acknowledge their need, perform the intended task with ease and make the interaction personalised and pleasurable.

  • Usability

UX should focus extensively on how easy to use the product is. An actual user-centred design is effective, efficient, engaging, error-tolerant, easy to learn or use. 

Understanding UI 

UI goes hand in hand with UX and comprises

of the aesthetic appearance of the website/app, response time, and the content contained within. The main elements of Graphical User Interface include GUI include windows, pull-down menus, buttons, scroll bars, icons, all designed with a theme and attractive visuals. There can also be the voice and gesture-controlled interfaces. 

UX and UI’s difference is that UX is the whole car, while UI is the driver’s seat. Another analogy is that UX is the body and flesh of while UI is the skin, hair and nails. 

A UI designer is responsible for handling spacing, typography, brand language, icons, illustrations, colors and graphic design. The buttons for action and navigation features are also in aesthetic alignment with the overall strategy. The focus of UI is the visual touch points that users will interact with, which is why UI designers also aim for responsive design and consider techniques that visually guide the user through a product’s interface in a way that is intuitive, clutter-free and smooth. The idea is to simplify everything for the user and never confuse or annoy them with unnecessary delays, links and a general lack of usability. 

UI/UX designer tools are Sketch, Adobe XD, Balsamiq, Axure, InVision Studio, Craft, Figma, and UXcam. UI is created in layers of interaction that appeal to the five human senses and considers the attractiveness of the website while never losing sight of the technical aspects like labels, search features (search bar) and organization systems (categories).

UX designers have to factor in the product’s goals and functionality, while UI designers can purely focus on the quality of the user’s interaction with the product.

Suppose UX revolves around business and technical aspects like focus groups, market research and defining strategic goals and ROI growth. In that case, UI can be more about the conceptual art, beauty, and feel of the final product. 

UX is part of the fundamental strategic and planning aspect of the product development cycle, i.e. from conceptualization, production, coding, testing and development and meeting business objectives; however, UI specialises in the core design aspects. 

Good UX/UI design is all about putting the user first. Simplicity works wonders, the fewer the options, the better the experience for the user.

To summarise, UX and UI should work together to improve user experience and customer satisfaction and increase the number of new visitors and loyal users. A company must adopt the best and latest UX/UI standards and practices to garner its confidence in the website or application.