UI/UX designers: what do they do?
If you work in a digital space, you’ve probably heard the terms UI and UX mentioned quite often. Both of them are very important when it comes to designing a web page or application. While they share a lot of similarities, they fundamentally deal with different things. If you’re curious about UI/UX design and about the difference between UI and UX, you’ve come to the right place.
What is UI?
UI stands for User Interface. UI design refers to the visual elements of a website or app. How the screens, buttons, and icons are presented is all a part of UI design. The point of interaction between a user and a digital device (like your smartphone) is called the user interface. A UI designer will focus on creating an attractive layout that visually guides a user through the product experience. This includes choosing appropriate fonts and colours, making good use of white space, and designing the interactive elements of a digital product such as buttons, text fields, and drop-down menus.
What is UX?
UX stands for User Experience. UX design deals with all the aspects of an end user’s interaction with a company’s products. While in theory, UX design is not necessarily digital – we can talk about the UX of objects like sofas and cars as well – the use of the term does generally refer to the experience that users have with digital products. UX design has to take into account how the user feels, and how easy it is for someone to complete their tasks. It focuses on the entire experience that a user has and not just the visuals.
What’s the difference between UI and UX?
In short, the primary difference between UI design and UX design is that UI design focuses on the visuals of a digital product while UX design focuses on the overall experience a user has with a product, digital or not. That being said, when it comes to digital products, both UI and UX are critical. They go hand in hand, and it is essential for every product to have both. You can think of the UX as the base on which the UI is built. Here’s a simple analogy – imagine that you have a blank canvas. The sketch that you do is the UX, and the paint that you put on top is the UI. The UX by itself, without any colour, feels bland and unfinished. On the other hand, the UI by itself would be like splatters of paint – it might look attractive, but it wouldn’t have any form or function. This is absolutely fine when it comes to art, but a web application that doesn’t have a function is pretty useless.
What does a UI designer do?
After the UX designer finishes prototyping the web page or application, the UI designer’s job begins. They take the skeleton of the application and design the visual elements to make the product more appealing. They have to choose the right elements to make sure that the layout is both aesthetic and easy to understand. In order to do this well, a UI designer must do a lot of research to stay on top of current design trends. They should look at what their competitors are doing, as well as take note of what appeals to their user base. UI design is also closely linked to branding. The look and feel of a digital product have to be consistent with the brand of the company that creates it. For example, a business whose target audience is young children would probably create a brand identity that is fun and playful. This personality of the brand has to come through in the design of its digital products as well. That means that the UI designer has to choose appropriate colours and typographic elements to make the application feel playful. UI designers often try to make their interfaces animated and interactive to appeal to audiences.
What does a UX designer do?
A UX designer has to think about the entire journey that a customer will take with their product. This means that they have to have a solid understanding of their target audience. While both UI and UX designers have to do a lot of research, that of a UX designer will be geared primarily toward users. They can do their research by conducting interviews and user tests. User interviews will help a UX designer understand what customers need. This will help them to create the best possible user flow. Since they primarily focus on the functioning of a digital product, they have little say over how the finished product will look. Once a UX designer has a prototype, they can get more data by conducting user tests. This will help them to understand what works in their design and what doesn’t. The best way to leverage this research tool is by conducting tests throughout the design process and tweaking the product based on every piece of feedback.
Despite all these differences, there is an overlap between UI design and UX design.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, both of them play an equally important role in the successful creation of a digital product, and neither can exist without the other. UI designers have to work closely with UX designers to make sure that they clearly understand the role of the project. While each role requires its own skill set, there are some skills that are equally important to both UI and UX designers: Empathy is one example of such a skill. Both UI and UX designers need to be able to empathise with their users in order to build and design products that will be appealing. If they can understand not only what a user wants, but also what will be frustrating for users, they can create better experiences.
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