UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) – the two terms are often used interchangeably. But does that mean that the skill set of a UI designer and UX designer are essentially the same, and that one could do the job of the other?
Unfortunately, there’s no flat out “yes” or “no” answer to this – so let’s begin by understanding the following:
What is UI Design?
UI design is the process of designing interfaces using specific software and/or computerized devices, with the chief focus being on looks and style. UI designers aim to come up with designs that end users find simple and easy to use as well as pleasurable to look at. Your OS interface is a good example.
What is UX Design?
UX design refers to the process of manipulating user behaviour through factors like desirability, accessibility and usability as they interact with a product. UX design traditionally encompasses human-computer interaction design and is, in fact, an extension of that, because it addresses every aspect of a product that users perceive.
Does this sound too technical or plain and boring? Fair enough!
Let’s look at examples of each:
Generic Example of a UI Design vs. UX Design
You go down to your local pizzeria and order your favourite pizza. It arrives and you are absolutely delighted by the presentation – the crust looks nice and crunchy, almost golden, while the ingredients are a symphony of colours that please the eye and whet the appetite.
Metaphorically speaking, this presentation is the responsibility of a UI designer. The UX designer, however, is responsible for all aspects related to the business side of things – as in, how the experience affects a patron. This refers to the smells and feel of the restaurant you’re sitting in, how the waiters interact with you, how quickly the food is put on the table, and so on.
To further build our case, we also need to understand what each designer’s responsibilities are:
Responsibilities of a UI Designer
A UI designer’s responsibilities revolve around the look, visual art and feel of a product – as well as around responsiveness and interactivity, which includes UI prototyping, adaptability to all screen sizes and devices, interactivity and animation, etc.
Responsibilities of a UX Designer
A UX designer’s responsibilities generally revolve around three categories;
Strategy & content, wireframing & prototyping, and execution & analysis.
Final thoughts – Can one be the other?
While there’s no denying the fact that UI and UX are inseparable – UX is a rather broad field which involves a wide skillset and experience. Many UI designers have transitioned into UX designers with enough practice and experience.
And while a UX designer has the ability to create prototypes and wireframes, a UI designer must actively develop the skills to perform extensive research and understand what user empathy is all about in order to create something that boasts an UX design users will fall in love with.
So the skillsets are somewhat unique for both – although one can do the other’s job with enough practice and experience.