UX and UI: two terms used interchangeably but meaning different things

Many of us are not aware of the difference between UX and UI design, and use these terms interchangeably, which as you may have guessed is not quite correct. UI deals with the interaction between users and computer systems, software and applications, UX deals with the overall user experience with a brand, product or service. This article will analyse these terms, and how they are related and what the difference between UI and UX is.

What are UX and UI in the first place?

In fact, both have existed for decades as two separate professions, and have been defined by the technology industry as UX and user interface design. Both are central to the development of a digital product and work closely together. However, despite their professional relationship, their roles are quite different, and importantly relate to very different aspects of the product development process and design discipline. By designing with user needs in mind, usually through user research and testing, UX contributes to a better customer experience. UI tends to do more with the actual functions of the device e.g. screen, buttons, scrolling functions and sound.

Difference between UI and UX

There are many differences between UI and UX – but the most general is that UI enables the user to interact with a digital product; whereas UX is their (emotional) experience and response to that interaction. Expanding on this theme, it is important to touch on the user interface, which is specifically about digital devices and the ability of people to use them.User experience is a term that deals more broadly with the interaction with a brand, product or service. Once the skeleton of the product has been mapped, the UI designer must bring it to life. The UI designer considers all the visual aspects, including all the different screens and touchpoints that the user may encounter. At this time, the UX designer plans the journey and the UI designer focuses on all the details that make that journey possible. When it comes to UI and UX design, while the roles may differ (and can even be sub-categorised as we see the growing popularity of roles and disciplines such as content designer, interaction design and UX writer), it’s not about choosing one or the other. The whole development process is about having both and realising their similarities and differences.

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