When dealing with web designers and web developers you may have heard the terms UX and UI thrown around a lot, quite often, interchangeably. While the two certainly have a lot to do with each other, they are by no means one and the same.
UI is the user interface, the tool by which the user interacts with the product. It is a means of communication. UX is user experience, and it is interaction itself.
In a broad sense UI design is what the user sees when they look at the site, UX is how they feel. Both are incredibly important to how well a website will work for the company and for the customer.
UI in brief
While each interface is designed differently according to what the business needs, a successful user interface should have several standard characteristics. It needs to look good, and it must also be clear, as concise as possible and consistent.
A good interface must also be familiar to the user, so they don’t get frustrated trying to find things that just aren’t in the places that they’re meant to be. On a similar note, while images and fonts may make for prettier sites, the interface needs to be efficient. Slow loading images and fonts, or design elements that don’t work on all browsers, need to be replaced with those which work more efficiently.
All the elements take balance and consideration and will make for an interface which should lead a user quite painlessly from start to finish.
UX in brief
So it seems pretty obvious that user experience must include the design element, but there’s a whole lot more to it than just the design side with content strategy and, more importantly, problem solving, playing a large part.
Asking the questions: what does the user want when they come to this site? And what is the best way to give it to them are the starting points for all UX strategies.
It is this strategic process which leads to the answers which then define what is eventually included in the right interface, as well as what content is served to that user.
UI as part of UX
We started by saying that many people often confuse UI and UX but think about this:
A beautifully designed interface with badly written content, a tone that is not appropriate to the audience and a look and feel which, while visually excellent, doesn’t suit the brand, will make for a negative user experience. In other words the UI may be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the user experience will be.
The UI design, which includes visual design and interaction design, aka the look and feel and how those two work together, is a part of the whole user experience.
For both though, there is one overarching parallel and that’s in the name: user. The user is at the front of the design process and the overall user experience strategy.