UI & UX: What’s the difference when designing awesome digital products?
UX or User Experience is a buzzword that has been adopted and bounced around by designers and developers for decades. However, as UX became a more commonly used term in marketing and corporate level discussions, it’s not uncommon for the term to be referenced incorrectly and mixed up with another design component: UI or User Interface.
User Experience (UX) versus User Interface (UI) – what’s the difference?
So what is the difference between User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) when it comes to digital design?
Can the terms be used interchangeably to describe the same thing?
Let’s look at each component and understand the vital role of both UI and UX play in the bigger picture of human-centred design.
User Interface (UI) in Digital Design
User Interface (UI) is any touchpoint a user can interact with when using a digital product.
In today’s digital environment, UI designers have almost limitless opportunities when designing websites, mobile apps and smart home devices for use on computers, mobile devices, augmented and virtual reality and screenless interfaces such as voice and gesture activated devices (a sector which is becoming ever more popular in itself).
User Experience (UX) in Digital Design
User Experience (UX) on other hand is the experience the intended end user takes away from interacting with a digital product or service.
So what does that mean?
In simple terms, the User Interface (UI) is a bridge that connects you between two points, getting you to where we want to go. User Experience (UX) is the feeling you get while travelling on that bridge to your destination.
What to consider when designing a great User Experience (UX)
When designing and building digital assets, it’s important to distinguish between what is a User Interface (UI) element and what is User Experience (UX).
The following key principles are a guide to ensure you deliver a great User Experience.
Meet Users Needs
Before starting any design process, you need a clear understanding of what kind of solutions you are offering to meet the needs of the end-user.
Sometimes, what you think the user will do, maybe completely different to what they might actually do and it is important that the journey you take them on improves the users’ overall opinion of your digital product or service.
Most people are creatures of habit and prefer to use and interact with products that feel familiar. The less your UX design goes against the user’s natural digital habits, the better the overall user experience they will have and the easier it will be for them to get used to a new user journey.
Keep a clear hierarchy
There are two aspects when it comes to hierarchy in digital design: informational architecture and visual hierarchy.
Information architecture maps out how your content will be organised. In the example of a website or mobile app, the navigation menu is the most common hierarchy used to structure content in a smooth UX flow.
Visual hierarchy uses elements such as different font sizes, differing colours, main and subheadings to help users differentiate between the importance of the information being delivered.
Be easy to access
As technology and device capabilities continue to advance, it is no longer sufficient to meet the requirements of screen readers to be considered ‘accessible’.
In addition to designing user experiences that are friendly to individuals with disabilities, good UX designers also take into consideration different browser requirements, different methods of connecting to the internet and different mobile device functionality in an effort to remove as many obstacles as possible for the end-user and help them delve deeper into your digital product or service.
Summarizing the relevance of User Interface and User Experience in the world of digital design.
But perhaps the most critical point to remember when undertaking any User Interface (UI) or User Experience (UX) design activities for digital products is that final design decision should not be based solely on the visions of an organisations marketing team or corporate level decision-makers.
Rather, the best UI and UX designers always put needs of the end-user at the forefront of any design, basing solutions around the end-users’ feelings, preferences and needs when interacting with an organisation on their problem-solving journey.