UX vs. UI Design
The term UX design might be ubiquitous but it’s very often misunderstood.
UX design refers to the process of designing while having in mind the experience of the user (User eXperience) i.e. the individual user and their need and how that need is fullfilled is placed at the heart of the design.
This is not a new concept. Louis Sullivan’s quote “Form ever follows function” was clarified by his protégé Frank Lloyd Wright “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one joined in a spiritual union”. In other words, the objective and how the meeting of that objective is executed should be a seamless flow.
This is where the term UI comes into play. UI, User Interface refers to the process of designing the actual visuals to create a successful user experience. Good UX finds the sweet spot between the needs and expectations of the individual on one hand and the objectives of the organisation on the other. Where they overlap is where UX design has the ability to deliver frictionless transaction which is of benefit to both parties through a pleasurable interaction with the product.
UX designers follow a process that takes into account the business goals. The process starts with working on the strategy and content, followed by analysing other competitors, understanidng customers/audiences, defining a product structure and strategy and developing the content.
In order to improve the user experience, at the second stage of the process, UX designers usually create a plan and wireframe and/or prototype.
The UI designer works on the design research, the branding, the interface prototyping, the responsiveness with all devices and browsers and the implementation.
With the popularity of agile techniques, rapid prototyping, MVP (minimal viable product) and lean philosophies, this stage is increasingly iterative with UX and UI designers working hand in hand.
The last phase isn’t really an end with most engaged organisations. The project team work with the UI designer and the developers on the integration, tracking of goals, analysing and iterating the design to encourage conversion.
The data is pivotal. Getting input from third parties helps to improve the quality of the process. User testing is conducted on an ongoing basis but especially during pre and post release. Interviews are helpful for gathering data but it is even better to look at the user’s interaction in situ in order to better understand the way the final customers will behave. We personally like upstart Hotjar and Visual Optimiser (VWO) for this role.
This is the more technical side of the design. UX designers and UI designers don’t have the same tasks but they work closely together in order to create a product that is easy to use and appealing to the user. There is an argument to say that in order to design to the highest standards, a digital designer must have a deep appreciation for both UX and UI.