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UI vs UX: Unraveling Their Roles in Mobile App & Website Design

by Dragos Ruse
9 minutes read
UI, UX, and Their Differences hypersense

Some of the most overused and confused terms in the design industry are UI and UX, and long debates have been going on since these terms have been around. People have a tendency of using them interchangeably, and this always causes problems. Perhaps the use and meaning of these terms may overlay, but UI and UX have great differences when it comes to their implications. 

We’ll go together through the meaning of these terms and what their differences are in this article. You might have heard that UX is about User Experience while UI is about User Interface, but if you still don’t understand entirely when each one is used, we’ll clarify this further.  

Essential for the mobile app and website design, UI and UX work together closely even though they come from somewhat different places. While the UI is all about visual appeal, focusing design on the look, presentation, and feel of a product, the UX design is all about the enjoyment and effectiveness of actually using a product.

It all comes down to what the user sees (UI) vs what the user experiences (UX).

Some Analogies to Clarify the Confusion

Before we get into more technical details regarding the two, Let’s have a look at some simple analogies to understand the concept of UI and UX. 

Try thinking of a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar. When you enter, you see chairs, tables, cutlery, bottles, and more. This is the user interface you are looking at. But then you’ll feel surrounded by other elements like music, ambiance, lighting, and most important: the food or the drink that makes up the user experience. When you leave the restaurant smiling, it’s because you experienced a wonderful UX.

If you’re still confused, worry not. Let’s go through another example that will enlighten your understanding of these concepts! 

Let’s say you’re designing a car. The UX would be the components that make the functionality of the car, such as the steering system, start/stop system, electrical system, AC system, exhaust, and more elements that determine how all the car’s features connect together.

Once the prototype of the car is done, you can start focusing on the interior design (UI). The seats, the materials, the colors, the buttons and touchscreens, the steering wheel, the seatbelts, etc. are how the driver interacts with the car – the UI. 

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Before we talk about how UI and UX differ from each other but still work together, let’s get deep inside their meaning. 

What is UI (User Interface)?

UI or User Interface means the particular asset or visual touchpoint that the user interacts with. In a simpler manner, it means anything that a user may interact with while he uses a digital product. We are referring to the lookfeel, and interactivity of a digital product every time we are talking about the UI.

The UI design implies creating user interfaces transformed from wireframes, easy to use, and aesthetically delightful. The point of interaction between the digital product and the user is the UI, while the UI design is focused on the interactive elements of the product interface. 

It’s like an experience customized through color, typography, spacing, icons, buttons, grids, and navigation bar. Under the UI comes everything that is there on the screen, from keys to audio, and lighting, making the interaction pleasing.

When using interactive features meant to guide users through the interface of an app or website, we talk about UI. This is a more technical process that optimizes the interaction between users and digital products or devices.

What is UX (User Experience)?

The UX or User Experience is a human-first procedure for designing digital services and products. Don Norman brought the User Experience term to the design scene in the late 90s when he was working for Apple.

He describes UX this way: “User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

UX is a term with a broader meaning and basically applies to everything that can be experienced, from a website to a mobile app, a coffee machine, or a visit to a bar or restaurant. UX resumes to what the customer experiences and feels when using a digital product’s interface.

As an example, let’s suppose you’re using an e-commerce app. In this situation, the UX depends on the ease of finding and buying a product through that app. If you find difficulties when navigating through the categories, finding the product you’re looking for, and experience troubles while searching the ‘Checkout’ button on the screen, before a complete scroll or you have to guess the right icon on the buttons, it comes down to a bad user experience and the potential customer may never return to buy from the e-commerce app.

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The primary goal of UX design is the overall experience when the user interacts with the digital product, by understanding the user’s demands while improving the usability and ease for a nice experience.

The differences between UI and UX?

Dain Miller, a famous web developer, helps us understand the differences between the UI and UX through a great analogy:

Try thinking of riding a horse: the elements that make up the whole riding experience fall under the category of UI. In this example, the stirrups, saddle, and rein make up the UI. UX is the feeling you experience when you’re riding that horse.

All the components that enable the user interaction with a product or service form the UI, while the feeling the user receives while interacting with the products forms the UX.

Key Outcomes

The basic differences between UI and UX:

Which is first, UI or UX?

This question is often confusing and it might have crossed your mind too. The right answer is that the UX (User Experience) comes first and the UI (User Interface) comes second.

While designing a digital product, think of the UX as the parent and the UI as the child. The parent (UX) carries lots of observations, surveys and research to identify the needs of the target audience, before continuing with the UI design.

Even though UI & UX depend on each other while having to work closely together, UX has a slight advantage. A positive experience for your user is created by a good UX design, as it satisfies the user’s needs. A successful product, like a mobile app or a website, requires a good UX design for customer loyalty and satisfaction. Without a good UX, the user is determined to leave your app/website feeling frustration and bitterness about your services, and your goal is to win clients, not lose them.

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So remember that a great digital product starts with a great UX design, and then with a great UI design.

How Do UI & UX Work Together?

Both UI and UX are essential when it comes to a successful product. So if the product looks great but performs badly, this translates into having a great UI and poor UX. If the product has a great usability but looks awful, this translates into having a great UX but poor UI. 

You need to find the right balance between these two. UI and UX work hand in hand. How something looks or feels (UI) plays an important role in the overall user experience (UX).  

We hope you now have a clear understanding of the UI, UX, and their differences. Just recall that UI is all about the look & feel of the digital product, while UX is all about the user’s overall experience with the digital product. 

UI & UX complement one another and go hand in hand, despite being vastly different.

At HyperSense Software, we work with some of the best UI/UX experts and visual designers in our team, passionate about designing human-centric, responsive and interactive mobile & web apps to provide you a superior design experience. Contact us to find out more about what we do and how we can help you! 

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