As we’ll see further into this article, there is a lot of nuance to UI/UX design. It's very common to attribute different meanings to this term, depending on the context where it’s used.
UI/UX design combines the terms UI and UX, which are each two separate fields within design. Many designers who create apps and websites, refer to themselves as UI/UX designers, because they have experience in both fields. Other designers will specialize in either UI or UX design, and will therefore be either a UI or UX designer.
Although the terms UI and UX are used interchangeably, or together as one term, they are technically two quite different disciplines.
In many cases, people who need to hire a designer to create let’s say an app, think they need a UX designer to do the job. Although it might be a good idea to hire a designer with UX experience for an app project, depending on the actual needs in a particular project, hiring a UX designer might be a big mistake, when the project actually needs a UI designer.
The reason why it’s so important to differentiate between UI and UX design, is because these two disciplines are fundamentally completely different.
A UI designer focuses on creating the visual aesthetic of an interface, while a UX designer is responsible for understanding what a user wants through research and testing.
UI design is all about creating the visual part of an interface. Anything from the layout structure, to elements such as buttons, typography and color.
A user interface or UI for short, refers to any system that a user can interact with. In most cases, a UI designer will only design a user interface that involves a screen, with elements that can be interacted with on that screen.
A UI designer with a lot of experience will be able to create complex design systems, which makes it easier to create applications that are scalable, and to update the design when improvements are made.
Ideally, the structure of the design file should mirror how a developer will code it, to avoid any inconsistencies or misunderstandings.
UX design is a process of creating a product with a user experience that is both relevant and meaningful to the user.
A very common framework to follow in UX design, is the design thinking process. Where the UX designer spends a lot of time researching what the user wants, comes up with a possible solution, tests the solution, and then makes improvements until the design is good enough to be implemented.
When designing an app, it makes sense to begin with UX design research, to understand what the user is looking for, and then come up with a solution that solves the challenges the user is facing.
Although a UX designer can create the design files for an app, it makes sense to hire a UI designer to design the app itself, based on the findings of a UX designer.
Both research and design take a lot of time, and it’s difficult to become really good at both of these responsibilities. Therefore, it’s ideal to hire two designers who each specialize in UI and UX design to get the best possible outcome.
In terms of project workflow, it’s really helpful when a UI designer can make decisions based on previous research by a specialist in UX. And also for the UI designer to send off a new design for testing to a UX researcher, who can do live testing with users to find out if the solution is the right one or not.
It’s not very helpful when a UI designer needs to split his attention between design and research. Instead, a UI designer can continue making improvements on the design, and come up with new concepts while someone else responsible for UX is doing the testing.
Although UI and UX design are very different skills, it is helpful when a designer has an understanding of both, which makes it easier to communicate and deliver on expectations in a team.
UI/UX design is an essential part of creating any app or website. It’s a predictable way to design a product with an experience that users will enjoy, which results in more sales for the business, and a stronger brand long term.
If you are designing a product without a good UI/UX design strategy, you are essentially guessing what decisions you have to make to create the outcome you are looking for.
Ideally, the UI/UX design process should be used to first gain a good understanding of who the user is, and what the user expects to see in a product. Based on this research, a prototype should be designed. And then test it with users, to figure out if there is anything that should be changed.
Once all necessary changes are made to the prototype based on user feedback, the design can then be implemented as a live product.
Depending on your previous experience with the design of products such as an app or web service, it can be easy to think that all you need is a developer who can do everything. From designing mockups in a design software, to developing a production app.
The drawback of not splitting up the responsibilities between several people, is the lack of specialization. A developer will generally be best at the development of an app, while a UI/UX designer will be better at design. Choosing the right person for the job, is much better than someone who has limited knowledge about another field.