UI vs. UX design

  • Started
  • Last post
  • 174 Responses
  • gramme

    I can't figure out what the difference is between these two disciplines. I came across some definitions here: http://startupsthisishowdesignwo… that seem largely redundant.

    Why are these separate disciplines for some firms/agencies? Isn't consideration of user experience an intrinsic part of design for any medium? What exactly does a UX designer do that's different from a UI designer? If UI is about "how," and UX is about "why," it seems silly for a distinction to be made. Every designer should first ask why, and only then think about how.

    I'm sure some will think this is a daft question, but I come from the small studio world, where print, UI, UX, and art direction all get rolled into one. The only valuable distinction I can see in interactive work is between designer and developer.

  • monospaced0

    I share your confusion. I thought the ideas of user interface and experience were kind of implied in the word "design" when combined with titles such as "web" or "interactive."


    The UX part could be done by one person, and the UI by another. Although one could do it all, there's a difference. UX will define how it works, how we interact with it. UI will style it, define how it looks.

    • explain further, pleezealicetheblue
    • Then, if there are two people doing this, where the fuck does the ACTUAL designer come into play?monospaced
    • lol monospacedalicetheblue
    • Better done by one person, IMO.ETM
    • Always thought the UX "experience" styled it. The "UI" comes from wireframes, etc, which define workflow.Peter
  • alicetheblue0

    whaaaaa I have always been confused, too

  • monospaced1


    I thought the "design" would define how it works. Meaning, if it's an effective design, it's easy to use. This makes having a dedicated UX guy kind of pointless, in my opinion. Likewise, having an interface guy seems redundant as, once again, a successful interface is a result of a good "design." Why a "designer" can't cover these roles is beyond me still.

    • Most designers do cover these roles, or considers UX and UI as part of the design process.goldieboy
    • But, I have a UX designer who just wireframes for me. They look at the whole journey/process from A-Zgoldieboy
    • UI designers are, to me, the guys that do the initial art working based on the creative direction CTAgoldieboy
  • gramme0

    This is like ye olde tymes when we saw designers, typesetters, and compositors all working on the same thing.

    I wonder if the UI/UX distinction in roles will disappear in similar fashion.

    • All overseen by a creative director, design director, and type director. Mercy.gramme
    • Mad Men style.monospaced
  • orrinward21

    For me the confusion lies when people talk about User Interface as part of 'The Users Experience'.

    Visual design of layout elements

    Conceptual design of a users flow through a system or product.

    How Barry gets from landing page to making a purchase on bigshoppingsite.com is UX

    What Barry has to click on on the landing page to sign in, and where the navigation is on the page that has 'Add to cart/Checkout' is UI.

    UX = What happens
    UI = What it looks like.

    Other people argue other points but I think they're fools.

    I work as a UX/UI designer and typically the first thing I do when adding new content/functionality to our site is I produce User Flow diagrams that have no visual layout whatsoever, just a list of what components are needed on what pages. We iterate this until it is refined to the simplest and most intuitive feeling process, then I produce mocks for it.

    Well Designed Interface ≠ Strong User Experience

    • bingokona
    • Your definition of UX overlaps largely with that of IA.zarkonite
    • I always thought UX was what IA became. I rarely see the IA used much anymore.voiceof
  • dijitaq0

    ux is when you design the functions of the website. let say the process a user goes through when they click the sign-up button. a bit like storyboarding when you make a movie. where as ui, is creating the interface while the user goes througj the sign-up process.

    it's how someone describef it to me.


    I never said they should be done by separated persons, just pointed out their differences and that they COULD be done by different persons. It's the same as having people doing different aspects of a work at big agencies, they separate the fuck out of everything. They're both design works that complement each other, and are normaly done by one person / team at the same time.

  • orrinward20

    @mono - I agree that a good designer will be capable of doing it all, but separating the roles can (not always) really help reduce the risk of unsuccessful design iterations.

    If you have the responsibility of creating a webpage for someone and you roll your UX/UI into one iteration and either aspect is a failure point then you have to do both processes again.

    I think when small/medium shops start recruiting a 'UX Designer' and a 'UI Designer' they are simply recruiting 2 'Designers' that when under stress specialise in either making the buttons look nice or making sure the user can always see how much money they're spending.

  • ukit20

    Better to think of them as descriptive terms rather than mutually exclusive. Just like you can be a painter, conceptual artist, etc at the same time, user experience designer, UI designer, interaction designer are all overlapping terms that mean slightly different things.

    User experience is usually meant to suggest knowledge of usability principles and a process based approach that includes wireframing, user flow diagrams etc. I think the term was invented by Jacob Nielsen's company, and then popularized when Jesse James Garett (same guy who came up with the term AJAX) published a book called The Elements of User Experience.

    These days if you look at UI/ interactive jobs, most of them will say UX designer because they want someone who has some knowledge of usability and wireframing even if the job also includes visual design.

    • Makes sense.gramme
    • UX is that, plus the knowing the "USER"... some UX people go outside to meet the final user .... is not just "wireframing"valentim
  • monospaced0

    So, that being said. What qualifies one as a UI or UX specialist? Do web designers/developers move into these areas, or are they just given to people who say, "I browse the web all the time, so I trust that I know how to recognize a good user experience and interface?" Is this taught in school, or are the titles self-appointed?

  • dijitaq0

    that's very true. my last two interviews i was asked if i had any experience in creating website flow diagrams and wireframing skills before they ask to see my portfolio.

    though i think it's a buzz word that employers have caught on to. i think even before the term was coined, i always have included

  • dijitaq0

    flow diagrams and wireframing in the process. just didn't have a name for it

  • ukit20

    monospaced, I guess a human-computer interaction degree or human factors would be the closest thing. I've also met people working at places like Microsoft and Google who have degrees in cognitive psychology or ethnography or apply that to user experience.

    But a degree is really not required...for the most part employers are just looking for a demonstrated understanding of the concepts involved. And some portfolio work that shows the ability.

  • gramme0

    So you could say that UI is a part of UX, but not the other way around.

    Again, I think any designer working in any medium should be able to discover both the why and the how.

    That said, I do like the focus on psychology and anthropology one sees in UX theory. I think these studies should be required for design students. In my experience, they are conspicuously absent from design curriculum, as are courses in business and sales.

  • kona0

    ux and ui design should go hand-in-hand, never in silos. our ux team here starts the what happens discussion, then creates use cases, wires and testing environments, multiple iterations of the process. this usually happens with ui taking a secondary roll. ui then takes over and gives the wires a visual life, making any adjustments as needed. ux will then come back and if needed test the visuals here and there.

    they really are two separate things. you can get a guy to do both, but what inevitably happens is they start making ui design decisions during the ux stage thinking visually, before they solve structurally and functionally.

  • lukus_W20

    While there's a lot of debate about the subject, UX is an umbrella term for a number of separate disciplines - each of which go towards providing a successful user experience.

    This diagram gives one interpretation:

    UI design doesn't necessarily have to take stock of context, psychology or the motivation of users.

    A lot of UX practice involves researching problems that users currently (and potential will) experience with products and systems .. which allows hypotheses to be drawn about the best way forward.

    • fuck me, is there no room for a regular designer anymore?monospaced
    • just call yourself an art director and boss all those people around.zarkonite
    • too bad information architecture is a dead industry, better handled by graphic designersomg
  • ksv1230
  • zarkonite0

    UX + UI = IA
    IA + AD = Visual Design (VD)
    CD + VD = Product (P)
    P + AM = $$


    • your math looks interesting,i'm not sure about the IA part:) Most of the people think that IA is just about organizing the content, but it's also how to deliversted
    • Pretty sure P + AM is Pammisterhow
  • ukit20

    A lot of the confusion stems from the fact that like lukus said, people don't 100% agree about what these terms mean. The separation between UX and visual design that kona is talking about is pretty common, but if someone brought up "UI design" to me I wouldn't be 100% sure they were only talking about the visual design aspect.

    And if you look up UI design on Wikipedia it doesn't refer to it that way...the term really predates that separation. Also at big tech companies they often refer to their entire design department - visual and all - as "User Experience."