UX vs UI Design

UX vs. UI Design: Learning the difference

29 April 2020
Ben Smith

Trends come and go – and this is especially true for the web. It is not always easy to differentiate between meaningful concepts and buzzwords. The terms user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) have become firmly established and here I’ll show you what’s behind the acronyms and how they differ.

UI design and UX design or user interface design and user experience design are two of the most frequently used – and confused or mixed – terms in the specialist areas of web design, web development and software development.

Even experienced programmers get stuck here. That is genuinely understandable in several ways. In particular, the fact that both terms are often combined in one name “UI / UX design”, and are de facto technically closely related, make it difficult to make a clear differentiation.

What is UX Design Anyway?

UX or User Experience describes the user’s experience with a website, software, app, etc. It is determined by how they interact with it.

  • Can the latter be done intuitively and without barriers, or are there problems at any point?
  • Does the navigation feel logical or arbitrary?
  • Does the interaction give the user the feeling that they can efficiently solve the tasks within the application? Or is the appropriate use rather tricky?

The user experience is determined by how easy or difficult it is to work with the elements of the user interface.

In order to guarantee a good user experience, user experience designers work closely with the end-users. The user feedback obtained in test runs will be incorporated into further development. It is essential for designers to have a solid understanding of how users (want to) interact with their applications.

What is UI Design?

UI or the user interface describes the perception of a website or software. The user interface is the graphical and functional layout of an application. It consists of the links that the user finally clicks or taps, the text that the user reads, images, icons, sliders, text input fields and all other elements that are interacted with. This also includes the screen layout, animations and every single micro-interaction.

UI designers are responsible for designing the relevant interfaces. They will choose colour schemes, button shapes, and other features to incorporate, as well as the width of each area and the fonts used for the text. User interface designers practically create the appearance and, in some cases, the optimal operation of the user interface of an application.

Most of these specialists are graphic artists, media designers and other programming and design-savvy professionals. It is up to them to ensure that the user interface of a program, app, or website is attractive, visually stimulating, and thematically appropriate to the purpose or personality of the application. Every single visual element should appear both aesthetic and functional.

How do both departments work together?

A user experience designer decides how the user interface works, while the user interface designer primarily works on designing it optically. In fact, this is a very collaborative process – corresponding teams never work separately from one another. It cannot even be determined exactly whether the user experience or the user interface will be designed first. As a rule, the relevant planning and testing must run in parallel in order to achieve the most beneficial results really efficiently.

Let’s assume that at some point in the design process, it is decided that additional links need to be added to a particular interface. This will change the way the buttons are organized and might require changing their shape or size as well. In this regard, the user experience designers would determine the best arrangement of the buttons in order to continue to ensure optimal user experience, while the user interface designers adapt the buttons to the new layout. If such processes do not go hand-in-hand with constant direct communication or coordination, it could happen that the design takes place for a long time under the initially defined aspects of good user experience.


In fact, it is quite challenging to separate the two terms as they are very closely related. A UI is often part of the UX, but a UX can also exist without a UI. What they have in common is that both can be applied to almost any product, are geared towards the comfort of the user and increasingly identify problems with the design rather than the product. While the user interface is what you see, i.e. the external presentation of a product, the user experience consists of emotions, a feeling of the impression the product leaves on the user. While the user interface is part of the product, the user experience is the entire package, the complete experience that the user encounters.

The common thing is that a site can work despite a bad UI if the UX is successful. Conversely, it is difficult to make your product successful if you have an excellent-looking design, but the usability is flawed. It is, therefore, advisable to combine both components in order to make your product as attractive as possible.

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