What is UI/UX Design?

Khashayar Shomali

Khashayar Shomali

Senior UI/UX Product Designer.

So first it’s important to define these two terms, UX design or user experience design is about designing the whole experience and UI design or user interface design is about the aesthetic experience.

To give this a tangible example think about a mobile app that you use every day, a UX designer has helped decide what features what things would be in that product and how they work and how you feel while you’re using them.

A ui designer would have also taken part in designing that mobile app but they would have thinking about how things look as you’re using them, how much space there is between things how they’re laid out how much information is on each screen and where to put things so it’s easy for you to click on. so it still sounds a little complicated right. both UX and UI designers are designing what we’re using but let’s try and break this down to make it a little bit clearer.

User experience and user interface and experience involves a lot of different things how you feel where you are what your motivations are in the moment you’re doing them what happens when you do something what is the reaction there’s a lot of things involved in how you experience anything.

Difference Between UX/UI Design

An interface is a particular thing that you make one or more interactions with. think of a remote control with buttons on it, think of the microwave where you have to turn the dial or press the button to do something. that is one thing that you are interfacing with to achieve something.

So this is the real difference between user experience and user interface and experience is it have involved so many things and experience involves the environment how you feel what you want and all the different ways you can do it and an interface is that one tangible thing that you interact with to get something particular done.

Let’s get a bit more tangible with hopefully a product that most people use every day “Spotify“.

If you use Spotify you use Spotify as a music service you’ll be able to picture exactly what i’m talking about. If Spotify was just getting started today and they wanted to hire people, they would want to hire UX designers to help understand new ways for people to listen to music and they would hire UI designers to visually represent those new ways of listening in a way that was easy for people to use.

So the difference between the UX designers and UI designers that might work at Spotify you can imagine they work really  closely together but the UX designers are understanding people’s behavior, understanding music listening needs, coming up with concepts for new ways of addressing those needs and giving them new ways to make their music listening experience easier.

They’re designing the experience of listening to music with Spotify and the UI designers are still taking all of the information and this is where there’s some overlap, but they’re purely focused on the visual representation of those features those new tools, those news ideas, laying them out and visually repersenting them. So that people can see how to use what they’ve created.

UX is not UI

So let’s look a little bit more about the exact tasks that a UX and a UI designer does.

The Difference Tasks Involved

where they’re really different and where they overlap, so a UX designer starts with research understanding people, understanding customers does some concepting, workshopping to try a different ideas come up with different concepts to try and solve the user problems to try and find ways to improve the user’s experience.

The UI designer takes on from there and creates the clear visual representation of all of these things, all of these concepts and these ideas that need to be visually laied out so a user see what they need to do.

So let’s take a look at a real example to more clearly illustrate what we’re talking about if we look back at Spotify as the example and we think about hmm what parts would the UX designer have done and what parts would UI designer have done.

when working on the Spotify app we take a look at the screen where we’ve got a playlist of songs playing and the UX designer would have been part of deciding how playlists work and what people want out of playlists, how many songs should be in a playlist, how do we get more music into the playlist.

The UI designer’s responsibility would be to take all of that and make it very obvious exactly what those, how those things work. So for example on this view we’re looking at here, we can see very clearly, that this song is the one that’s playing because the UI designer has decided to highlight the name of song in green and put it at the top of the playlist and also see at the bottom in small writing you’ve got the play bar where you can see that the pause button is showing and that tells us it’s currently palying because we can hit the pause button to pause it.

So these are the kind of things where the UI designer needs to know how to clearly visually represent to the user what is happening and what can do and what they can do next. So UX and UI designers often work on the same projects and often at the same time but they’re really responsible for very diffrent things.

UX designer:

  • responsible for the overall experience
  • Understanding the users
  • Contribute solutions that improve the users experience

UI designer:

  • Visually representing those concepts and ideas

So, the places where we see the work of the UX designer and the UI designer really overlapping is where there’s the connection between the conceptual and the visual work.

UI-UX conceptual visual

So, a UI design somethings in some jobs might do a bit of conceptual wireframing before they get into the really concrete visual work and a UX designer in some jobs in some companies might be given the task of taking their concepts and wireframes and mock-ups into a more finished visual stage and that’s why there is this confusion with jobs, often jobs are called UX/UI designer because some companies want to do bits of both but to clearly understand the difference so that you can choose the profession and the career direction thats right for you it’s really important to understand that there are very different responsibilities within these two roles.

So you might do bits of both but you can really decide which one fits you best so you can decide the career path that you’ll be happier on.