Website Design: UX vs. UI

Website Design: UX vs. UI

image of website on many devices

Designing the Perfect Site

In the early days of the internet, building a website was fairly easy — create some content, slap it in a website builder template, publish, and move on. However, in a digital world increasingly dominated by search engine optimization tactics designed to make a site competitive and sophisticated technology that supports an easy-to-use and effective interface, the pressure to go above and beyond is greater than ever before.

A great website effectively communicates in a user-friendly way — and cutting corners on important facets of web design such as user experience and user interface strangles substantial growth.

Creating a strong website is a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: there may be plenty of ways to arrange each square, but only doing things the right way will yield a beautiful end result. This is what you need to know about UX, UI, the differences between these development concepts, and how a perfect balance between the two can result in the ideal website for your organization.

Understanding UX and UI

The website design terms UX and UI are often used interchangeably, even by pros in the field. However, confusing or misunderstanding the two can handicap your entire website development process and create future obstacles.

While it’s true that UX, user experience design, and UI, user interface design, seem conceptually similar – both play a role in web design – it’s important to realize that they are quite distinct. Confusing the two, or treating them as a single concept, can lead to an underperforming website that misrepresents a brand. While the differences may seem subtle, both concepts play critical parts in the development of a website that resonates with both search engines and users.

What Is UX?

User experience design, often shortened to UX, refers to a so-called “human first” approach to design. Under the principles of UX, the primary purpose of a product is to serve the needs of human users. UX isn’t specific to websites or even digital products. User experience design can be applied to just about anything, from cars to bookshelves, and is simply focused on the interactions between customers and products. Instead of thinking about available technology or the easiest way to approach a solution, UX design requires looking at a project from the perspective of an inquiring customer, asking questions like:

  • How easy is the product to use?
  • How will the product make a user feel?
  • What design elements are needed to improve this product?

The specific questions will vary based on the product in design — for a website, ease of navigation, using banners or dropdown features, or the simplicity of checkout functions are often considered. However, regardless of application, the overarching concept is the same. UX is about experience, not appearance or aesthetic. Above all else, a UX designer is concerned about the experience a user will have with a product or website. A great website looks fantastic and provides effective user-experience that isn’t awkward, uncomfortable, clumsy, challenging, or unpleasant. The UX portion of design focuses on these latter principles.

What Is UI?

Unlike UX, which is people-focused, user interface design, or UI, applies to appearance and holistic branding. It can be a more challenging term to define as responsibilities for a UI designer can run the gamut from simply creating a visual design to directing front-end development. Unlike UX, which can extend outside the digital world, UI is specific to website design and refers to the connection between the end-user and their interaction with the product. UI is concerned with aesthetic than experience and can encompass color schemes, layouts, menu items, and page appearance.

The focus on appearance and function aside, the UI process doesn’t specifically ignore the user — after all, the user is the ultimate purpose of the product. However, UI is more visually-based than experience-based; a UI designer will be motivated to create an appealing platform that is easy to navigate and doesn’t require much thought on behalf of the user. UI also takes branding into account, translating a company’s goals, identity, and established reputation into the appearance of a product interface.

Breaking Down UX and UI

So, how do UX and UI play into the creation of a website? Do you need UX? UI? Both? Neither?

To get to the root of the value in both UX and UI, it’s important to note that UX and UI are not mutually exclusive — one without the other can effectively cripple your website development project before it ever gets off the ground. UI without UX is essentially like putting makeup on a pig — no matter how well it’s applied, it won’t make much of a difference — while UX without UI is like presenting a fully functional human without a face — it works like it needs to, but the proper appearance is lacking. Together, the two work together to create an attractive, effective, and user-friendly end result, ensuring a positive, logical user experience that is easy to navigate from start to finish.

In most situations, a UX designer kicks off the process. By determining the needs of the user, the ways in which the user experiences can be enhanced. By identifying the major areas of functionality that will be required to best serve a product’s users, a UX designer can lay the foundation for a final product. UI design comes into play, putting aesthetic elements of a design into place to ensure the end result speaks to the interface needs of a company while accomplishing all branding goals.

RivalMind: Web Development Agency

UX and UI principles are both critical elements of website design that resonate across user bases and search engine crawlers. A website designed to accommodate user needs and accurately promotes a brand is primed for future success. Not sure where to begin? RivalMind, a digital marketing agency based in Chicago, can help. We develop profitable websites with decades of experience, combining your ideas and requirements with our expertise to bring your vision to life. Contact us today to learn more.

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