If you’ve been shopping around for a web design agency, you’ve probably come across the terms UI and UX.
UI stands for User Interface, and UX stands for User Experience. These two terms are very similar, and the difference between them is not always clear. The main culprit here is UX, which is a term that stands for a very specific process, but which is also sometimes used in a vague, “buzzword-y” manner.
What is UI?
Let’s start with UI. In the early days of computing, the term was known as GUI, or graphical user interface, and it was meant to demarcate the feature of a program or machine that did not operate solely on text input. The GUI allowed users to better interface with their PCs, being able to move, open and organize files much more easily. As computers advanced, the job of the GUI designer was born, and throughout the years the complexity of the skill set evolved. Nowadays, the G was dropped and we are left with UI.
What is UX?
UX is a combination of UI and marketing. The UX process involves understanding the customer or user at a much deeper level, and anticipating his needs, reactions and expectations. This added depth implies extra steps and consideration in the design process, which transcend the merely aesthetic. This is not to say that UI design is devoid of any consideration for the end user, but it does not use digital marketing best practices to achieve conversion goals.
Putting it all in context
There are cases where you can define UX in the absence of UI, where UX is the process of increasing usability for the purpose of conversion. This can include practices such as decreasing page load times, modifying input forms and streamlining checkout processes. However, you will sometimes find a digital agency that might include microinteractions, and the hedonistic quality as part of UX design. Microinteractions and the hedonistic quality refer to the extra dimension of a product which does not relate to its main purpose. They are nice extras that are not meant to achieve any conventional purpose.
For the most part however, you can nest UI inside the UX. The UX process helps determine the flow and structure of a website, and the UI process helps flesh it all out. Some design agencies will cover both of these processes, while others specialize in one of them. However, if you choose a UI company, you will have to flesh out part of the UX beforehand, in order for the website to convert effectively. Without implementing some of the marketing strategies of the UX process, the UI will be just an aesthetic assortment.
To sum it all up, the UX tackles all the issues revolving around the presentation of a product, service or website with the goal of driving conversions, while the UI is the graphical element of a design.