November 8, 2022

What's the difference between a UX designer and a UI designer

A UX designer and a UI designer requires similar characteristics like strong visual design skills and understanding of the user’s psychology. Find out more about their differences in this blog post!

There always needs to be clarity between being a UX designer and a UI designer. While both jobs are complementary, they are very different and unique. More specifically, a UX designer and a UI designer differ in definition, roles, and skill sets.

The advancement of the technology industry has created a huge demand for talented and qualified professionals who can provide their expertise in the fields of UX and UI design. These two highly specialized professions are becoming increasingly popular among many full-time jobs in startups, established companies, and freelancers.

If you're planning to start a career in either of the two fields, knowing the difference between a UI designer and a UX designer will help you decide on the right career path.

Why the confusion?

The words "UX designer" and "UI designer" are often interchangeably used by people. Being a UX designer and a UI designer requires similar characteristics, such as creativity, strong visual design skills, and understanding of the user’s psychology. More specifically, both UX designers and UI designers are tasked with converting software systems' functionalities into a more meaningful, usable, and helpful form to end users. They also interact closely with engineers and marketing specialists to ensure that the product development aligns with company goals as well as market needs. Both UX and UI designers overlap in conceptual and visual work.

Although both a UX designer and a UI designer play an integral role in web design projects and are equally important in building websites, they function independently. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, their responsibilities, job descriptions, and types of work are distinguishable. Let’s look at the difference between UX and UI design.

Experience versus interface

From its definition itself, UX means "user experience," while UI refers to "user interface." UX is interested in the overall functionality of the product experience, and UI involves handling the aesthetic experience. For example, let’s say you have a website with a search bar that displays results as users type in their queries. This is an example of UX design because it affects how people interact with your site.

In contrast, UI (User Interface) is more about the visual representation of the product itself. Particularly, the primary function of the UI designer is to create a seamless user experience by developing intuitive interfaces and using an effective visual language. For example, let’s say you’re designing a website that helps customers buy concert tickets online. You can create an app icon that looks like a ticket stub but functions like an e-commerce store.

The former is a more holistic term, as it includes all aspects of design that impact the user experience—not just what the product looks like but how it feels to use. Ultimately, good UX ensures users can find what they need quickly and easily without getting frustrated or confused. UI, on the other hand, focuses on visuals only.

Roles in UX and UI

As a UX designer, you are responsible for the overall experience. You will understand the users and help provide concepts and ways of improving the experience for users, as well as keeping in touch with other departments like research or design. You must consider how people will feel about your product and how they will use it to give them an enjoyable user experience.

Normally, a UX designer starts with research and understanding people, including customers, and what kinds of problems they have, their goals, how they use products in their daily lives, their limitations, etc. A lot of concepting involves trying different ideas or solutions and then test them with potential users to see if those solutions are effective.

This is where the work of UI designers comes in. After the concepting and workshopping, the UI designer creates a clear representation that needs to be visually laid out so a user can see what they need to do to complete whatever task needs to be accomplished as an organization or company. They will ensure that these designs look modern and unique and work properly on all devices, including phones, tablets, and computers.

UX and UI Skillsets

UX and UI designers require entirely different skill sets for their respective jobs. People will often say that UX designers are more analytical and UI designers are more visually creative. While this is true, it's only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to both jobs than that, and it can be hard to figure out your job title because the design world is always changing.

UX designers conduct research and brainstorm many different concepts while also keeping in mind how all those concepts will look on the page and how they'll make the user feel as they interact with them. As such, they are expected to: 1) conduct and analyze user research and usability tests; 2) fulfill business and user demands; 3) make storyboards, user flows, wireframes, and other prototypes that illustrate user experiences; 4) partner with teams for feedback and design implementation; and 5) monitor competitive products and industry trends.

On the other hand, UI designers should at least know basic design principles (such as typography, lettering, colours, style and branding, spacing, icons, and images), UX and interaction design principles, have great storytelling and communication skills, and be detail oriented. Because they are more visual than analytical, they focus on contributing to brand creativity across products and channels, creating graphic user interface elements, and making original graphic designs.

Truth be told, both UX and UI designers are skilled professionals with their own skill sets and job definitions. Designing for the web necessitates a team effort and a broad range of expertise, which is why both jobs are equally important. It is best seen as complementary. But you can’t go wrong even with this definition if you've never had any encounter with the design before. As long as you can draw a line between the two jobs, it will be easier for you to start your journey into the design field.

Now that you've learned the distinctions between the two jobs, do you want to be a UX or UI designer?