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Difference Between UX and UI Design


Difference Between UX and UI Design

  |   Web Design

Looking for a one-liner and easy to understand ‘difference between UI and UX design’? Just so you know, you have stumbled upon just the right source.

In a layman language, UX is the experience that a person has as they interact with your product and UI is basically the look and feel of the product.

Of Course this is the simplest version of the UX and UI definition and is giving a very limited view of the subject. And obviously for a detailed version, one will have to dive in deep.

Let’s understand it in bits and pieces first.


What is UX?


The technical definition given by Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen says, “The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next, comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.

True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings, there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.”


Decoding the same, UX encompasses the entire journey of a user which includes but is not limited to:

  • The process they go through to discover your company’s product
  • The sequence of actions they take as they interact with the interface
  • The thoughts and feelings that arise as they try to accomplish their task
  • The impressions they take away from the interaction


It is the role of UX designer for ensuring that the company delivers a product or service that meets the needs of the customer and allows them to seamlessly achieve their desired outcome.

For that, user research is conducted to get the context of the users of the product and those learnings are used to mockup wireframes and prototypes to direct the user from one window to the next.


What is UI?


As the Business Dictionary explains it, UI is “Visual part of a computer application or operating system through which a user interacts with a computer or a software. It determines how commands are given to the computer or the program and how information is displayed on the screen.”

The role UI designer is to work on websites, apps, wearables, and other programs.

They may be responsible for things like designing the layout of a digital product’s interface and the visual elements on all the pages or screens of the system.


What’s the difference between UI and UX?



To get a better understanding let’s go through the take of various influencers on the subject.


1.    Ken Norton – Partner at Google Ventures, Ex-Product Manager at Google



“Start with a problem we’d like to solve. UX design is focused on anything that affects the user’s journey to solve that problem, positive or negative, both on-screen and off. UI design is focused on how the product’s surfaces look and function. The user interface is the only piece of that journey. I like the restaurant analogy I’ve heard others use: UI is the table, chair, plate, glass, and utensils. UX is everything from the food, to the service, parking, lighting, and music.”


2.    Andy Budd – Co-founder of Clearleft, Founder of UX London


“Common logic would suggest that, if you design the UI, and a person experiences a product through the UI, that makes you a User Experience Designer. However, this would also imply that designing your own home makes you an architect, and fixing a tap makes you a plumber.

Often the words used to describe a discipline end up being divorced from their original meanings. For instance architect literally, means “head mason” and plumber means “lead worker”.

Two names which clearly no longer articulate or explain what that profession does.

In a professional context “User Experience Designer” has a specific meaning and set of skills, based on a community of practice reaching back over 20 years. In this world, a User Experience Designer is concerned with the conceptual aspects of the design process, leaving the UI designer to focus on the more tangible elements.”


3.    Craig Morrison – Head of Product at RecordSetter, Founder of Usability Hour



“I hear this question all the time, and I’ve answered it multiple times. Ultimately I’ve come to this conclusion…

There is no difference between UX and UI design because they are two things that aren’t comparable to each other.

For example, it’s kind of like asking…

What is the difference between red paint and the chemicals the paint is made up of?

There is no difference.

Red paint is made up of all sorts of different chemicals that when combined together make red paint…

Just as the user experience is made up of a bunch of different components, user interface design being just one of them, that when combined together make up the user experience.

Here are a few other questions to illustrate my point…

What is the difference between a MacBook and the shape of the keyboard keys?

What’s the difference between tea and the type of material the tea bag is made from?

What’s the difference between a car and the color it’s painted?

If we’re talking about delicious cake (and why wouldn’t we be?), UI is the icing, the plates, the flavor, the utensils, and the presentation. UX is the reason we’re serving cake in the first place, and why people would rather eat it than hamburgers.”


4.    Patrick Neeman – Director of Product Design at Apptio, Founder of Usability Counts


“User Experience Design is the complete experience, and it may not be even on the screen. User Interface Design is generally visual design and information design around screens. UX goes back to the Nielsen Norman Group’s definition of UX — any touch point a user or customer has with a system, digital or not.”


5.  Scott Jenson – Product Strategist at Google



“I don’t get too wrapped up in this distinction as they frequently are used interchangeably. However, when pressed, I see the UI as focusing on the product, a series of snapshots in time.


The UX focuses on the user and their journey through the product. The UI tends to be the specifics of screens, focusing on labels, visual style, guidelines, and structure.


The UX is the path through a product, escaping the screen and articulating the user’s journey and motivations, justifying why things are in the UI and even more importantly, why things are left out. The UI copes with constraints, the UX challenges them.”


6.  Clayton Yan – User Experience Designer at UserTesting


“There’s a lot of confusion around what UI and UX are, what the main differences are, or if there are any differences at all. They are definitely different things, but they must go hand in hand to create a beautiful and intuitive experience.

The way that I’ve always explained it is to think about building a house. When you’re building a house, you need to think of the broad structure and layout.

Do you need 2 or 3 bedrooms?

Do those bedrooms each have their own bathroom?

Is the living room the first thing you walk into after entering the door?

Is it a one-story or two-story home?

To me, UX is the overall experience of your house (or product). Do things make sense? How does it make your user feel?


The next level of the user’s journey is the interface they actually interact with. Continuing with the house example, the UI is the visual theme throughout the house. What type of wallpaper will you use? Do you have the same flower vases around the house? Or different ones?


The UI is, like its name implies, the things the user will actually interact with and see. This includes buttons, forms, pictures, etc.


UX without UI means you’ve got a frame and structure to your house, but it’s not beautiful and cohesive. UI without UX is like splashing awesome colors and details throughout the house but having your front door leading straight into a bathroom. You need both to create an awesome end to end experience.



Typically, UX design goes ahead of UI design, because you want to do research, broad sketches, and general workflows first. Then once you’ve got the broad strokes nailed down, you work on the UI design to bring it all together so it feels like a beautiful, well-designed product.


So, what do you think? We hope that we have clarified most of your doubts, for any further queries reach us

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