UI and UX Design from A Practical Point of View
When we talk about design as a general, there are many misunderstandings, misconceptions, and debates on some areas that could also be misleading.
Moreover, some terms could be similar but have a different context or not even on par but are very close and related.
This case has also happened when discussing the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
There are thousands of analogies to illustrate how UI and UX design fit together, related and could not be separated from one another.
Still, people would find it hard to define a definitive definition that differs both terms in the design context.
But this is important to know especially if you or someone you know is trying to understand more about the design world since UI/UX designer is in high demand in the world of work which also is entering the era of the industrial revolution 4.0. Everything would go digital!
Understanding the relationship between UI and UX design is like discovering a massive river
It is mandatory to know that before going further in creating or developing digital products, it is essential to understand how and when to use the term UI and UX design.
It would have been built from another massive thing put on together for something that massive.
This river is an analogy of a digital product, which involves UI and UX designs in the making.
Two slightly different terms have their definition but are still tied with an invisible string in the world of design.
We need to break down its context to determine why such terms are not the same but still related and complement each other.
The difference between UI and UX Design
UI is a well-known term in the design world, which is an abbreviation for the user interface.
Getting into definition first could help us expect what it should be like.
The meaning of the interface itself is where independent and often unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other – here in digital products is the system and the user.
UI design is about implementing the knowledge about using typography, images, and other visual design elements to improve a primary interface into something more appealing, digestible, and usable.
UI interprets the function as a visual of the interaction that the user could see and use. With UI, the user could decide, understand, use, and define their progress.
It is more like visualising function wireframes into a polished and straightforward graphical user interface. This could improve the products’ function usability and manifest relation between the user and the system.
A single product could contain many UI, made in an algorithm and form a tree-like seamless flow.
At their peak and more complex functions in the lower branch, these main products use an example from a simple digital camera as a single product.
It has a lower UI of taking photos and a gallery, which is connected.
Under the camera, UI would also contain more UI such as the shutter, flash, HDR, and more, which could be related to one another but not associated with the gallery UI because it is on a different branch.
The algorithm tree would keep on going further until the last function possible. It’s worth taking note that not all functions would have a UI.
Not all the functions could be accessed by the user, which either user would not be used at all, or the function is prohibited from user access to prevent the product’s malfunction.
In designing a UI, some parts of the UI design are meant to be more subjective since the designer ought to consider the brand guidelines when designing visual elements.
The visual element must flow seamlessly with the brand design language and specialities within any other similar brands. The graphic should have been able to raise the user’s awareness of the product.
But in designing the UI, it is more important to make sure that the function works well before reaching out to the visual.
The thing is because the user tends to use the tasks done as priorities rather than a decent visual for a not fully functional system of a product.
When the designer has made the system functions work well in the first place, they could give much more improvement to the visual to support the use of the product, which already has a fully functional feature.
A decently developed UI will suits well with the users’ needs. The interaction process between the user and the UI could revoke users’ ideas and opinions towards the product usability, practicality, and experience.
This is where the User Experience (UX) designer could absorb the user’s experience using the product.
The UX designer would better be taking the user experience from start to finish.
It would then lead to a new point to be accomplished where the designer created the product to reach out their purpose using the function in the most simple, most frictionless UI possible.
The more effective the user found out the product, the better.
UX design would keep on become a base to UI design in developing the product. It is concerned with the overall user-friendliness of a product for the entire experience of a user.
Unlike the UI designer who created the best product possible and focused more on the building, the role of the UX designer is more to reach out to the user, collecting the opinion and experience of using the product.
All of the parts in detail would be valuable information for the UX designer.
They also should be involved in collecting the ideas from the users in any way, which could mean knowing who are the target users, interacting with interviewing the user, creating a definition of user flows, and also conducting the meeting with the user and involve them in the testing as a development process of the product.
Focusing on designing a visual product, as a UX designer, they must work on a primarily conceptual problem-solving based activity, especially product users experience research and data collecting.
The activity could involve interacting with users to pinpoints their needs after using the product, which would then devise which user flows are the best ones to helped them developing the UI and complete their task in fully developing a product.
The most appropriate way to evaluate the UX designer’s works is by using initial testing and research conducted by the user.
It is not always meant to be using an exact final product in early testing, otherwise using a mockup with a relatively rough prototype product.
While the user uses the product, the UX designer could note and pay attention to any indicator that could be a piece of additional information towards the product development.
The data then gathered and used as an evaluation related to the need and the urge to create a user-friendly product.
This conceptual work would involve both the designer and the user. Otherwise, the portion for the designer is limited.
The results of developing an improved product are a prototype of the product UI, forming a wireframe.
Wireframes are like bones and skeleton of an interface that construct the very base of a whole product.
Understanding a bare minimum is needed to understand how a design would be built and fully working on a functional level.
At this level, the developing are moving further from a rough prototype to a production level digitally.
After creating such a wireframe using results from the past research and development process, the wireframe would be sent to the UI designer to build decent visuals of the functions constructed in the wireframes.
There is an analogy in separating understanding about the UX and UI Design
A product is like a house, which you can not build by putting some walls and roofs together.
It is essential to make a house to set the foundation, construct some frames, build walls, put some doors as access, put a roof, and finish it with furniture and paint the walls.
As in developing a product, UX would be working as the foundation, wireframes as the frames and pillars, while UI will be the walls, doors, paint, furniture, and decorations.
The UX development comes first, establishing how you would build the product, how big it is, how complex it connects each other, choosing functional locations for the doors, finding the most suitable place to take the stairs, etc.
Once the UX as the foundation and blueprints is in place, UI designers can start thinking about developing the interior design: choosing the colour, shape, size, amount, details, positions.
You could do it at one trial for professionals, but mostly it is also an open place for trials and error.
This building process would come a long way to avoid being messy, become pleasing while also working as expected.
This means that the UX and UI designer relationship is more like collaborating and complementing each other.
UX designers hand their work and recommendations on the product, including the details and wireframes, to the UI team once core concepts are tried and tested.
In the design industry, the role of the UI and UX designer has been redefined all the time.
There is a time when in designing a digital product, there are different roles for every sector, such as web designer, animator, graphic designer, application developer, and so on.
It’s only since the design industry has matured that the more specific terms of UX and UI have become commonly talked about and the distinction between them.
Still, the app and product design space grew massively, especially in the industrial revolution 4.0.
Many roles manifest as specialised and specific functions and terms in the design industry, such as UX Writer, Content Designer, and Interaction Design are popping up all the time, depending on the need and purpose of the industry.
The visual design keeps growing and developing since it is based on the human sense, needs, and feeling about the product.
The continuous evolution of the design product could make it more exciting to be a part of the field.
So, there is no apparent difference and debates needed between the UI and UX role in the visual design development process
It is not like UI or UX but UI and UX instead. The thing is because the UI and UX are not competing in which one is better or worse.
It should be UI and UX design since both are needed and complement each other as an essential part of developing a visual product.
It also results in the design industry where most companies are not looking for a specified role, especially UI or UX specialised.
Companies are more looking for a visual designer – which is expected to master and could follow the rapid growth of the UI and UX design as they would be working on the end; it is way more important for designers to have a well-rounded understanding of UX, UI, and other elements of design, such as typography, content, or colours, than to over-specialise in one area.
A team of sound designers will contribute and give feedback throughout the entire process, which is much better than working within UX or UI as one and requiring other people specialised in another to complete the project.
Of course, once you have experience working on different areas across product design, it is customary to gravitate toward either the UX or UI side of things.
But just as the exact definitions of UX and UI rapidly change all the time, the tech industry often takes a fast-moving approach to design.
In these environments, individual flexibility is vital.
A person who knows both UX and UI design can jump in at any point in the design process to give their input. That makes them valuable team members.
Author Bio: This article is written by Ulfah, an SEO Manager from RRGraph Design. Find her on LinkedIn.