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UX vs UI Design: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

UX vs UI Design: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

You have likely heard the terms UX and UI tossed around the design world, but they are often misused interchangeably or out of context. The reality is that UX and UI are two distinct design disciplines that work together but have different roles.

Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to create a new SaaS business or an aspiring designer looking to crack into the world of technology, UX and UI design are essential tools you must understand to succeed.

This article will explain the key differences between UX and UI and the types of responsibilities each position has. Then, it covers why UX and UI are so important to product design and how interested parties can get started in UX or UI design.

What is UX?

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UX stands for User Experience design, which is the practice of designing experiences that are meaningful, useful, and enjoyable for a user. These experiences can be physical, digital, or both.

UX designers focus on understanding users' expectations, motivations, and behaviour to ensure they get the best experience possible when using a product. This process considers the design's user-friendliness, how well the product works, and what response it elicits.

UX designers consider user feedback, usability testing, and data analysis when making product decisions. UX design is centred around the user and ensures that their interactions with the product are smooth, simple, and worthwhile.

What is UI?

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UI stands for User Interface, which refers to a product's overall look and feel. This can include colour schemes, fonts, layouts, and other visual elements.

UI designers are responsible for creating an interface that is visually appealing and intuitive. They focus on designing the product's face and ensuring a cohesive aesthetic consistent with the brand's identity.

For example, a UI designer might create a product's primary interface with buttons, menus, graphics, and a new layout. These elements must be attractive and easy to understand so users can seamlessly navigate the product without confusion.

What does a UX designer do?

UX designers have many responsibilities, depending on the stage of the project. Here are a few of their essential tasks:

Researching user needs and preferences

UX designers conduct surveys, interview users, and perform usability tests to understand better what users hope to get from the product. This process is intended to guide future product decisions and ensure that product development is user-led.

Developing user personas and scenarios

With this information, UX designers can create user personas to outline the different groups of people who may use the product. Then, they can develop scenarios representing how users intend to interact with the product. With this direction, UX designers can sketch a product that satisfies the user's needs.

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Creating wireframes, prototypes, and user flow diagrams

UX designers use wireframes, prototypes, and user flow diagrams to communicate to developers how a product should look, feel, and function. Given their previous user interviews, UX designers can better plan the user experience for seamless navigation between product pages and features. The development team can use these UX deliverables to bring the product to life.

Conducting usability tests

Once a design is built, UX designers conduct usability tests to identify potential issues or improvement areas. Potential users are asked to complete everyday tasks using the product while UX designers observe and take notes on their performance. UX designers can then use this feedback to tweak any UX issues and ensure the product is as user-friendly as possible.

Analysing user feedback and data

Even after a product hits the market, UX designers continually track user feedback and analyse usage data to uncover improvement opportunities. Products often undergo multiple iterations of refinement to suit user needs better and ensure that the product successfully meets UX expectations.

What does a UI designer do?

The daily responsibilities of a UI designer vary greatly depending on the product they are working on. However, some of the most common tasks include:

Designing UI assets

UI designers take UX deliverables and develop the product's interface, creating icons, buttons, menus, and other graphical elements. These assets are used across the product and must be cohesive to ensure a consistent look and feel. They aim to make the product visually appealing while providing functionality, and UX remains intact.

Creating mockups and prototypes

Before coding occurs, UI designers create UX/UI mockups and prototypes to visualise how the product should look and behave. These mockups are static designs demonstrating the product's interface, while prototypes allow users to interact with the product and experience its UX.

UI designers use UX wireframes and prototypes to plan the product's structure. They focus on laying out the product's elements and how they should interact with the user.

Upholding brand guidelines

UI designers must ensure the interface is consistent with the brand's visual identity. When a brand guide exists, UI designers keep the product in line with the company's current branding efforts. If a brand guide doesn't exist, UI designers can create one in collaboration with any graphic designer. This guide will set the stage for all future product and design iterations.

Creating animation and micro-interactions

UI designers add life to a product by creating animations and “micro-interactions.” Small, subtle animations within the UX indicate when something is loading, when an action has been completed, and more. Animations and micro-interactions increase a product's engagement and make it feel more intuitive.

Updating UI assets

Finally, UI designers must update UI assets as design standards evolve to ensure the product remains visually appealing and consistent. This includes creating new elements as needed, replacing outdated images and graphics, and updating UX/UI mockups and prototypes.

Do UX and UI designers work together?

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At their core, UX and UI designers aim to create a visually stunning and user-friendly product. As such, UX vs UI designers must work together to ensure the product design is cohesive, consistent, and effective.

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However, UX vs UI designers have different focuses. UX designers provide the structure and functionality of the product, while UI designers create the visual elements, such as buttons and logos, to bring the UX deliverables to life. UX designers must ensure that UX standards are met, while UI designers make sure that the UX is presented well and can be implemented correctly.

UX and UI designers then work together to refine the product until it meets the standards of both parties. UX research, UX design, and UX testing can uncover improvements the UI designer implements in the interface. This often requires multiple iterations of testing and feedback to suit user needs best and ensure that the product successfully meets expectations.

Ultimately, UX vs UI is more of a collaboration than a competition. UX and UI designers must work in tandem to craft a product that looks great, feels intuitive, and is praised by users. Although they have distinct roles, UX vs UI designers is essential parts of the same team.

How do researchers contribute to the design process?

Research is an essential part of the design and helps UX vs UI designers better understand their users. UX researchers conduct qualitative and quantitative research to determine user behaviours, preferences, and needs. UX researchers can observe how users interact with the product, survey users to draw out more nuanced insights, and analyse data to uncover patterns that UX vs UI designers can use to improve the UX.

To discover these insights, UX researchers use the following methods:

  • Contextual inquiry: UX researchers observe how users interact with the product in their real-world environment. These observations provide designers with valuable feedback on how the product is used.
  • Surveys and interviews: Researchers survey users to learn more about their views and experiences. They can also conduct interviews to ask more focused questions, giving UX and UI designers greater visibility into how users think and feel about the product.
  • A/B testing: UX researchers can run A/B tests to determine the most effective design choices. The results of these tests provide UX vs UI designers with actionable data that they can use to refine their product and craft an exceptional user experience.
  • Analytics: UX researchers track various metrics to understand how users behave on a product. They analyse usage data to identify UX issues, bottlenecks, and emerging trends. By leveraging research methods, designers can create a highly likely UX to meet user needs.
  • Usability testing: Researchers test the UX for discoverability, understandability, and learnability. They can also identify issues and evaluate proposed solutions to ensure the design is intuitive, consistent, and effective.

The importance of UX vs UI design

UX vs UI design is essential for the creation of successful products. Here are seven reasons why this combination is so important:

1 – UX vs UI enhances user experience.

UX and UI designers test users, research, and gather UX metrics to ensure the product is comfortable and intuitive. They combine to enhance the product's UX by making it more user-friendly and visually appealing. This, in turn, improves user engagement and encourages users to keep using the product.

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2 – UX vs UI improves customer satisfaction.

UX/UI design creates an enjoyable experience for users, leading to an increase in customer satisfaction. Without the combination of UX and UI design efforts, customers may struggle to navigate the product or be put off by its aesthetics. Instead, UX/UI design ensures that customers feel delighted and are likelier to leave a favourable review.

3 – UX vs UI boosts website traffic.

UX/UI design makes websites more accessible and easier to use, reducing bounce rates. By decreasing the likelihood that a new visitor leaves the website without taking action, UX/UI design encourages more people to explore the product. This more engaging experience increases retention and referrals, which eventually provides a lift in website traffic.

4 – UX vs UI increases sales and revenue.

UX/UI design makes navigating the product and purchasing items easier, increasing sales. Further, improved design can encourage upselling and cross-selling by providing customers with the tools to discover new products. This helps companies to drive revenue by showcasing additional items and services.

5 – UX vs UI decreases development costs.

UX/UI design ensures that developers are given the tools and resources to create a product quickly and efficiently. The collaborative process produces specific deliverables that developers can implement without surprises, roadblocks, or sudden changes. This decreases the cost of development by reducing time spent on debugging and reworking the code.

6 – UX vs UI reduces user errors.

UX/UI design helps reduce user errors by making products more intuitive and straightforward. UX designers uncover common UX issues during research and testing, allowing UI designers to find ways to eliminate these problems. This results in fewer usability issues, which can minimise user errors and ensure that customers stay satisfied with the product.

7 – UX vs UI increases brand loyalty.

UX/UI design creates an overall better user experience, which increases referral rates, returning customer rates, and, ultimately, brand loyalty. With an enjoyable UX and UI, customers become more familiar with your brand and products and more willing to recommend them to others. This helps companies to develop a strong base of loyal customers who are likely to make repeat purchases.

UX vs UI designer pay

Both UX and UI designers are highly sought-after professionals. According to Adzuna, the average compensation for a UX designer in the United States is $77,284, while for a UI designer, the average salary is slightly higher at $78,321. However, their salaries vary depending on education, experience level, location, and other factors.

For example, the total compensation package for a UX designer in New York City is nearly $106,000. However, the minimum reported salary is $50,000, and the maximum reported salary is $160,000.

On the other hand, UI designers in New York City have an average compensation of just over $95,000. Interestingly, the salary band is much tighter, with a minimum reported salary of $70,000 and a maximum reported salary of $115,000

UX vs UI career paths

Overall, both UX and UI designers have promising careers. Either position has the potential to lead to a rewarding and fulfilling role in product design. After cutting their teeth in one speciality, UX/UI designers may also explore other fields to broaden their skills and increase their earning potential.

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Typical exit opportunities for UX and UI designers include the UX manager or UX director. This path may enable you to take on more significant UX engagements with multiple teams, oversee strategy for an organisation, or lead UX processes and initiatives.

Alternatively, UX designers may be able to become project managers who lead groups of developers, designers, and researchers. These roles may require UX designers to develop the technical chops to create project plans and learn how to mentor junior UX staff members.

How to become a UX or UI designer

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If you are interested in UX or UI design, there are a few basic skill sets to learn and develop.

UX designers must be competent in user research, usability testing, interaction design, visual design (for web/mobile applications), UX writing, and project management. UI designers must have a solid understanding of UI components, frameworks, typography, and colour theory.

To pick up these skills and prove your UX/UI design competency, there are three main steps to take:

1 – Take UX/UI courses or attend UX design bootcamps

The first and most crucial step is to equip yourself with UX or UI design knowledge. You can do this by taking professional UX and UI design courses that cover research, UX writing, portfolio design, and project management.

If college courses aren't available or don't fit your schedule, UX design boot camps are another great way to learn UX and UI design. These programs are designed to help beginners quickly pick up the necessary skills for a successful UX/UI career. In as little as a few weeks, you could immerse yourself in the design world, master the fundamentals, and be ready to jumpstart your career.

2 – Build a UX/UI portfolio and showcase your designs

Demonstrating your proficiency is still essential, even if you have a strong UX/UI design background. A portfolio of UX and UI projects will help you showcase your design capabilities. This can reassure potential employers that you are qualified for the position and well-equipped to translate your formal education into real-world UX design solutions.

When building out your portfolio, be sure to include the following:

  • Case studies and research reports
  • Designs that reflect recent UX/UI trends
  • Screenshots of your wireframes, interactions, motion designs, and layouts
  • Any completed projects, such as prototypes or full-scale websites

These examples should be clear and organised and highlight your design decisions. After all, in the UX/UI design world, a portfolio is often the deciding factor for getting hired.

3 – Join UX/UI design communities and attend UX/UI events

Network, network, network! UX and UI designers should seek out UX/UI design communities to meet people in the industry, exchange ideas, and potentially land relevant jobs. UX and UI design events are a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest design trends, get inspired by case studies, and meet recruiters.

At these events, aspiring UX designers often have the opportunity to learn from professionals, experts, and evangelists. Additionally, UX/UI design meetups are an excellent way to expand your network and make valuable connections that can lead to future opportunities.

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Remember that there is no such thing as too many connections. UX/UI design is a highly competitive industry, and having the right people in your corner can make all the difference in your career trajectory. Following this 3 step process, you should gain the competency and confidence you need to launch your UX/UI design career.

Other product development roles

UX and UI design roles are not the only positions on a product development team. Here are a few other roles worth considering:

  • Product manager: Responsible for leading the development process, setting timelines, and managing the product roadmap. This position requires an understanding of customer needs, resource allocation, and business considerations.
  • Software developer: Responsible for developing and maintaining the code behind a product. Developers must have expertise in coding languages, debugging, and various software packages.
  • Data scientist: Responsible for analysing data, creating models, and writing algorithms to improve products. Data scientists must have a solid quantitative background and experience with statistical analysis and programming languages.
  • QA engineer: Responsible for testing a product and ensuring its quality. This role requires knowledge of various testing methods and tools, attention to detail and the ability to find bugs.
  • Marketing manager: Responsible for promoting and marketing a product. This position requires knowledge of market trends and customer needs and experience in advertising and public relations.

These are a few potential positions on a product development team. However, by understanding the broader product design process, those interested in UX and UI can become more valuable contributors in the workplace.

Final thoughts

UX and UI design are ever-evolving roles that require an extensive understanding of user needs, analytics, and the latest design trends. With the right mindset and dedication, these designers can create excellent digital products and help shape how people interact with technology.

UX vs UI design is a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those passionate about enhancing user experience and boosting customer satisfaction. If UX/UI design is something you are interested in, start learning the fundamentals today. Before long, you can build a professional portfolio and be on your way to creating a six-figure design career. Good luck!

Author Bio: Daniel Anderson is a marketing expert who writes about building, buying, and scaling businesses. Learn how to turn ideas into income and plan for financial freedom with the step-by-step guides at

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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