UI vs. UX: What is the Difference?

by Thanh Pham | Aug 03, 2020 UI vs. UX: What is the Difference?

For long, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) have been used interchangeably within the web and app design industry. This has further perpetuated the blur in the meaning of the two phrases. While the overlapping elements of these two components explain the confusion, they are not the same.

What is UX Design?

User Experience (UX) design focuses more on how a digital product, say website or application, functions and how seamlessly its users can interact with the various elements of the product. While the aesthetics have a role to play in the same, it is not the focus of UX design.

A UX Designer’s focus revolves around making elements of a digital product friendly and functional for its users. They are tasked with tuning the elements to generate a positive emotional response that will increase their appreciation of the product and keep them involved/engaged for longer.

What is User Interface?

UI Design focuses on the visual appeals and aesthetics of the product. UI Designers’ job involves creating visual appeals in the digital product without obscuring the functions and features of the product. They often do not delve into understanding the individual elements that make the product work.

Key differences between User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Designs

1. UX Focuses on Usefulness of the Product, while UI Focuses on beauty

Creating an amazing and memorable user experience involves providing users something they miss or yearn for in digital products. It involves meeting their needs and giving them value for their time on your platform. That is why a UX Designer has to be more knowledgeable about the unique aspects and elements that make a product function. The process involves doing a competitive analysis with other similar products, understanding the gaps and needs of the product users and designing the elements of your website or app to meet those needs.

The UI designer’s role comes in after the architectural framework of the product has been tuned to meet the needs of the users. A UI Designer comes in to add aesthetic appeals to the various elements. They do this by adding a combination of layout designs, color choices and schemes, etc. However, these artistic elements have to complement the persona developed by the UX designer.

2. UX Design focuses on Product goals while UI Design Focuses on creating emotional connections

Digital products are created to solve people’s problems, in one way or another. For instance, people visit eCommerce websites to enjoy the convenience of shopping for their favorite items without having to visit an actual store. They visit real-estate websites to get quotes on a property without having to visit a physical office and dealing with loads of paperwork.

A UX designer finetunes your website or app to meet the expectations of its users. They are tasked with ensuring that every possible need a user might have is met by the overall design of the product. That is why they have to do some market research and competitive analysis to understand the needs of a product user and address them when designing your product.

UI Designer comes into play to guarantee emotional utility for the users. They do this by bringing the various elements of your design to life through the different striking designs. The goal is to ensure visitors stick around for long and enjoy using your website or app.

In essence, UI focuses on making a personal connection with the users, while UX ensures that the users get meaning and value for their interaction with your website or app.

3. UX Design almost always comes first

The web or app design process is multi-stage and involves testing elements progressively. Through the process, both UX and UI Designers should work together through all the stages of software development.

However, UX Design always precedes UI Design. The first step is to create a digital product with all key elements working together harmoniously towards the overall goal. This often involves validating and multiple iterations on the initial product to develop an error-free prototype. After that, the UI designer handles the modalities of improving the visual appeal and micro-interaction among the product elements.

Notably, while this is the overall rule, if the UX and UI designer is the same person, the two processes can occur concurrently.

4. Unlike UI, UX is broad cutting across Interfaces, Products and Services

As the name suggests, User Interface is only limited to user interfaces. While there are wide ranges of interfaces and ways to maneuver around them for adaptability, it is limited to that range.

User Experience, on the other hand, cuts across various interfaces, products and services. As defined earlier, UX involves addressing all the possible needs of a user to offer them the much-needed convenience as they interact with your product. Therefore, when talking about User Experience, have it in mind that you are not limited to experiences across interfaces. It is a holistic process combining the platform of interaction with the user, the nature of the product of interest to them and the efficiency and convenience in service delivery.

Where UX and UI Designs Intersect

The blur in the meaning of the two phrases is attributable to their interdependence. One cannot work without the other, meaning they are both equally important. A good analogy to go by is a house. UX is like the structural elements of a house: the floor, the panels, the walls, the roof, etc. These are what make a house. UI is like the finishing elements that make the house habitable and warm: the paint, ceiling, sockets, and furniture.

A UX designer’s job is to figure out all the key elements and features that your website or app should have and how the individual features can contribute to giving a user value for their time with your product. A UI Designer comes in to ensure the various elements and features are visually appealing. They will handle aspects such as positioning of visuals, texts, buttons, etc.


Despite the differences, UX and UI complement each other and are both important in the design of digital products. It is, therefore, important to understand the role each one plays towards creating a successful software product development that gives users wholesome utility.

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