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UX vs UI: What’s the Difference?

User Experience

About 380 websites go live every minute. As competition gets tougher, businesses are looking for ways to stand out.

This has led the demand for both User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design services to grow rapidly.

UX and UI are two terms that are often lumped together. But what do they mean? What are the differences and how are the two related?

Read on to find out!

Origins of UX and UI

UX and UI design are both older than most people think. Back in the 1970s, when computers first started to appear, the only way to operate them was by inputting thousands of lines of code. Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) had not been invented yet, so there were no modern functionalities such as icons, dropdowns and tabs.

There was nothing to click on, so there was no need for the mouse either. Computers were not built for regular consumers; they were built for technicians. 

It is hard to imagine a world without GUIs today, but it was only in 1984 with the release of the Apple Macintosh that manufacturers realized their potential.

The fields of UX and UI are not in competition. They are two sides of the same coin and they complement each other. Both serve the higher purpose of all consumer-focused technology — to help users solve problems.

UX vs UI: The Key Differences

The difference between UI and UX can be explained as the difference between form and function. It is the dissimilarity between the way something looks and the way it works. 

A great product experience depends on both UX and UI.

These disciplines look at the same problem from two different angles, and they depend on each other for success.

What Is UX?

UX stands for User Experience. It includes everything the user experiences while attempting to navigate a digital product. The term was coined in the 1990s by Don Norman, who claimed that UX encompasses all aspects of a customer’s interaction with a product or service. 

Don Norman did not include the word “digital” in this description, because the original purpose of user experience can be applied to any product, from cars to toasters. Whether the user experience refers to a mobile app or a desk lamp, its purpose is to focus on the way a user interacts with a product.

User experience designers tend to do qualitative and quantitative customer research and feed that information to various departments. UX teams start with a problem identified through data feedback and customer interviews and try to solve it.

The main goal of UX designers is to deliver a product that can meet the customer’s needs seamlessly. They frequently experiment with different approaches to collect data which helps them understand the needs of their end-users more clearly, which is really important for the web design process

This iterative and somewhat repetitive process leads to incremental improvements in the user experience over time.

What Is UI?

UI stands for User Interface. This discipline includes anything the customer interacts with when using software, a website or a mobile app. Anything that can appear on the screen including menus, buttons, icons, and even elements like color and font is all part of the UI.

As explained earlier, user interfaces used to be very simple, consisting of a command line where the user would type in some code and receive textual output. 

The invention of the first graphical user interface in the 1980s changed the computer industry forever. GUIs make computers accessible to people who don’t know how to code.

User interface design is generally more concerned with the customer interaction and visual appearance of the product. It focuses on what the users see on the screen. There is a lot of crossover between UI, data visualization, web design and graphic design.

UI designers rely on their marketing sense and artistic ability to create intuitive yet beautiful designs for the interfaces of various devices, websites, and apps. Their main goal is to lead the user through the experience naturally, by way of typography, alignment, spacing, colors, shapes, etc.

UX and UI Career Prospects

UX and UI professionals are both in high demand. There has been a surge in jobs in the design space, as well as an influx of new talent. If you’re considering a career change or learning more about the practices of UX and UI, now is a great time.

However, as both professions boomed, the concept of what UX and UI designers do has become less and less clear. Some experts believe UX design will divide into several disciplines over the next few years, forcing professionals in this field to specialize further.

The UI design industry is going through some rapid changes as well, as companies start experimenting with algorithmic techniques and artificial intelligence. We will still need UI designers in the future, but the skill set required is likely to shift and evolve. As is the case with any profession, it is a good idea to diversify.


Now that you are aware of the main differences and similarities between UX and UI, it should be easier to understand why they are both important elements of product design. 

Having a good combination of UX and UI is the optimal solution, but it will often require patience for consistent user analysis and research.

Need help implementing UX and UI design best practices for your online campaigns? Don’t hesitate to contact Spiralytics today!

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