User Experience (UX) vs. User Interface (UI)

Written by
Estefanía Teixeira

Surely you have heard about UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface). At first glance, they seem like indecipherable and distant concepts. Yet, each is essential for web, application, and software development. Both terms have a long existence, going back years. Nowadays, both have a significant impact on software development. As acronyms, the tech industry baptized them as UX and UI, respectively. In today's article, we'll unfold general information on both terms. We'll discuss the different edges that impact and influence them. And most important, we'll see if they're opposite or complementary concepts.

What is User Experience (UX) Design?

It's important to acknowledge the basics of this field. We'll review them in this section. User Experience Design's applications work for both physical and digital products. Its focus lies on the experience users develop during their first contact with a product. Moreover, its primary goal is to design structures to provide solutions to problems. This pattern is born from the UX process starting from human work.

Different experienced tycoons define Use Experience as follows: "UX includes all the elements of users' interaction with entities, products, and services.". Encompassing the prior, a highlight to notice is that UX Design existed long before tech rise. In that context, it was about the non-digital experiences of users with companies.

What is User Interface (UI) Design?

We already discussed the basics of UX. In contrast, the User Interface handles the products' appearance, interactivity, and presentation. While it's complementary to UX, it has its specific roles. Among their functions, UI designers have some edges to cover. The first of these covers is to give organizational sense to the product's design. Further, the latter includes fonts, color pallets, and interactive elements. For instance, the development of menus, text fields, and buttons.

Most important, UI creates wireframes to achieve a high-fidelity concept of the outcome. In this context, UI designers often work among developers to create functional products. Unlike UX, User Interface is a digital-only field. Its function is to develop optimal points of interaction between users and products.

User Experience (UX) vs. User Interface (UI)

User Experience (UX) vs. User Interface (UI)

Despite the close professional relationship, each field has different and specific roles. Software Development continuously complements resources and tools. In Design, UX and UI encircle visual creation and development. Ultimately, the main goal is to ensure a good experience for clients and final users.

The consensus is that there's no such thing as a debate on UX vs. UI. Yet, in some cases, UI may depend on UX. Why is that? The main reason relates to the product design's workflow. Often, UX traces the critical points of users' interaction. Then, UI shapes them with interactive audiovisual elements.

As expected, UX and UI focus on the benefits during the development of a project. Both fields are crucial to understanding the needs of users and audiences. Also, good practices can improve the ROI for companies while saving time and money. Yet, digital products were not as complex in tech's early days. Many people thought these platforms would only create a slight change in daily life. Nowadays, webs and apps start from a more complex and dynamic ground.

There's an exhaustive list of edges to know to interact with digital products. As time passed by, there was an increase in usage intricacy. Hence, UX and UI played a stellar role in easing processes and public access. But, as we know, changes keep rolling.

What can we expect from experiences and interfaces in the next five or ten years? The answer could be primarily related to what tech devices we'll be facing. We went from computers to cell phones to smartphones. Now, we even have intelligent refrigerators! Only time can tell which will be our new favorite device and how we will interact with its UX and UI.

User Experience (UX) vs. User Interface (UI)

UX vs. UI: Principles

The central coincidence of these fields is seeking outstanding outcomes. These results apply to designers, companies, clients, and final users. Yet, there's more to what may be an obvious similarity. Further, both areas share some principles. Among them, there are:

● Visibility Status
● User Satisfaction
● User Accessibility
● User Freedom & Control
● Organizational Hierarchy
● Consistency and Standards
● Increased Recognition
● Efficiency and Versatility
● Guidelines on Functionality
● Good Documentation

UX vs. UI: Relevance

This question has caused quite a controversy among professionals. But, undoubtedly, there is no simple and correct answer. Both edges within the design are essential. Further, they're vital for web, app, and software development.

Nonetheless, the topic has given much to talk about. For instance, designer Helga Moreno explains it in her article "The Gap between UX and UI." In these lines, she states that "a perfect interface is useless if it does not guarantee a good experience." Later on, she twists the concept the other way. "A good experience with a bad appearance it's not optimal." In summary, getting both elements right is an ineffable necessity.

UX vs. UI: Differences

The User Experience creates the roadmap users will take. Meanwhile, User Interface focuses on making the said journey enjoyable. But, UIs functionality is not limited to visual aspects. Instead, it's responsible for ensuring inclusive and accessible products.

User Experience (UX) User Interface (UI)
Identifies and solves user problems Creates intuitive and pleasing interfaces
Comes first in the development phase It often goes after UX
Develops the basic outlines of users' journey Shapes the journey with interactive elements
Applies to any product It works only for digital products

There are quite some funny analogies to describe the combination of these fields. For instance, Emil Lamprecht from CarrerFoundy places them as parts of the human body. In his words, the bones are the code that gives structure. Further, the UX represents the different organs. They're in charge of measuring and optimizing against inputs for supporting life functions. And last but not least, UI is the cosmetic side: presentation, senses, and reactions.

To acknowledge the confusion, Rahul Varshney came up with another metaphor. According to him, a UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto a canvas without thought. Meanwhile, UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. He concludes that "a great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product's success."

And, to summarize this section, there's another analogy. This one is from web developer Dain Miller. He sums up the relations between UX and UI in the short term. "UI is the saddle, the stirrups, and the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse." There's no doubt that all these metaphors are an exciting take on this topic!

UX vs. UI: Work Roles

As we know by now, both fields complement each other. Yet, to understand their usefulness, an appreciation of each role is necessary.

UX Designer's Role

One of the most asked questions is who UX designers work with. And, as no surprise, they work hand in hand with UI designers. So, that could be a reason to add up to the misunderstanding.

UX Designers measure and analyze the methods by which users complete desired tasks. Besides, these designers focus on non-digital practice within cognitive science. Often, they do not handle content, images, or visual elements. They focus on the general feeling that users can develop from any experience.

Said focus could lead to a frequent question: does UX design needs coding? The clear and concise answer is no. Yet, knowing your way through code can be quite an advantage. The most commonly used are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Thus, UX designers should have a basic understanding of it. As a result, communication and collaboration with developers will get easier.

UI Designer's Role

A UI designer focuses on a digital product's look, feel, and interactivity. Among their task is certifying interactive and intuitive interfaces. Also, they need to take care of every visual detail. Yet, the list of details can be quite long. Some aspects include spacing, color, typography, buttons, icons, and images. As an outcome, the final product must provide a responsive browsing environment.

Furthermore, UI designers handle edges like research, development, and content. The aim is to guide users through a visual maze. That's why UI-focused designers tend to have an eye-catching and goal-oriented approach. It's relevant to understand each type of design's role. Not only that, but also acknowledging that, while related, they're different fields. Often companies hire UI designers for the UX area and vice-versa. This strategy can lead to poor outcomes in one area or the other.


Both UX and UI allow a greater understanding of users' needs. Also, they share the goal of turning potential users into acquired customers. From a business standpoint, it's only necessary to distinguish them. Consequently, ventures will be able to appreciate each's insights and functions. And, to jump into the metaphors, UX is a cake's dough, and UI is the decoration on top of it. We hope this article has been of great help to you!

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