To the layman, the distinction between UI and UX design may seem somewhat arbitrary. In fact, they are closely linked disciplines that can be extremely effective for business when used together with the right tools and practices. But how can brands ensure they are getting their UI and UX right? Keep reading our guide to find out.
What is UI and What is UX?
UI (User Interface) refers to what users see and interact with, including the layout of the software interface, text, images, sounds, animations, videos etc. UI design is not restricted to screen elements. It may also include menu structure, navigation mechanisms etc.
UX (User Experience) is more about the user experience when interacting with the brand through its software. It includes the overall look and feel of the product, ease of use, learnability etc. UX is typically about how something works or performs, rather than what it looks like. It typically focuses on practical concerns to improve usability.
What is the Difference Between UI and UX?
UX focuses on meeting user needs. It ensures that the product stays relevant to users over time, even as functionality changes to reflect new technologies, expanding markets etc. UX design may also involve research into how people interact with similar products in the market today. For example, what are their expectations from the product?
UI design, on the other hand, focuses on visual aspects of how users will interact with a specific interface. For example, what colors to use for an app’s background and text, what apps to place where in a menu.
UI design is the framework within which UX operates. For example, it establishes what screens are available in a user interface, how to navigate between them and where information should be displayed. On the other hand, UX goes beyond UI requirements to achieve product functionality that makes sense for users. It also enables ease of use through intuitive controls, clear feedback etc.
What Makes Bad UX and UI Design?
Both bad UI and UX typically result from a failure to understand the user’s perspective. In other words, businesses may fail in achieving good UX or UI design when they focus on their own objectives instead of user needs.
Bad UI is often associated with poor navigation design. For example, if menu items are not placed logically enough, users will take longer to find what they are looking for. If the color scheme of an app is too complicated or distracting, users may also simply give up trying to learn how it works.
Bad UX design is typically related to user interactions with the product. For example, if a product does not seem relevant enough to meet user’s needs, they will quickly lose interest and move on to a competitor. As seen in the UX mistake made by Snapchat just a few years back, bad UX design can have a significant negative impact on user experience, causing damaging repercussions to the overall companies.
6 Ways Brands Can Get UI and UX Design Right
Ensure that your products have a clearly defined purpose
The first step towards good UI and UX design is to establish the purpose of the product. Both will be iterative processes with incremental improvements over time, but the process should start from a clear brief about what you want to achieve. Without this, teams may end up going in different directions that don’t serve the product’s purpose.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back in the UI design process
Sometimes, just having a breather before moving forward can help teams avoid common pitfalls that result from being under-inspired or simply tired. It also helps you recognise when crucial elements are missing in your process. UX design requires careful planning and research. Having a pause in the middle of the process helps teams identify important aspects that need to be considered before moving forward.
Work with a Creative Agency
Good UI and UX design needs creative input from ux consultants and professionals with a deep understanding of user experience. Creative agencies can bring new perspectives to the table, which may not be available within your brand’s teams. Another benefit of working with a creative agency is that they can help to establish a robust design process so you can build upon the UI and UX that your teams have developed over time.
Don’t rely on templates or tools alone
Tools like Photoshop are great for creating mock-ups for your UI design, but they can’t replace user research and testing with real users. A lot of companies assume their target audience is the same as their existing or past users. For example, they might assume that a new mobile app they are designing will be used by people with similar usage patterns to their most loyal customers. However, this is not always true and it’s best to run limited test models before moving forward.
Remember UX takes time
UX is an ongoing process that also involves research activities like defining personas, build scenarios etc. However, the bulk of UX design will traditionally happen after all visual aspects of the product are finalised in terms of layout and information architecture. That’s not to say that UI and UX cannot be done in parallel.
For example, product teams can create wireframes or flow diagrams for different features that identify how users will interact with the interface. This gives a clear picture of what needs to be designed before it’s actually implemented.
Don’t neglect issues when testing
When you come up with your final iterations, you should take them to users and test them. If you’re still coming up with mock ups instead of actually designing the product (i.e., UI design) this is fine because it will still give you insights into how your target audience interacts with your product or service.
However, when this process becomes standard in the product development cycle, i.e., you spend more time creating mock-ups or wireframes than actually designing the product, then it’s a bad sign because it means you’re neglecting a crucial part of the product development cycle.
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Build a collaborative team
Successful UI and UX design requires people from different backgrounds working together to achieve a common goal. For example, designers have a good understanding of the technical constraints and requirements from engineering teams. Conversely, engineers understand what makes sense from a user perspective and can help with navigation and information architecture.
Creating great UI and UX design for products and services is a challenge and it’s important to get it right the first time around. But you shouldn’t let this stop you from experimenting with different approaches that may or may not work out until you find what works for your product.