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The major differences between UX and UI (& how to use them)

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Updated on:
December 12, 2022
December 12, 2022
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The terms UX and UI have been thrown around a lot in the industry these days, however, very few people actually know what they mean. While there are similarities, there are also some major differences between UX and UI, and you must master them in order to submit appropriate quotation templates and scope of work templates.

If you’re a UX or UI designer looking to find better gigs, or literally just about to send out freelance proposals to new potential clients, understanding UI design vs UX design is vital.

In this article, we’ll outline what is UX and UI, how designers and digital marketers should be approaching each one, and what importance they hold in the industry.

A quick summary of UI vs UX

While UX design refers to the design of the user’s experience, UI stands for designs of the user interface. Both terms are important to IT and marketing products. They also work best while being incorporated together.

However, despite their interconnectedness in projects, each role involves a very different process.

Let’s put UI vs UX in an analogy:

If your product was a human body, the organs are the UX design: the process that measures and optimizes input for supporting specific life functions. Staying with this same picture, UI would be the presentation in terms of reactions and senses.

Now, let’s get into what UX and UI are in real-life terms.

UX: User experience

“The next big thing is the one that makes the last big thing usable.”

— Blake Ross, Co-creator of Mozilla Firefox

As we mentioned, this stands for user experience design. This field of design work involves a more technical and analytical approach in comparison to UI design. UX design is a relatively new field, still, with many companies who are only just becoming acquainted with measuring their website UX and the very real notion that in order to attract and retain customers, they need someone on their payroll.

For many, the word “design” comes with visuals: creativity, graphics, and colors. However, at its core, UX relies on functionality and the process of creating products that offer seamless experiences for customers.

If you’re a UX designer and beginning to write up your freelance contacts, you may want to include a description of what you do exactly in order to avoid the common question of:

“Wait, you don’t create graphics?”

The responsibilities of a UX designer or design team include knowing who the target audience or customers are, inside and out, and therefore how to make their experience with a product as rewarding as possible.

So, when you think of UX, focus on:

  • Usability
  • Functionality
  • User adaptability

When discussing the differences between UX and UI, you can see that the answer to what is UX design comes with more of an engineered functioning on the system for user-friendliness, rather than visual creativity.

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UI: User interface

So, what is UI then?

UI design is similar to graphic design work, however with more complex responsibilities.

Continuing from the analogy above if UX design is the organs of the body, the UI design is the senses and reactions in the body. And, if they don’t function properly or in an intuitive manner, the UI becomes complicated and disrupts the entire system.

That being said, creating a well-built UI design is challenging, especially given its intuitive requirement.

UI design at its core is the process of creating the looks or style of software or computerized device interfaces.

The goal?

To make designs that consumers will find pleasurable, easy to use, or simply more “intuitive” to their needs. By understanding what freelance clients are looking for when it comes to intuitive UI design work, designers can then begin engineering these ideas into the aesthetics, organization, and layout of the product.

One way to understand your clients a bit better is to get ahold of the tools and support systems, such as Bonsai, that allows you to become a more confident and prepared freelancer.

While UI is typically used for visual communication, it can also be used for sound design as well.


UX vs UI: How to Use Each

So now we know that UX is for the integral programming of the product to make it more consumer-efficient, and UI is the outer design engineering for usability, we can see how the two work hand-in-hand – and yet also are practiced very differently.

The best way to nail down the differences between UX and UI?

By understanding what they excel at – and when to use them.

UX = Useful Interfaces, UI = Beautiful Interfaces

Going off the question of what is UX, we’re talking about the total usefulness of the product. This involves meeting a user need that is not being met in the current market.

UX designers must follow this research process in order to find the place to start his/her design:

  1. Perform a competitive analysis (you can find out how to do a competitive analysis here)
  2. Develop persona(s) (you can start developing personas by conducting questionnaires for clients.)
  3. Develop a minimum viable and valuable product – what will be valuable to your specific customer’s niche which will be validated through life-cycle product testing.

This can be a tough learning curve if you’re starting out – especially if you’re working as a UX or UI freelancer. By signing up for Bonsai, you’ll be putting your freelancing responsibilities on autopilot so you can focus on becoming the best designer out there.

After the UX designer’s job is done, the UI designer steps up to the plate but making the wireframes/product more aesthetically pleasing. This may include finding typography and color schemes that not only fit the brand and personas but are user-friendly.

UI designers are also in charge of creating visual hierarchies that serve as user guides, telling them what to do on the site, program or product in order to meet a certain objective.

UX = User’s Accomplished Goals, UI = Emotional Connections

UI design vs UX design can be most easily observed through website functions and usability.

Users visit sites in order to do things. Whether this involves researching the best apps for freelancers, the most affordable strollers or the best small apartment animal companions, users are visiting sites with a specific goal in mind.

UX designers may look at visitors and figure out what is specifically important to them:

What do they need or value when searching for assistance in choosing the best stroller or fur baby.

This process involves observing and interviewing people, developing prototypes with a bit of testing with an aim to validate their product and business value propositions. This may simply involve changing the web page’s content flow

One usability is nailed down, the interface’s personality is what will create loyalty in users. The truth is, customers tend to gravitate towards striking designs or if a website allows them to participate or become active.

But what keeps customers on the page?

Developing an emotional or personal connection through humor, heartfelt understanding or cheekiness.

As Aaron Walter, author of Designing for Emotion says:

“People will forgive your shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion.”

… and this is where UI designer magic comes in.

Get more tips, tools, and tricks to master your freelancing career in UX or UI by leaning on Bonsai for support.


Differences Between UX and UI: Takeaway

The answer to what is UX and UI design includes both differences and similarities. They rely on each other to create the best user experience possible.

When we talk about differences between UX and UI, user experience design is the process or developing and improving interactions between a company and a user. It’s hands-on and involves research, tests, development, prototyping, and content for optimum results.

User interface design, on the other hand, focuses on the aesthetic or visual/sound components of the user’s experience. It involves understanding the user personas and creating layouts that speak to them.

So, when we talk about UI vs UX?

The overarching takeaway for UX and/or UI designer is this:

If you’re interested in great products, people and cognitive science, UX is a great place to start. If you’re more visually-inspired, you may be more interested in UI design.

By understanding the ins and outs of the design work, what the goal is and how to achieve that goal, then pairing this knowledge with tools and online support systems you’ll be well on your way to a successful UX or UI design freelancing career.

Focus on your craft, leave the rest up to Bonsai.
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