UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) are not static.
Not only should they be in a queue of continuous improvement, they should work hand in hand and are equally important.
Here we discuss differences between UI and UX, but more importantly, we discuss how they can and should continuously be improved.
Let’s dive in.
What is the difference between UX and UI?
UX and UI are not interchangeable. You should hire separate designers for each. Here are a few reasons why.
UX refers to the overall design of products. It is a human-first approach and applies to anything that can be experienced. The term “user experience” was coined in the late 1990s by Donald Norman, a professor of design, usability, and cognitive science. UX applies to both digital and physical elements of users’ experience with a product. More than anything else, UX focuses on the conceptual aspects of the product, how it is acquired, owned, and used. Designing a good UX requires user research, user testing, and creating personas and wireframes.
UI complements UX. UI deals with the digital aspects of a product, its look, feel, presentation, and interactivity. This includes features like buttons, icons, spacing, typography, color schemes, widgets, and responsive design. UI focuses on the aesthetic aspects of a product. The goal is to make sure the design is consistent, coherent, and visually pleasing. Ultimately, the goal is that users are required to think as little as possible when interfacing with a product.
One way to conceptualize UX and UI, then, is to think of UI as a subpart of UX. UX often comes first and is followed by UI. UX is about the overall feel of the experience, while UI is all about how the product’s interface looks and functions. Think of UX as a science and UI as an art.
Responsibilities of UX and UI Designers
As I said, you should not hire the same person to be responsible for both UX and UI. This is because the skills of a UX designer and a UI designer differ.
A UX designer is responsible for the following:
- Identifying research questions to improve the product
- Conducting user interviews, surveys, heuristic evaluations, and tests
- Prototyping and wireframing
- Coordinating with developers and UI
- Tracking goals and integration
- Presenting long-term product strategy
A UI designer is responsible for the following:
- Branding and graphic development
- Researching Design
- Adapting product to all device screen sizes
- UI prototyping
- Developing interactivity and animation
- Implementing design with software developers
Once you understand the responsibilities of both UX and UI developers, you can hire both types to help improve your product.
Tips for good UX and UI
But if you want to improve your product’s UX and UI now, the following general tips are a good place to start:
- Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A common novice mistake is to sacrifice simplicity for originality. If you try to set your product apart from others by making the user experience too different, you may lose some customers. Users want to know how to use your product. They don’t care as much about how original it is. So keep to conventions and standards that work and try to make your product stand out in other ways, e.g. unique features and services. A good example of this is Google Docs. Its menu bar looks very similar to that of Microsoft Word. Instead of trying to change how users navigate their word processor, Google Docs took advantage of what users were already used to. They mimicked the menu design established by Microsoft Word and distinguished themselves by making their word processor web-based.
- Know your target users. The more you understand your target user, the more you can tailor your user design to their needs and wants. If users like to access your product on their smartphone, you should design the user experience and interface accordingly.
- Keep navigation simple and clear. Get rid of any unnecessary elements on your website and show only what is important. You don’t want to overwhelm users by giving them too many options. So break choices down as much as possible, and design the user flow strategically with wireframing. Merge similar functions and subordinate some menus under larger ones to narrow down users’ options. This is also why some tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg wear the same thing everyday—to eliminate unnecessary decision making.
- Maintain consistency. A consistent UX and UI communicates reliability. Users trust products that have a coherent feel. So use clear and recognizable icons and menus that keep the same look from one page to the next. Users will invest more in a product that they can trust.
- Craft an inviting homepage. Your website homepage is often the first impression users get of your product. So make it count. Your homepage should help new users understand what your product is all about with little effort on their part. If you lose users on the homepage, you’ve lost them for good.
- Highlight important information. Make the most valuable information stand out by using negative space to your advantage. The best websites use a good amount of negative space because it improves readability. If you have too much on one page, you risk overwhelming users. So consider everything’s placement and size and get rid of any clutter.
- Optimize for different devices. Users will abandon a product if it’s not compatible with their device. And today, users use all kinds of devices: mobile, tablet, computers etc. Start by optimizing design for mobile since 2 percent of all website traffic worldwide comes through mobile phones. This will also force you to strip your website down to its most essential elements because mobile screens limit the space you have to work with.
- Make the interface easy to learn. Even if your UI has a learning curve, make learning it as easy as possible. Users who are constantly scratching their heads at how to use your product will give up. So implement good onboarding that guides first-time users with automatic tutorials, for example. Games like the RISK: Global Domination app do this well by teaching you how to play in a practice round before starting the actual game.
- Give users a sense of progression and accomplishment. Users want to feel progress when navigating your product. So why don’t you show progress visually? For example, many online publishing sites have reading progress bars at the top of the page. As you scroll further down the text, the progress bar fills to give you a sense of how far you’ve come. Users want to feel a sense of accomplishment, too. So provide visual queues like “payment gone through” or “item added to basket.” This will confirm that their action went through as intended.
Then here are some little things you can do to improve your UX and UI:
- Avoid double scrollbars. Double scrollbars mean you have a window with a scrollbar within a larger window with a scrollbar. This can be confusing and frustrating when users don’t know how to switch from operating one scrollbar to the next. In the worst case, users can’t scroll to where they need to go.
- Fix broken links. Avoid broken links because they disrupt user flow. Ideally, your website won’t have any. But changing page URLs can lead to a broken link here and there. So use a broken link checker like Dead Link Checker to detect and fix them.
- Make error pages helpful. Landing on an error page is disappointing enough. Don’t make the experience more frustrating by offering no help. Instead, have your error page direct users to other suggested searches or other places to look. If nothing else, make the error page more flattering than a mere “404 page not found.” Google Chrome offers a pixelated running dinosaur game when it can’t find an internet connection, for example.
- Improve loading speed. Most users won’t wait for more than a few seconds for your site to load. High-speed internet has shortened their patience. Today, the ideal website load time is 1-2 seconds. So whatever you can do to improve your site’s loading speed will help you retain more users.
- Make registration easy. Many products and services require users to register, e.g. social media. Don’t scare users away by asking for too much information at the outset. Only ask for what is necessary and fill in the rest later. LinkedIn is a good example of this. Instead of immediately asking for all your job history and profile data, they let you register with just a name and email address and then have you fill in your profile as you go.
- Direct users visually. Use images to your advantage. If your site includes photos of humans, for example, have their line of sight point to where you want users’ attention to go, perhaps to a call to action.
Benefits of Good UX and UI
How exactly will good UX and UI benefit your business? Consider the following benefits:
- Attract more customers. Even if your product is more expensive than others, many customers will flock to your product over others if it has superior UX and UI. You gain a competitive advantage.
- Retain more customers. By creating a visually satisfying and intuitive product, you can be sure existing customers will stay with you for the long run.
- Lower maintenance costs. If you can design a product that is intuitive from the start, you will run into fewer hiccups along the way, which means less maintenance costs.
- Increase productivity. Easy product navigation and flow will increase users’ productivity, which will in turn increase your own productivity. Fewer user issues means fewer resources spent on resolving them.
- Reduce time for product development. Products with bad UI and UX need constant revision that keeps them in the design phase. With good design from the outset, you can be sure your product will require minimal corrections. And, a good UX preparation means an easier and faster time for development work, especially if you’re using remotely operated dev teams.
If you don’t believe me on the impact of good UX and UI, here are a few success stories:
Apple’s iPhone was not the first smartphone. Its success as the most popular smartphone is attributed to its simple and minimalist design.
Facebook was not the first social network. It climbed to the top because of its simple user navigation.
Google was not the first search engine. It just made finding information easier than other search engines did.
Amazon was not the first online retailer. It invested 100 times more into customer experience than into advertising in its first year to get ahead of the curve.
Market for UX and UI
UX and UI will continue to play a major role in the future. As relatively new fields, the markets for both are growing. One survey cites UI/UX designers as the most in-demand product design job.
LinkedIn reported UX as one of its top skills to learn in 2020. The median annual salary for a UX designer is about $90,000.
As for UI designers, they rank third in the top in-demand creative talent for 2019. They can expect to make around $80,000 per year.
Businesses are learning the importance of UX and UI now more than ever. So there will be more opportunities in these fields for both companies and workers alike.
Working with Dev.co
If you want to take your product to the next level, why not invest in better UX and UI today?
Here at Dev.co, we can help you design an intuitive and visually-pleasing website that influences visitor behavior, eliminates barriers to conversion, delivers a branded online experience, and guides users to clear calls to action (CTAs).
Whatever your UX or UI needs, Dev.co is here to help design or redeploy a website. Contact us today to get started.
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