UX is not UI

Added on February 14, 2017 - Category: Blog, UX, UX Theory

We can usually find (especially in job offers) a search for “ UX / UI Designer ” or “UX / UI Developer”. And of course, there are thousands of designers and developers looking for work, so, anyway, there are many applications for these positions.

However, a UX / UI designer (or developer) is what in the jargon of our profession is called a unicorn: it may exist, but there is no evidence of its existence.

Of course, the preceding paragraph is an exaggeration. I know that there are, and I know, several people who can use that denomination (modestly, I consider myself one of them and I don’t carry a beautiful horn on my forehead). The important thing is to know that it is normal for a UX ( UXD ) designer to design User Experiences, and to a UI (UID) designer to design User Interfaces. Otherwise, the expectations of the employer who used those acronyms “because they are fashionable” are going to be severely frustrated at best. Or you will have huge losses at worst.

But… how do UX and UI differ?

All of the above is useless if we don’t know the difference. A very simple way to explain it would be:

UX contains UI, and UI does not contain UX.

And someone can say:

I am a User Interface Designer and I use User Experience elements constantly

And that can be really true. But the key is to “use elements”. A user interface designer does not create personas, a theoretical framework, prior research, wireframes, prototypes, tests with users, handle deep concepts of psychology or even biology, neither handle data flow or information architecture… In short, there are many things that don’t make him a User Experience Designer. But of course, if that person did all of that or at least some of the tasks, we would be in the presence of a UX / UI Designer, without a doubt.

As we said, that would be the simplest way to explain the difference. For the definition of User Experience Designer, I am not going to extend this time, since you can see it in detail in the User Experience Definition post.

The definition of User Interface Designer, it is also very complex and extensive. We’ll start with Wikipedia’s definition of  User Interface Design:

User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computershome appliancesmobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing usability and the user experience.

Here we see that this definition has more to do with engineering and physical interfaces, which is absolutely correct. However, it is more common for a User Interface Designer to refer more specifically to designs in web or mobile formatsIf we consider this, we can say that:

Interface design is involved in a wide range of projects from computer systems, to cars, to commercial planes; all of these projects involve much of the same basic human interactions yet also require some unique skills and knowledge. As a result, designers tend to specialize in certain types of projects and have skills centered on their expertise.

Clarification: a User Interface Designer is not only web or mobile designer, but differs in the multidisciplinary approach and the theoretical base much richer and broader than a web designer would use. In the same way that UX contains UI, UI contains Web Design.

So … UI is less than UX?

Incredibly, there are people who think that this is, that is why they add the UX particle to their speciality, thinking that if they don’t do UX they are less important, or they will get less work. It’s like saying that a doctor adds to his title Engineer: obviously he will be able to heal a leg… but he can hardly build a bridge!

In the same way, UIDs will probably fail when asked to do the work of a UXD. And a UXD will fail when trying to do the work of a UID.

In real life, both work together, but it is more common to find User Interface Design celebrities than a UXD star, for the same characteristics of their work: the work of a UXD is (or should be) invisible. The exact opposite of the work of a User Interface Designer!

Disclaimer: This content was translated to English from the original we wrote in Spanish, available in UXpañol

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