We live in a world dictated by technology, design, and experiences. These factors combine to render our lives easier; more comfortable. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of our everyday conversations circle back or find their grounding in developments in the tech space – most importantly, back to our phones. 

Ask yourself this, “how often do I check my phone in my waking hours”. 

Our best bet is once every few minutes. 

Are we right? Now, let’s filter out a few things. How often do you use your phone to take or make a regular call? Maybe twice a week? 

In contrast, how often do you use your phone to open an app to post a cute picture of your furry friend on social media, order food, or sit for a video work call? You’ve lost count, haven’t you?

Now, let’s chalk out one last detail. How many apps do you presently have on your phone? 

Once you’ve figured out how many, go one step further and determine which ones you use the most and which ones are just sitting there, gathering cobwebs. 

Have you ever wondered why you rarely use some apps while you can’t imagine life without a select few? Is it because you rarely find the need for some? Or is it because you’re not persuaded enough to use it? 

It’s because looks matter and how you feel matters.

It’s no secret that some apps are so loved while some aren’t. However, the secret perhaps lies in giving the user what he doesn’t even know he wants.

But, before we learn the tricks of the trade, it’s important to understand the basics of the trade itself. 

What Is User Interface Design? 

User interface design is a graphical design of an application. It comprises buttons, pictures, recordings, texts, and lays the foundations for how the application functions. The primary objective of a UI designer is to make an interface that instantly connects the user to the service while ensuring a seamless experience (a UX designer helps in the process, but we’ll get to that later).

While it may only seem like fun, games, and creativity involved (and UI asks for a lot of these traits, too), it most definitely isn’t an easy feat to pull off. It’s an arduous task to plug into the trends across the work and tap into the psyche of different age groups and geographies to create something that appeals to the mass.

Your UI can either make or break your business if you’re not careful. So if you must invest in something for your service to boom, your first step should be to hire an exceptional UI designer.

If you don’t believe that “well begun is half done”, look at some revolutionary app designs say, Airbnb,  and let us know if it still didn’t change your mind. The #1 rule to designing an app that people want to use is to first think about usability.

 

And that begins by understanding what sort of user interface you’re looking to design:

User interfaces can broadly be categorized into three primary types – Graphical user interfaces (GUIs), Voice-controlled interfaces (VCIs), and Gesture-based interfaces. 

Graphical user interfaces that we see and know now were first introduced in the 1970s by the Xerox Palo Alto research laboratory, California. It was commercially first deployed in Apple’s Macintosh and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.

It was first designed to tackle usability issues in text-based interfaces for the average user. Its intuitive design would quickly make it the go-to method in software applications and programming. The interface was simple. The user could identify the tasks he had to perform from point A to B without difficulties.

Scroll bars, buttons, menus, cursors, and other graphical icons became the new kid on the block and set the standard. Of course, over the years, designs, interfaces, and applications have significantly changed (for example, 2022 is bringing back neumorphism and glassmorphism), yet the foundations are the same. 

Voice UI

Voice-controlled interfaces need no introduction. It’s all around us, making our lives easier. There’s an innate urge to ask it to perform a task when we see one. How many times have you walked into a friend’s house and almost immediately requested a virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa to “play some groovy beats”?

We seem not to care that the assistant may or may not follow the command. There’s a novelty in talking to a device that seems to never fade. Voice-user interfaces are the future, and the future is here. If you haven’t brought home an Alexa, a Siri, or any other voice assistant home, it’s safe to say you’re still living in the 90s. 

Gesture-based interfaces may not be as popular as voice-controlled interfaces have, but it’s soon getting there. The past few years have not only changed the way we live our lives but it’s also changed consumer behavior, taking giant leaps in medical science as well. 

When entering a mall or a similar public space, how often do you find yourself standing in front of a digital temperature scanner and waving your hand in front of it? It’s one of the ways gesture-based interfaces have evolved over the years. 

But, these interfaces aren’t limited to touchless screens. Perhaps you’ve been using these interfaces for years now, without even realizing it. For instance, you don’t even need a keypad to perform some activities. You can tap, pinch, or scroll, and some devices let you interact with features in a “touchless” route. Gesture-based interfaces also include 3D design spaces and virtual reality games. 

Many UI/UX designers make the mistake of their interface only being aesthetically pleasing. While that plays a huge role in how users perceive the interface, they should not forget that a user wants a platform that requires him to use as minimal brainpower as possible. 

Is your service easy to navigate from the first step to the last one, or does it take the user on a tour around our galaxy? If it does, the user will stop before Mars before giving it a second shot.

Suppose your service isn’t a pay and order service but an app that functions through the undeniable power of social media. In that case, the objective of the interface should be to keep the user staying on your platform for as long as they possibly can – they need not even contribute.

What’s a good way to tell if you’re doing the right thing when it comes to user interfaces?

You can always fall back on Dieter Ram’s 10 commandments of good design whenever in doubt. Always remember that good design is thorough to the last detail. A good UI/UX designer knows when to follow the rules, maybe break a few, but always when to stop and discard the frills. If you’re going to design an interface loved by millions, these rules will help you get started. 

Create predictable elements. When designing a button, avoid loud, flashy colors. You’ve mastered the first step to getting the user hooked. Now, label the icons clearly, and importantly focus on which elements you want to be viewed first. Keep it simple and prioritize a neat alignment pattern. Each button should perform a task that quickly takes the user to point B. The aim should be to minimize the number of actions from start to finish. 

But designing a button or making an interface isn’t the end of it. How a user reacts to a specific element and assessing why someone decides to linger on or leave immediately is crucial in the design process.

One may easily find many similarities and an overarching overlap between UI and UX design, yet the differences are stark. 

What is UX design, and how is it different from UI design (UI vs UX design)?


While UI design focuses more on the elements and what a particular interface looks like, UX design deals more with how the platform functions. At the core, it considers interface design, information architecture, and usability as the three main pillars. 

Think about it this way, how many seconds ago was the last time you used an app? Did you use it out of a need or to while the time away? If you spent a reasonable amount of time on it, it probably means that you don’t particularly hate the app.

The more time a user spends on the interface out of sheer will, the more successful it is. 

It also means that the UX designer has gone to strenuous lengths to understand how the general psyche of the mass works and spent weeks, months, or even years trying to learn or unlearn how people perceive a product and how they interact with it. Armed with that knowledge, the UX designer suggests tweaks and fixes along the way to render the design more likable, valuable, attractive, and perhaps even addictive.

UI vs. UX – Here’s a good way to identify the differences between UI and UX

Parameters UI  UX 
Objective  Visual aspects of a product Usability and experience of using the product 
Focus  More on the aesthetic appeal, interactive elements, fonts, typography, colors, etc. Overall user experience and how user-friendly the product is 
Design aspects  Wireframing, prototyping  Understanding user needs with a basic layout, mockups 
Timeline  Older concept  Newer concept 
Use Strictly associated with digital technology  Mostly associated with user behavior and their needs 
Needs  Understanding of front-end software tools Understanding user transactions
Focus  On visual elements  On labels and patterns 

Combine the best of:

  1. Hours of intensive research
  2. Designs that speak volumes
  3. Strategies that not only think about the now but the future
  4. And, content that hits the sweet spot,

What you have in front of you is design that sells and has people coming back for more.


But, simply understanding the whats and the whys of user journeys isn’t the end of what a UX designer is expected to do. The effect it has on people, the delivery, the aftermath, and the use of the digital space is also considered. They must always leave room for improvement and understand that the needs and demands and how users perceive design change with the changing world.

It isn’t just about creating code and putting it together, it’s also about the message the brand wants to convey and how the user identifies the brand. 

It’s about fulfilling a need, a promise, a void for the user. When you address this void, it makes a significant commercial impact.

However, there is a significant overlap between UI and UX design.

How are UI design and UX design related?

Although both UI and UX design processes are different, the end goal is the same. Both UI/UX designers implement plans to develop user-friendly products to keep customers satisfied. UI design deals more with the visual properties of a product and how to make it aesthetically appealing to the user. On the other hand, it is the job of the UX designer to determine if even the most well-designed UI can sour the experience for a user.

What Should I focus on – UI design or UX design?

Both.

There is no one way to go about it. UI design can’t exist without UX design and vice-versa. Typically, UX design comes into play first. It encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product. User experience design is a multi-step, rigorous, and painstakingly well-researched process that involves creating user personas and mapping out their journey.

On the other hand, UI design must be clear and visual metaphors should not go over a user’s head. Although a new product, it should have a quality of familiarity. It should be efficient and consistent throughout. But, getting to this stage requires testing, feedback, and user analyses – all of which is possible only with the power of UX design.

Some designers feel that UX design has a slight upper hand.

This leads us to the age-old question –

Can you do UI design without UX design?

Sure. You can.

But why do a half-baked job?

One might even say that UI is an integral component of good UX design. Some may even go above and beyond and say that UI is UX. UX designers deliver crucial information to UI designers that include customer and market research, visions for prototypes, and how one can bring interfaces to life. Without UX, UI is just an interface.

Is UI easier than UX?

Are apples tastier than bananas?

Is blue better than green?

The answer will always be subjective. However, it’s typically said that UI design may be easier than UX design. No obstacle or hurdle will seem like a challenge if you love what you do. Depending on who you identify as you should be better able to make the judgment.

Love digging deep and discovering more about the user’s experience with the product? Choose UX. If you lean more towards making things functional and the aesthetic aspect, you should divert your gaze towards UI design.

If you like to see things in a cohesive flow and as one singular entity – you’ll be happy to learn the nitty-gritty details of UX design. However, if you obsess over individual parts till you’ve found perfection, UI design is the path to choose.

How Can a UX designer Utilize Cognitive Psychology to Shape UX? 

What does psychology have to do with design? Quite a lot.

Cognitive psychology focuses on how people acquire, process, and store information in their brains. It also studies mental processes like memory, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and perception. All processes are studied under mathematical models and statistics to analyze data and behavior patterns. UX designers can leverage such data to shape UX design that will appeal to the masses.

What does a User Experience designer do on a regular day? 

As with any other profession, not a single day is alike for a UX designer. Their journey of discovery starts with market research. Extensive research helps the UX designer filter the user’s needs and lends insights to user behavior, motivations, and existing gaps. Some of the most common methods for market research include surveys, customer analysis, focus groups, interviews, data collection, and benchmarking, among others. Once the initial research is complete, they move to the most crucial step.

Based on their findings, they categorize different sets of “personas”. Each persona sheds light on various factors like the persona’s needs, motivations, and geographies – information paramount to laying the setting stone for any interface. 

They then move on to Information Architecture. To borrow from the words of uxplanet.org, Information architecture (IA) is a science of organizing and structuring content of the websites, web and mobile applications, and social media software.” Sounds complicated? Don’t be alarmed. Think of it as a mind map. It’s the beginnings of a blueprint of an information hierarchy and placing secondary buttons concerning primary ones.

Along with a UI designer, a prototyping and wireframing process takes place. These may include basic sketches made on paper or a more digital version. Once the high-fidelity designs are rolled out, the UX designer has one more task to do – user testing. The UX designer may allow users to interact with a prototype or make observations based on focus groups, moderated test groups, and more and ask for valuable feedback to help improve the product.

All great UX designers and visual designers swear by the quadrant model. 

Along with Information Architecture and User Research (often broadly categorized as market research), Experience Strategy or ExS and Interaction Design or IxD make up the UX quadrant model.

Experience strategy can be the game-changer you need, and if you play your cards well, it will be the only strategy you need.

It’s about creating a strategy that will bring value to the service you provide – a long-term business strategy. It not only focuses on the needs and wants of the user, but it also considers the aims and objectives of the company for years to come. This will often include a plan B, C, D, or more and a fail-safe plan.

What started off as a core task for UX designers, experience strategy has now evolved into a much bigger entity, warranting a UX strategist. Experience strategy sees that all parts of a machine are well-oiled, working in tandem, and operating smoothly. 

Interaction design, on the other hand, is a more specialized area. It focuses on specific elements in an interface. Whether that’s a button, an action, a color scheme, a typography risk, user interaction design observes patterns and behaviors to optimize the interface for ease of use.

Arriving at which words to use (because ill-fitting content can decelerate everything) and visual representations make up a considerable chunk of interaction design. The purpose of IxD then is to keep the messaging crisp and clear. In addition, design, colors, patterns, and other visual and interactive elements can influence a user’s behavior patterns, mindset, and emotions. For instance, yellow can invoke cheerfulness, while red can signify an emergency.

Yet, there are so many underlying everyday tasks that a UX designer and a UI designer are expected to perform in tandem and in silos to get to the end goal. 

With all the differences, one thing remains central and integral to both UI and UX designers –  they start their process keeping the user in mind. While one focuses on what the interface looks like, the other focuses on the overall experience.

What according to you is the main difference between UI and UX? Have you been using the terms interchangeably or do they mean different things?

Are you looking for an experience-driven digital solution for your product or service?
Author

Alka is the Design Director at Pepper Square and she has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last seven years.

Alka is the Design Director at Pepper Square and she has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last seven years.

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