What is UI/UX? This article is part of a beginner’s guide for people thinking about creating their own website, or those curious about website creation in general. We’ll learn what UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) is, and the difference between them.
If you’ve spent any time researching the terms UI design or UX design, you’ll often find them being used interchangeably, but in fact, they’re very different animals. This confusion is in part, because they’re often combined into a single phrase, UI/UX design. On the surface, they appear to describe the same thing. Below, I’ll try and explain the differences and help you understand how you can apply them successfully to your own design.
WHAT IS UI DESIGN?
The UI in UI design stands for User Interface. It’s the layout and design of the screen in front of the viewer. The shape, style and even hover interactions of buttons, to other bits and pieces (technical term) on the display.
The job of a UI designer is to decide what the website is going to look like. They have to choose a colour scheme, the fonts to be used and how to lay them out (typography). In short, it’s the whole visual aesthetic.
UI designers are very often graphic designers. They’re concerned with what things look like. Their design attempts to make sure the website’s interface is attractive, visually-stimulating and themed to match the theme of the design brief or existing company’s brand. And they need to make sure every single visual element feels like a part of an overall design.
WHAT IS UX DESIGN?
The UX in UX design stands for User Experience.
In a world where the word “apple” meant a way to keep the doctor away, a cognitive scientist by the name of Don Norman [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Norman] joined the little known Apple Computers company [https://www.apple.com/] and worked extensively on user-centric design, which placed the user at the forefront of the design process. Don is widely credited as being the first to coin the phrase User Experience.
Expanding on Don’s vision, User Experience means what it says on the tin. The experience a user goes through when using anything, including using your website, could be good or bad, or somewhere in between. As website designers, the goal should always be to strive for a good experience. This differs from the User Interface, in that it’s the way a user interacts with the site, not just looking at it. UX is usually something that happens over a period of time. For example, if you’re on an eCommerce site and you’re attempting to buy something, then the process should be simple and easy to follow, yet have enough functionality so that the user can easily navigate around quantities, shipping options, payment methods without becoming confused or irritated. That would be a bad experience.
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?
A UX designer decides how the website works, and the UI designer decides how the website looks. But which is more important?
If you spend enough time researching this, you’ll find arguments that one is more important than the other. The truth is, you’ll need both. It’s like asking if eating less is more important than exercising more when trying to lose weight. As much as you want to believe one or the other, you know that you should do BOTH.
Each designer (if they’re doing both) will have a preferred work-flow. Personally, I like to have a pretty good idea of how the UX is going to be, before I work on the UI. This is especially important for larger websites, or eCommerce sites with lots of products. You don’t want to frustrate the user, especially if they’ve just made the decision to buy from you. They’ll need a clear path to follow to add to the shopping basket and navigate through the buying process.
In large corporate-size agencies, these processes will be carried out by two different design teams, collaborating closely together. If you’re considering taking on a website design project yourself, you’ll have to fill both of these roles yourself.
Let’s consider this. At some point in your design, you decide that extra buttons are needed to give your visitor extra choice. You may need to change how these buttons are to be arranged and might even require them to change size and shape.
The UX process would decide the best way to lay out the buttons and where they’re linking to:
Then, when it comes to designing the UI, the shape, colour and hierarchy can be finalised so that it fits with the new layout.
UI and UX is a continuous and collaborative process that will help to achieve the final user interface and that it looks as good as it can, while also working efficiently and intuitively. You cannot have one without the other.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Your intention should always be for your visitors to enjoy interesting content and simple navigation, which will come as a result of good design. If that is achieved, the consumer will be satisfied with your efforts. Customers that are happy with your website are more likely to tell others about it. As a result, you’ll see the number of visitors increase. Furthermore, they’re more likely to become loyal to your brand and return time and time again, resulting in… I’m sure you get the point now.
It’s hard enough attracting visitors to your site. The last thing you want them to do, is leave because they can’t get on with, or don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate.
HOW DO I DO IT
Now here’s the thing. You’ve got to learn it. I see so many websites that non website designers have built themselves, in order to save money. The results are, let’s say, variable. Most people are able to recognise a well designed website, but not everyone can put their finger on why it’s good looking. I wrote an article on how to make your website stand out from the crowd, so I’d recommend having a read of that. It goes into things you need to understand, like:
- Photo editing
- Colour theory
- Content writing
- Graphic design
- Visual hierarchy
- Use of white space
I’m a visual learner, so I like to use resources like YouTube or Vimeo and watch videos of what I’m trying to learn. Others like to read articles. Unfortunately, teaching you good UX/UI design is outside the scope of this post, but I hope I’ve given you some pointers to go and investigate yourself.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T?
You’ve probably figured this out. Without good UI/UX, your website is likely to fail. That means, when you do get visitors, they’re not going to hang around. Not only is this poor for business, it’s also poor for SEO. Search engines measure many things regarding your website. One of the key metrics, is bounce rate. That means that they leave as soon as they arrive, not visiting other pages of your site.
So, this can end up in a never ending loop. Because your site has bad UI/UX, people don’t stay around. Google notices this, so doesn’t display your site to enough people, meaning that fewer people visit. Not good.
We’ve been discussing UI/UX, but that is just part of website design. There’s SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to learn as well, among many other things.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I DON’T WANT TO?
If this article has done nothing else, I hope I’ve taught you that good UI/UX design is SO MUCH MORE than just picking a good looking template.
Website design, and all that it entails, is something that I love to do, and have been doing for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve learnt so much. A lot of it I’ve had to forget as well, because the industry has changed so much over that time.
If you’re really interested in creating something yourself, I would encourage it. Just don’t think that you’ll get good at it overnight. Yes, you can choose a template in WordPress, or choose a template from an online website builder, as that’s often a good starting point. However, when making changes to it, which you’ll inevitably have to do, you have to have a good understanding of UX/UI so that you don’t turn it into a dog’s dinner!
If I’ve frightened you off building something yourself, that wasn’t my intention. It was my intention to let you know what you’re in for. I wrote an article against building something yourself just to save money. If you don’t get your design right, it could end up being more expensive than paying for a good designer to do it for you. If you’d like to consider my company to build you something that will get you NOTICED that has good UX/UI design, getting in touch with us would be a good start.
If any of this has been of interest and you’d like to learn what we can do for your business, have a browse through some of our services below. We’d be happy to discuss the benefits of working together.
I will design you a beautiful, responsive website that you and your customers can be proud of.
For specialised sites, I can develop custom functionality to do whatever you want.
Once your shiny new website is finished, I’ll keep it safe, secure and online.
A logo, is part of your brand. It doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, a good word logo, is better than a poor graphic logo.
Having a great looking website, is… well, great. But you’ll also need great content as well, to keep your visitors interested.
There’s little point having a great site, with great content, if nobody finds you. Let my SEO service help you.