Stop Referring to UI Design, as UX!

UX Design is not the same as UI Design… and it certainly isn’t app design.

UX and UI? The difference is a lot more than 1 letter.

Much like how the term ‘Product Designer’ is weaving its way into the digital design industry, to the disapproval of most (Physical) Product and Industrial Designers… UI is more readily being labeled as ‘UX’ Design… and that’s the one that really grates on me.

UI is not the same as UX. UI is commonly, but importantly not exclusively, part of the result of the UX Process, as UI refers to the aesthetic appeal of a digital touchpoint, that has been ideally formed off the foundations and evidence that the UX process has ensured for. Whilst they may complement each other, they are still separate entities; a UX Designer may never be required to go near a UI Designers ‘tool-kit’, and vice versa. So why is there confusion?

OK, so I’m just 133 words into this post and 12 of those are abbreviations for User Experience and User Interface… so, let’s break this down a bit. User Experience is a somewhat broad term that covers a whole array of disciplines, where each complements one and other to form a comprehensive, human-centered, and empathy-driven project. And whilst User Interface most commonly involves a significant touchpoint, User Experience considers the entire user journey, this includes everything leading up to the user’s interaction with the UI, as well as their experience that follows. This empathetic process is driven by a series of methods; user-centered research, persona building, experience mapping, to name but a few. UI Design utilises a whole different set of skills… a lot of which I couldn’t even consider comprehending. Yet despite these staggering differences, UX and UI are consistently interchanged. For the sake of argument and to keeps things simple, when I am referring to ‘UI’, in this article I am referring to digital touch-points, as opposed to physical interfaces.

There are two distinct results of the miss-naming of these professions.

  1. Weak projects concealed by pretty visuals.

Too often, projects that pride themselves on being ‘UX’ projects are instead interfaces whose primary focus is to look beautiful. And whilst achieving this is an undeniable skill in itself, and one which is often under-appreciated, it cannot mask the false identity of a project which does not have the user at the center of focus. Not only does leave onlookers who expected to see UX principles feeling disappointed, but also casts a shadow over the valuable skill set that UX Designer’s offer.

2. The misaligned and misunderstood job expectations of Employers.

This is the one that concerns me the most. Now I’m not going to be one who states that the role of ‘UX/UI Designer’ shouldn’t exist. In fact, if the role demands both skill-sets to be readily used and an individual can achieve that, then perfect. However, if you are looking for someone to drive the aesthetics of your website/ app, negating the need for user research and experience design, then you’d be better off advertising for a UI Designer. From a practical standpoint, if a company labels the job title incorrectly, it welcomes the opportunity for people of a completely different, and undesirable, skill-set to apply… that’s just a waste of time for everyone involved!

So yes, whilst the acronyms for User Experience and User Interface may look similar, the skill-set that lies behind the terms couldn’t be further apart.


Food for thought-

This website, as its URL would suggest, makes this topic clear as mud.

Product Designer with a Passion for User Experience