UI, UX? What are those? What is the difference?
Sometimes they are unified under one umbrella called "UI/UX Design" but there are also times they are separated.
I got to write this article after being inspired by this article about the difference between UI and UX designers from Designerhire.com! If you haven't heard about them yet, they provide really good articles to learn about all the occupations of a designer and where to hire them!
UI is short for User Interface. According to Designerhire, "user interface is the medium through which users interact with a digital product". So whatever you see here on the screen is the UI. This article by Lo Min Ming mentioned that the User Interface designer is particular at how the product is laid out. As a UI Designer, you should be working on interface-related matters, such as : maintaining visual consistency, where a button should be placed, which font is the best to use, what kind of component to use for a certain function, etc.
Most of the time, design system is created by the UI Designer.
Here is a more detailed version of UI Designer's tasks :
Creating pixel-perfect components so that it will be developed perfectly as well.
Make sure visual consistency throughout the product.
See and interpret the visual balance. Know when to break the consistency in order to achieve visual balance.
Create and advance product-wide style guides.
Define what color to use for which component (color for alert, the success, errors, etc.)
Concept and implement the visual language of the brand.
If you notice, most of the tasks of a UX Designer require a lot of designing, creating, implementing.
Some basic requirements to become a UI Designer:
Knowledge in color theory, typography, visual elements, and visual theory.
Proficient in UI design software such as Sketch, Photoshop, and Figma.
Some additional knowledge UI Designer good to have are:
Knowing how to sketch in real life. Because there are times you should roughly draw your idea how the product would roughly look, not only at the initial phase of the project but also at times when there is an enhancement on an existing product. If you can quickly sketch your idea during the brainstorming sessions, this would speed up the process in creating the high-fidelity UI as you have got the basic down, so it is just the matter of which color to use, etc.
Knowledge of common web components. This is to make sure that you will mainly use common web components and avoid unreasonable customization. Too much customization for unnecessary reasons may slow down the development process thus, delaying the timeline.
Knowledge in web development. If you know roughly how to develop a product, then you would make a design that is easy to achieve and to understand by the developers.
Different companies will have more requirements and maybe will have fewer requirements than these.
There are some job posts that mentioned you have to design and develop the UI. But as far as I know, UI Designer is not supposed to develop the UI unless it is a combined title such as "UI Designer & Developer".
Now, let's talk about UX Design!
UX is short for User Experience. As the name says, a UX Designer focus on the experience of a user. According to Lo Min Ming at Fast Company, "UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels".
The difference with the UI Designer, they mainly care about how a user feels about the product, how the user uses the product, is there anything that obstructs their usage of the product, how intuitive the product is, how the user thinks about the product even after using it, etc.
Most of the time, wireframes are made by UX Designer and they also make sure the user journey makes sense.
Instead of focusing on the pixels, colors, and font, UX designer focuses more on how should or would the user feel and whether or not their experience intention is achieved.
Here is a more detailed version of UX Designer's tasks :
Creating a wireframe to show the detailed user journey and think of every scenario that might happen in the product.
Think about the strategy on how to make a product serve value for its users.
Think about how to prevent errors made by users in the product. For example: enabling only 16 digit numbers for credit card input or applying instant calculation on a form to make users only enter numbers that make sense.
Continuously ask "what happens when..." question and answer it.
Structure and decide what information should go first and which should go last. Not all information has to be shown primarily. UX Designer should know which information(s) to be prioritized.
Think about what are the functions they should have for the product and the mechanism of each function as well as the reason why those functions are made available in the product.
If you notice, most of the tasks of a UX Designer require a lot of thinking.
Some basic requirements to become a UX Designer:
Big interest in how the human mind works
Empathize with the user
Knowledge on how to create a wireframe and user journey mapping
Critical and creative thinking
Able to define how things can be improved in the product based on user feedback.
Some additional knowledge UX Designer good to have are:
Marketing knowledge. Because some projects are facing the public and meant to sell more items/services, it is good to have knowledge of marketing.
Knowledge in perceiving the visual so you can decide whether the interface design aligned with the experience you planned or not.
Knowledge in reading the result of their design (such as A/B test result, Beta version result) to know whether the goal is achieved or not.
A UX Designer should not be confused with a UX Researcher. A UX Researcher mainly designs and conducts the research on the user, whether it is by conducting interviews, surveys, read data, present findings, etc. Some companies may combine UX Designer and UX Researcher in the same role and expects you to research and design. This may be acceptable when the research work is small and simple, but it is still best to separate these as UX Researcher also have a huge load of tasks in making sure they get the best insight about the product's user.
The Ultimate Combination: UI/UX Designer!
Now let's talk about the ultimate, the most commonly mixed occupation, the UI/UX Designer.
You probably saw it everywhere in job portals, companies looking for UI/UX Designer.
And when you have understood the difference of UI and UX Designer, well UI/UX Designer is just a combination of both.
Companies put UI/UX Design together in a single title because of how dependent these two are. UI Designer mostly works closely with UX Designer. Although they may also work closely with, say, UI Developer or UX Researcher, it is not as close and as compact as UI and UX Designer working together at the same time.
According to Designerhire, another factor why they do this is that there "may be a matter of company size and budget". Most smaller companies simply cannot support both titles separately while the bigger ones can.
The question is, should you mix them together?
“A UI designer might not know the psychology of how a user will think as they are designing... Many UI designers were graphic designers and many have graphic design degrees. The best UX designers have a psychology and human computer interaction background.” - Beck Beach, Senior UX Designer/Developer at American Airlines
I personally think you can mix anything, but that is not necessarily preferred. It is not a surprise as companies have done the same for any other role and the role that is a mixture of 2 (or more) different roles exists such as Full Stack Developer (mix of Front-End and Back-End developer). I think that as long as companies understand that mixing these two occupations together would sacrifice a bit of each role's work quality, it is still fine.
If you are a designer and not sure if you should be UI/UX Designer or specialize in UI or UX Design, I can't tell you which is better for you as you have to know yourself more to get the answer. Here's some guidance on that!
[ WARNING!! ⚠️ No judgment zone here, so some of these can be your reason some may not, nothing wrong with that 😉 ]
You should become a UI/UX Designer if :
You love to be versatile and be responsible for many aspects of the product.
You really love and enjoy doing both UI and UX Design.
You prefer to design both the UI and the UX alone.
You are transitioning from other fields and not sure yet which one to focus on.
*Just some personal note: I work as a UI/UX Designer at the moment, and I can understand when some people feel like the responsibility and the workload of this occupation is too much for them as sometimes I also feel there are too many aspects have to be taken care of at the same time hahaha but if you haven't felt it, this should not discourage you because sometimes this huge workload can be fun and interesting and at the end of the day you will learn so much!
You should become a UI Designer if :
You have a passion for visual and aesthetic.
You don't want to think too much and plan the UX and prefer someone else to think about it (the UX work and responsibilities might be too much when combined with UI as well)
You are transitioning from graphic design, visual design, or digital design field and you prefer your new occupation to be not too much different from your previous occupation.
You are highly receptive and sensitive about color, typo, lines, alignments, and shapes.
You prefer to create something that looks and feels good.
You love to pay attention to the small visual detail, you'd know it when a button is few pixels off!
"Your product looks really cool!" is like music to your ear! (not that if someone tells you that your product is easy to use will offend you anyway)
You should become a UX Designer if :
You have a passion for the human mind, psychology, and human-to-device interaction.
You don't want to dwell too much into making the color palette, the shape of the button, or the length of the lines. You just want the user to feel A, and then do B.
You are very much interested in why people do X and how their process of doing things can be better by implementing Y.
You prefer to create something that's useful, good to use, and preferred by people because it just feels easier to use what you created compared to other similar products.
You have a major in psychology (or related) and wanted to be a designer.
You tend to focus on how things function and how it works.
You are more of the "bigger picture" kind of person. The idea and plan have to be immaculate and achieved!
You are curious and can think of scenarios that would happen when someone uses a product and you are very eager to come up with the solution for each scenario.
"Your product is so easy to use!" is like music to your ear! (not that if someone tells you that "your product looks cool" will offend you anyway)
Here's the summary of the difference between UI and UX Designer :
There's actually way more occupations than these two. There's interaction designer, product designer, UX researcher, UI developer, animation designer, and so many more! There are so many designer occupations to choose from! If you are curious and want to know more about these occupations, check out Designerhire.com! If you wanted to hire a designer but not sure which one to choose, they also have a quick questionnaire to help you with that.
I hope this article helps you to make better decisions (whether in hiring or working) and understand the difference better between each occupation.
Are you a UI Designer or UX Designer or both?