Understanding UX and UI Design

I’ve read a number of articles referencing “UI vs. UX” design, including blogs asking the question “which is better?” There is no “versus” or “better” when it comes to User Interface and User eXperience. A professional mobile app developer will tell you that the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important.

User Interface Design (UI):

I’ll begin with the User Interface Design (UI) because it includes some of my favorite app elements! UI = the visual design, the colors, the layout and the typography. A successful UI is efficient and easy to use. Tasks and navigation should visually appear to be simple and intuitive, and the technical functionality should balance nicely with the visual elements to create a system which is usable (and also flexible as the users’ needs change).

“Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic designand typography are utilized to support itsusability, influencing how the user performs certain interactions and improving the aesthetic appeal of the design; design aesthetics may enhance or detract from the ability of users to use the functions of the interface.”

In User Interface Design, we ask: what are we making? Then we apply the visual elements, making it appealing with a focus on the tools. It’s basically the stuff the user sees. However, we cannot get to this piece and have a great UI without the UX.

User Experience (UX):

With UX, rather than asking “what are we going to make?” we focus instead on “what are we trying to achieve?” It’s in the name! The User eXperience Design focuses on the experiences and the feelings you get while using the app. With development expertise guiding the way, design collaborates with development to focus on the interactions (the broad scope of the project). In fact, I usually describe the UX Design as the interaction process. To be more precise, the COMPLETE package is what makes a good UX; whereas, good User Interface Design is essential, but only an element of a successful User eXperience.

Understanding the User

To get a sense of how UI and UX work together, we first require a complete understanding of what the user needs before we even get to the UI process. This includes a lot of the behind-the-scenes work: wire-framing and prototyping, the information architecture, research and the scenario interpretations. We identify functionality and goals for our clients’ app through significant communication and research. Looking at the broad scope of the project, we tie everything together to translate the client’s ideas into a successful UX.

Then, moving into the information architecture and wire-framing phase, we essentially create the framework and “bones” of the project. We strip out everything and focus simply on content, flow and navigation. With the client’s approval, we then have enough information to move through the User eXperience foundation to create the User Interface Design (the stuff you see).

Once the UI is complete, we continue through the UX process and support the UI with development, API integration, QA testing and finally an upload to the app store.

Both are Critical!

It’s not UX vs. UI! If a mobile app looks great but is difficult to use, this means it has a great UI and a poor UX. On the other hand, if the app is very usable but looks terrible, it has a great UX and poor UI. And if you’re in the business of creating successful apps or websites, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important, delivering the best product to clients and users.

By Shellynn Finstad, Apptology Chief Creative Officer

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