UX and UI: What’s the Difference?
You’ve probably heard a lot about UX and UI design, but what you might not know is the real difference between the two. Nothing to be ashamed of! There are tons of people, from new students all the way up to employers who aren’t really clear on the difference. To get some professional insight, we spoke to James McNab, one of RED’s UX instructors to tackle some of the biggest misconceptions around User Experience and User Interaction design.
James was quick to tell us that the most common definitions leave a lot to be desired. “These two disciplines work so closely together, people think that UX (aka User Experience) is, ‘make it work properly’ and UI (aka User Interface) is, ‘make it look nice’. If done correctly, there’s a lot more to it than that.”
To start off, we spoke about what these two fields have in common. The backbone of both UX and UI design, James tells us, is quality research. “A lot of new students tend to think they’ll be doing a lot of design. They think that they’ll talk to users, get the gist of what they want and then you’re good to go,” Early on in his classes, James is quick to correct new students, and show them just how much there is to UX and UI, “Design is just one element of the process; you’re not just making a nice graphic image, you’re talking to users, creating a plan, creating a design.”
For the more visually inclined, studying User Interaction Design is about exploring what attracts people; “We’re talking about what does the product look like, what’s the feel of it, how do people interact, what are the themes, leaning more towards the visual side of the equation.”
UX and UI: Research and Discovery
It’s a misconception to think that beautiful design is all a product needs, however. Talk to almost any CEO, James reckons, and they’ll champion the user’s experience. “We’re talking about UX were talking about mainly research, it gets very empirical. Inquiring about users needs and wants — centering around your research around what users are interested in doing and ways you can help them along the process. It’s all about research and discovery.”
Uber is a perfect example – they had their marketing team work closely with their UX team to figure out the referral process. They have their whole onboarding scenario, where every user that recommended a friend, each person gets $10 on a ride, but that’s a whole process built into the app, both marketing and ux. They were thinking, what’s the first ride going to be like? Taxi companies that are now coming out with apps aren’t’ thinking about the first ride, or the 2nd or the fifth or tenth.
There’s no problem if you feel you can’t choose between the two either; Full Stack UX/UI designers are in high demand throughout the tech industry in Canada. You could even choose to pair your UX skills with a web development course, giving you the more robust technical skills to dive into testing and prototyping on a variety of platforms.
Dan Ophaug is a copy and content writer currently based in Toronto, Ontario. Born and raised in the UK, Dan has also spent time living in Montreal and New Brunswick. With a background in both journalism and film studies, he decided his real passion was in writing, and has since worked with everyone from arts publications to tech startups to produce creative content.