UI And UX Aren’t Siamese Twins- Know The Differences

UI and UX aren’t Siamese twins

Although often used interchangeably yet UX and UI are not the same. There have been scores of posts and articles on the UX and UI debate but still, there seems to be some sort of cloud about the whole thing. So, is there actually a stark difference?

Well, both the concepts of UX and UI are so tightly interlinked that the major difference seems to be non-existent somehow. What makes things even more blurry is that both concepts exist because of the other. For example, UI is not possible without UX – on the other hand, UI is the heart of UX. However, when you are hiring or seeking a job for UX or UI, it’s vital to understand the differences. Put simply, there are some fundamental differences between the two and if you don’t differentiate between them you might end up with a wrong hire or an unsatisfactory job.

The Difference

Both UX and UI are parts of computer-human interaction.

Decoding UX

UX aka User Experience refers to the experience that a user encounters or earns while interacting with a service or product. This way, UX concentrates on attaining an in-depth understanding of the user as well as designing his/her journey while using that service or product. In other words, UX exists in every sphere wherever a user comes in contact with an offering – whether the user is browsing a website or ordering dinner at a restaurant, and so on.

Decoding UI

UI aka User Interface refers to the fundamental medium that enables the UI to take place, especially in the digital context. To make things simpler, UI refers to all the things that make the UI happen- you can say UI can make or break UX. So, what are the factors that constitute UI? Well, the list can be pretty lengthy, covering aspects like menu bars, color, typography, and so on.

Traditionally, UI was mostly about buttons and switches. Over time, UI expanded to include graphical UI accompanied by keyboards, mice, and monitors. In the contemporary touch-driven smart world, users might forget about the presence of UI – since we mostly interact with the screen these days. However, you can’t forget that every single thing that enables interaction between humans and browsing-enabled devices falls under the category of UI. And that is not limited to physical hardware only- rather the voice control-enabled devices too come under the category of UI.

A more precise explanation would be that UI is the primary bridge that connects users to UX. It can be claimed that while UX comprises more of a conceptual part of a design process, the UI is mostly a tangible part.

Now, does the distinction matter?

Well, not much but you will need a clear idea about the distinction between the two if you are approaching a practical application. So, if you are looking for a job in any of these fields or aspiring to hire professionals from any one of these – then, it’s mandatory for you to have a clear idea of the distinction between the two.

UX versus UI- understanding as a job seeker

If you don’t develop a clear understanding of the difference between the two concepts while joining a new job- then, you might end up in the wrong direction. Worse, your contributions would reduce to almost zero if you can’t find the right track. What if your potential employer wants UX-trained personnel while you have taken training in just UI? In that case, you would either have to take a whole new batch of training in UX, or else you would risk losing your job.

Job postings for UX/UI personnel could cover a wide range of job responsibilities, ranging from coding to copywriting. On the other hand, some job postings might advertise for a UI/UX professional who will be experienced in user research, designing aesthetic interfaces, as well as chalking out high-level strategies.

Now, here is a small reminder- if you are aspiring to fill in the positions for both UI and UX, check out job adverts that include “research” in the field of job responsibilities. Focus mostly on positions that encourage team collaboration and learning.

The problem is there are a lot of job adverts that state that they are looking for UI designers while in reality, they require UX execution. Some HR managers put such adverts unknowingly while a bunch of recruiters posts such adverts consciously and in full knowledge of what kind of results those adverts might bring. The second category of recruiters is driven by the idea that the UI designers would help them with the UX tasks too. In case you come across such job adverts- or you get similar vibes- delve deeper into the interview to understand whether or not you want to take part in UX activities. If so, then, make sure the company is flexible to invest both budget and time in research. Try to gauge the company’s appetite for UX designers before taking a further step with the interview.

UX versus UI- understanding as a recruiter

When you are recruiting, pay close attention to how prospective employees describe themselves, especially in regard to their UI/UX understanding. Some of them might be more focused on the basics and would have little interest in the intricacies. Then, there are UI design professionals who are usually focused on aesthetics mostly and do not envision the larger picture. It’s a beautiful thing to have pretty UI designs but things would have no meaning if they lack functionality.

Bottom line

Well, since both concepts are closely entwined, UX, as well as UI professionals, would have better opportunities to advance their careers if they don’t stick to just one side. Put simply, if you are a UX professional, it would do you a whole lot of good if you can hone some more-than-basic designing skills. Now, of course, UX is your forte, there is no doubt about it. Nobody is forcing you to change that. But, the whole focal point of this discussion is that you can leverage your career in UX if you are proactive to learn little something about the closest related field, i.e. UI. The same rings true for UI  professionals as well.

It’s to remind here that these two fields are essentially co-dependent on one another. And so are the UX as well as UI professionals. So, both departments would need to collaborate with one another for almost all projects. In such a scenario, if a UI professional holds a basic understanding of UX nuances, s/he would be able to have a better grasp of the ideas of the UX team and vice versa.

Smart recruiters do acknowledge the necessity of wholesome knowledge about the UI and UX skillsets among the professionals from the respective departments. It’s because the recruiters know that the two teams would invariably collaborate together for developing a wholesome project and the collaboration would demand each department to have some basic understanding of the other.

However, it would not be fair for the recruiters to expect that a UX professional would be an expert in UI jobs and vice versa. So, if he wants a professional who is skilled in UI skills, he should rather post the job advert accordingly. On the other hand, a UX professional too should have the zeal to learn a little more about the associated department to ensure a better collaborative atmosphere.

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