By Tessa Flores
You’ve probably heard the terms “UI design” and “UX design” before—especially if you’ve been involved with a website redesign. But did you know that these terms aren’t interchangeable? UI and UX design both fall under “web design” and can often overlap and even work together, but they refer to two separate things.
What’s the Difference?
UI, which stands for user interface, is anything a user interacts with on a website, application, or any digital device. It’s everything you see on a computer screen and interact with (e.g., the buttons and other controls on a website or application). UI includes the visual aspects of how a digital product looks and functions, such as icon placements, colors and font choices, and even the use of white space. These are all things you would see in a typical website design mock-up.
Great UI is not something you notice often. If UI is done well, a user’s interaction with a site or app will be intuitive and efficient. On the other hand, if a user can’t figure out how to get to the information they’re looking for, then the UI could use some improvements.
UX, which stands for user experience, is exactly what it sounds like. It has to do with a user’s overall experience with the product. This can include the website or application, but it also extends to a company’s products or services as a whole. A UX designer works on the behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t see. They conduct user research, work on the strategy of a webpage or application, and create wireframes. The focus of UX is to make sure the user walks away feeling happy and confident that they’ve solved any problems your product or service is needed for.
How Much of UI and UX Should Web Developers Know?
A lot of the basic skills and terms involved with web design would benefit web developers. It’s helpful to understand the meaning of certain terms and acronyms that relate to UI and UX. If you understand what designers are talking about, you’ll get a clearer picture of why certain things are designed the way they are. This would also improve communication and cooperation between teams.
Other things that would be a great benefit to web developers are knowing how to use the various tools that UI and UX designers use. Some of these design tools include Adobe products (such as Illustrator or Photoshop), Sketch, and InVision. Having access to these tools and being able to use them could save you and your designer a lot of time. Instead of the back-and-forth conversations asking for images or colors or fonts, you can just pop into the design file and find all of that information out for yourself. No more waiting for the designer to have some free time to get back to you.
All in all, there can only be positives to learning even just a little bit about UI and UX design as a web developer. Is it 100 percent necessary? Maybe not. But it can’t hurt. So why not learn a thing or two? It can be as simple as asking a designer a few questions about a design or wireframe you’re working on. I bet they’d be more than happy to share their wisdom with you—and you get the benefit of learning something new!