Everyone has their own interpretation of what UI- and UX designers do. There are many abstract and conceptual terms thrown at your head to denote the difference between the two. That’s why I want to make it clear to you what exactly these two functions mean.
Suppose you come to a website, and you try to think for yourself how it is structured in terms of design. The average person would think that a UI designer or a web designer created this, but in reality, the UI designer is only one part of the puzzle.
A UI designer is interested in things like typography, for example, making sure they follow the right basic principles. They are interested in white space or negative space, which ensures that the interface has a structure between elements. But they are also interested in colors if they for example provide enough contrast, both for usability and readability. Finally, they are also working on icon and illustration design, and they are also responsible that the design looks great on every device.
But the role of a UI designer is, like I said, only part of a small section of user experience design or for short; UX design. UX design is a process that consists of different phases: brainstorm, define, design, test, and launch.
Did you also know that sometimes UX design has nothing to do with UI design? UX design has to do with everything that you use or interact with, even the door of your bedroom has been thought through with a certain process. UI design is only meant for, of course, an interface. But anyway, let’s go through the stages of UX design.
The first phase is brainstorming. It is an active discovery phase that revolves around generating ideas about the user and possible needs or challenges that the user may have. During the brainstorming phase, you generate ideas to solve a problem, understand the audience you are designing for, and identify the audience’s needs or challenges. Research plays a key role in this first phase as you explore different ways of getting to know the audience you are designing for. UX researchers and writers are often closely involved in this phase, where you can conduct interviews with potential users or conduct other research.
The second phase is define. This phase is all about using the insights from the brainstorming phase and narrowing the focus. During the define phase, you determine concrete ways in which the product being developed will influence the user. As a UX designer, you will think more about specific details related to the product, who the product is for, what the product will do and what features need to be included for the product to be successful. Statements that outline the goals or outline any problems you want to answer with the product design are the focus in the define phase.
The third phase is design. In this phase, the UX Designers communicate with the UI designers. In the design phase, UI designers actively develop ideas and also check whether all specifications from the define phase are realistic. The first two phases were more about preparation and planning. These phases give you a clear picture of whom the user is, what the user wants, and which problems or challenges you want to tackle in the design. With the insights from the first two phases, UI designers generate designs that keep the user top of mind. You create many resources, including storyboards, which are sketches that help explore the user experience, or wireframes, which provide the outlines of the content layout. Or you can create prototypes, which are models that allow UX designers to test the functionality of a design.
The fourth phase is testing. In the test phase, you evaluate the product design based on feedback from potential users. Testing designs with users is very important because it helps you focus on the user first and the designs second. Testing helps identify areas to refine or improve the designs. It also helps UX designers to think about the interactivity of the design. This is a phase where there is a lot of interaction between UX designers and front-end engineers as they devise ways to create an end product that meets user needs, is practical and functional. They discuss things like how the color or font fits the company’s brand, or whether the prototype designs are easy to understand.
Finally, the final stage of the product development lifecycle is the launch or sharing of a finished version of the product with the public. This may include placing an app in the App Store, a website going live, or placing a physical product on store shelves. The launch can be very satisfying for UX designers because you get the chance to understand how your designs are received in the real world. However, work on a product isn’t quite finished after launch. You can still identify opportunities to improve the designs or learn even more about the user experience based on feedback. This may involve going back to the design or testing phase and figuring out ways to produce an improved version of the product.
You may be wondering if UI design is a subset of UX design, does that make a UX designer a UI designer? The answer to that: It depends. It depends on a number of factors, for example, if you are a freelancer, and you do everything on your own, then you are indeed a UX and a UI designer. But if you participate in a large company, you also have to deal with many people, each of whom has their own unique qualities. In that case, however, the roles are divided into different phases, and you can therefore have access to the UI designer role.