GUIDE 2024

User Interface (UI) vs. User Experience (UX) Design: What’s the Difference?

Would you like to know the difference between user interface and user experience? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Misused even by experts, the terms both have underlying gray areas that often confuse.

There are two main components to an application’s design: the User Interface (UI) design and the User Experience
(UX) design.

The aesthetic component that allows users to engage with a product is the user interface design.  The user experience design refers to a person’s experience interacting with a product.

You’ll see different graphic components when exploring other software or applications through user interface design. These include displays, navigation bars, buttons, and more.

In short, UX refers to how a user feels when interacting with a product or service. UI refers to graphical user interfaces and touchpoints for users to interact with a digital product.

Let’s take a further look at how these design terms differ.


User Interface (UI) Design vs. User Experience (UX) Design: What do They do?

User interface (UI) design focuses on human-computer interaction and is a more technical approach. It works by anticipating user expectations and creating custom inputs to get them where they need to go. As a result, UI is more concerned with the interaction design foundation.

Though not an all-inclusive term, UI is a component of UX. Apart from physical interaction, there is also visual design, information architecture, and interaction design. The goal of UI design is to enhance the entire user journey.

Interaction designers strive to make digital device interaction as simple as possible through usability testing. This includes employing icons, buttons, visual components, color, responsive design, and information architecture.

User interface design is a digital discipline. It considers all visual and interactive components of a product, such as spacing, typography, color schemes, and responsive design.

UI design ensures that a product’s interface is consistent, cohesive, and appealing by transferring the brand’s strengths and visual assets.

Working as a user interface designer on websites, mobile applications, wearable technologies, and smart home devices is limitless.

They work with a wide range of interfaces, including mobile phones, computer interfaces, virtual reality, and even screenless interfaces (also known as zero UI) like speech, gesture, and light.

Unlike user interface, user experience (UX) refers to customers’ overall experience while interacting with a product. Users’ experiences, whether positive, negative, or neutral, influence how they feel about these encounters once they have something to interact with.

User-centered design products are easy to use and provide a positive user experience. A user’s experience refers to a user’s emotional reaction to a product.

This broad term includes any interaction a person has with a product or service, not digital interactions. Some UX professionals call the field “customer experience,” while others go even further and call it “experience design.”


What Does a User Interface Design Specialist do?

The goal of the UI developer is to create an interface that behaves as users expect it to, allowing for a smooth and efficient user experience.

Designers of user interfaces (UI) collaborate with designers of user experiences (UX) and other design specialists. Their job is to ensure that every page and step of a user’s interaction with the finished product conforms to the vision created by UX designers.

Unlike UX designers, many UI designers have a good understanding of front-end development and some coding skills. This is because they are responsible for making UX designers’ visions a reality.

UI designers, also known as user interface designers, combine technical skills with a robust design and style sense. This creates websites, applications, and other digital products.

UI designers are responsible for creating products that users find appealing and intuitive to use. UI designers must have a deep understanding of the products themselves. This applies to the website homepage interface to icon or search bar movements.

To create an interface that meets the user’s needs, they must first understand what the user wants from the product. 

The ultimate goal of a UI designer is to create a product interface that meets all user’s needs within a product’s purpose and technical capabilities.


What Does a User Experience Design Specialist do?

Individuals in the User Experience (UX) design role are in charge of planning, conducting, and reporting on all facets of quantitative and qualitative user research.

The UX Specialist’s goal is to understand institute clients better, deliver findings, and translate them into action.

UX Specialists collaborate with marketing, product management, and development leaders to create solutions.

They contribute to the creation and documentation of the user experience vision. Acting as a client advocate ensures the highest usefulness, desirability, and client satisfaction.

They do this by planning and delivering impactful studies that bring the client’s voice to life.

They plan and carry out usability studies and other forms of user research, drawing on their extensive knowledge of user experience.


How do User Interface (UI) Designers and User Experience (UX) Designs Work Together?

UX and UI are both designed professions with similar goals, which paves the way for a perfect final product. UX and UI designers are essential components of website design, with one being incomplete without the other.

As previously stated, neither of these functions without the other. A UI designer handles creating designs that a user finds appealing and enjoys engaging with. For optimal results, UX designers ensure full development and production of the products.

That said, let’s discover how these jobs interconnect and how they work together to produce the best final result. Below we’ll discuss a 5 step process.

1. The Discussion Process

Team meetings are crucial when developing a new product or feature. The discussion includes the company’s chief technology officer (CTO), web development team, and UI and UX designers.

During the process of considering a new product or feature, the user experience evaluates what is feasible. On the other hand, user interface designers conduct research and share their findings with the team.

Before beginning anything new, discussing and researching with the team is critical to saving time and manpower. The discussion process also aids in estimating the amount of work and resources required for that particular project.

2. Research Aspects of UI Design and UX Design

The UX designer discusses the scope of the work with their team and plans the project’s next few weeks of work. 

However, the UI designer must first conduct extensive research. The goal is to comprehend user behavior, issues, responses, and requirements. They accomplish this data collection and analysis through various surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

The amount of research and data collection depends on the nature of the project, its target audience, budget, requirements, and other factors.

The most important aspect of research is determining whether users like the new features and what user experience they expect.

3. Present the Results

After the individual research for UI and UX, the rest of the team receives the findings.

The team formulates a plan with the client’s exact expectations and the UI design team’s ideas. This ensures a concrete UI/UX design.

Previously, all team members built designs based on assumptions and user behavior.

Based on extensive research, UI designers now provide insight to the rest of the team.

The web development team assists the rest of the team understand the plan’s feasibility based on the research work.

4. Design Evaluation

After a long struggle in researching and designing the product to meet the needs of the target users, it’s time to see how customers respond.

After the product’s release, limited users test the product in person or via the internet.

Consider how users feel about the product, whether it is easy to use or not, and other factors.

Designers receive updates based on user feedback, user interface, and user experience.

Based on the likes and dislikes of the product, UI and UX designers make changes. 

5. Creating the Final Design and Putting it Into Action

After testing and updating, the final prototype is ready. It’s time to design the final product and hand it over to the web development team. It’s expected for UI and UX designers to design based on developer feedback.

The final product is now introduced to the public, focusing on the targeted users. To avoid time loss in updating, the UI and UX designers must communicate with the team.


User Interface (UI) Specialist vs. User Experience (UX) Design Specialist: Who Earns More?

Both professions have excellent job prospects and are in high demand. Remember that your salary varies depending on your specific experience, location, background, and industry.

A UX designer’s annual salary in the United States is $115,743. This figure rises to more than $134,395 for more experienced designers.

Entry-level UI designers earn around $73,040 per year, while mid-level UI designers earn around $100,559 per year. With more experience, you may earn up to $103,026 per year.

Whether you specialize in UI or UX design, expect to make a good salary and have various career options.


Becoming a User Interface (UI) Specialist or a User Experience (UX) Design Specialist

While some designers choose to attend boot camp programs or receive formal training, many exceptional UI/UX designers are self-taught. So, how do you teach yourself to create beautiful digital products?

Career Path

There are several paths to learning UI/UX design, and there is no single right or wrong way. It all comes down to understanding the principles of good design and applying them until you master them.

Let’s look at the six steps to becoming a UX/UI designer.

Step 1: Learn the fundamentals of UX design – The user experience on a website is the most critical aspect of any successful development. This means you must understand the principles of UX design.

Step 2: Develop an eye for good design – Learning the design only gets you so far. To advance your skills, study the structures of websites and mobile apps you enjoy with a critical eye.
Examine every aspect of the design, including:

  • Spacing between elements
  • The site grid, 
  • The visual hierarchy, 
  • Specific images and icons used.

Step 3: Invest in the right design software – You’ll want to invest in UI/UX software to bring your designs to life and apply what you’ve learned thus far.
There are many great tools on the market, but most experts recommend trying out a few industry heavyweights like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD to see which you prefer.

Step 4: Build a portfolio of work – You download some free UI kits (or user interface kits) to help get your designs started if you’re starting from scratch. A UI kit is a pre-made design component set that contains the necessary visual elements for a specific UI design (think buttons, icons, fonts, menus, etc.).
For starters, use UI kits to create your website or mobile app. Consider redesigning existing sites as well. Choose some of your favorite websites and consider how to improve their appearance and functionality.

Step 5: Ask for feedback (and learn from it) – Contrary to popular belief, negative feedback is more beneficial than positive feedback. It helps you improve your skills as a designer and create better products.
Learn to seek and accept negative design feedback and use it to improve your work.

Step 6: Get real-world work experience – Once you’ve created enough work that you’re proud of and are confident in your abilities, it’s time to put yourself out there and gain real-world work experience.
To get hired in UI/UX design, you’ll need to build an online design portfolio that showcases your best work and the design process.

Go ahead and apply for entry-level UI/UX design positions. Even if you don’t get a job immediately, the job search is an excellent opportunity to hone your soft skills. This includes your ability to explain the reasoning behind your designs—two essential hiring qualities.


Skills Needed to Become a UX or UI Designer

It’s worth noting that both UI and UX design roles share some needed skills. These skills include communication, negotiation, leadership, creativity, curiosity, attention to detail, and teamwork.

The required skills vary according to the responsibilities of each role. The typical areas of expertise for each position are below.

Skills of UX Designers

  • Coordination of user research with UI design teams
  • Customer Research
  • Analysis of Competitors
  • Prototyping User Experience
  • Analytics and execution of wireframes

Skills of a UI Designer

  • Design Research 
  • Graphic Design 
  • UI Prototyping 
  • Design Research 
  • Branding 
  • Interactivity
  • Color, layout, and typography
  • Animation


So, which role is best suited to you? Your individual preferences and background determine that.

Some job descriptions mention both roles, although they are separate fields that are still developing. The responsibilities of each role differ from one organization to the next, and some businesses hire a single employee to do both jobs.

User Interface Design is best suited for those with more creative minds interested in graphics, visuals, and making people’s lives easier. If you prefer a more practical process and enjoy making logical decisions, User Experience Design is for you.

Consider becoming a UX/UI Designer to get the best of both worlds!

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.