App developers are all about great design. Because great design means a great experience. So much so that it’s sometimes hard to figure out where design ends and experience starts.
Nowhere is the confusion more real than between UX and UI. Each informs the other, sure. But they’re not the same thing.
UX is how it works, say great app developers
It’s the sum expression of your objectives, information architecture and information design. It’s your usability testing, your user research, your user stories, your personas, and your basic wireframes. Basically, everything leading up to that final “concrete” design – the elements that users physically touch and swipe. While interface elements may be addressed, they’ll be more at the macro scale.
UX, in a nutshell, describes the behavior and interactivity of your app, not the layout of its buttons and fields. It’s the substance, not the cosmetics.
UI is what is looks like, say the visual design peeps
UI, on the other hand, is the surface expression of an app. It comes in at the wireframe stage of UX, and this overlap may be where the confusion arises. UI may to an extent be considered an extension of UX, but as a discipline it’s arguably more design-oriented rather than architecture-oriented.
UI combines visual design with interaction design. Basically, the look and feel or your app as well as the detailed, micro interactions. UI takes the broad-brush user flows from UX architecture and gives them the finesse that users love. After all, functionality is only half of a design. The rest is the enjoyment of the experience. UI creates an emotional connection – because experience is about more than achieving goals.
UI, in sum, takes the digital interactions described by UX and makes them beautiful.
Both are essential elements of great mobile apps
From the above, it’s easy to see where the confusion comes in. After all, user experience shapes the overall “design” of an app. And user interfaces give expression to the “experience” of an app!
That the two go hand-in-hand shows just how important both architecture and visual design are to building a great app. If you only worry about the UX side of things you’ll have a highly functional app that looks, well, terrible. And if you only pay attention to UI, you’ll have a beautiful app that makes no sense at all.
An app with only UX is a cake without the frosting, and an app with just UI is just the frosting without the cake. For a great experience, app developers start with UX, then add UI design – and the results are a cake that everyone wants a piece of.