What is UI and UX Design? User Interface & User Experience Guide

January 17, 2023

In the web application world, the quality of a finished solution is often measured by its UI and UX design.

In fact, anytime you speak with industry insiders or those who design websites and applications, if these two terms are not introduced during your initial conversations, that's an instant red flag. But what is UI and UX design?

The truth is that these two terms are often assumed to be interchangeable. And that's where significant communication errors tend to occur, leading to consumers making poor decisions when building, designing, developing, and deploying their website or application.

In the article below, we're going to explore the truth about UI vs UX. We will clearly answer the questions: what does UI mean? What does UX mean? We'll also compare UX vs UI and determine how this impacts app design cost.

We'll also spend some time comparing UI vs UX design and how it's related to each website or application development project we undertake at Goldfish Code.

What is User Interface? UI Meaning

So, what does UI stand for?

Technically, UI is an abbreviation for User Interface, or the act of interaction between a user and computer, application, or website. A user interface is a space where people and machines interact. They focus on the visual design and functionality of the tools used to engage with websites and applications.

It allows users to carry out a task on a machine, like opening an internet browser, clicking a button, downloading an app, or making a purchase. In fact, if you're reading this sentence, you likely engaged in more than 10 UI activities before landing on this article.

User interfaces are a combination of input hardware, which refers to devices that control the machine from the human end (such as the mouse, joystick, or keyboard), and output hardware.

Output hardware provides information to users through devices like printers, speakers, and monitors. Input and output devices work together so users can fully control the machine.

There are many different types of user interface. However, they all generally fall into three specific categories.

Command Line User Interface

In the old days of computer development, humans and computers communicated to accomplish tasks.

The user would access a command line – type a request or 'command' on the prompt, and the machine would reply to that request by displaying a message or printing the request.

This was the foundation of MS-DOS and many rudimentary programming languages in the 1970s and 80s.

Graphical User Interface

The graphical user interface (GUI) elevated the process of human-to-machine interaction over time.

Users interact with a GUI through a series of pages or screens that include static components (like images or text blocks) and dynamic elements (like buttons and other interactive controls).

The most frequent UI for digital products is the graphical user interface (GUI). The rise of GUI interfaces also created a need for people who could create goods for those interfaces - also known as UI designers.

Voice-Based User Interface

If there is a statement of fact about the user interface, many users are slow to react to change. It's a common human condition to be comfortable with how you utilize tools.

However, technology helps drive efficiency, which is why many leading technology providers are gradually infusing voice-based user interfaces into their platforms.

As the name implies, voice UI is the act of a user asking for a task simply by speaking into a smart-learning device – such as Apple SIRI or Amazon's Alexa.

Some practice examples of user interfaces used today include remote control, virtual reality devices, ATMs, the speedometer in your car, and a computer mouse.

Modern websites focusing on infusing strong UI design elements are dedicated to streamlining or simplifying the user's experience. Which now opens a whole new can of worms.

What is User Experience – UX Meaning

UX is the abbreviation for user experience. This defines how a user feels during user interaction with a website or application. Consider this practical example. When you found this article, it was likely caused by three individual situations.

  1. You were searching for an article explaining UX vs UI on Google or a search engine you prefer. You likely use that specific search engine because you prefer the user experience of the user interface tools infused in that platform.
  2. You clicked a link on a social media page that shared the article or an email you received from a friend or business associate. It's more than likely that you clicked the image or article title on the social media page – vs the physical link – because that photo or article tile enhances your user experience.
  3. You found GoldFish Code and are looking for an exceptional UX designer to build your company's new website and mobile app. While navigating the website, you noticed our easy-to-access and intriguing blog topic page and this article with a visually stunning image as its cover. That was UX on full display.

In a nutshell, UX, or the user experience, is determined by how difficult or easy it is for the user to interact with the user interface elements created by UI designers – then scrutinized and enhanced by UX design specialists.

They are concerned with addressing the user needs vs visual elements of the tools.

However, they also understand the impact of typography, by completing extensive UX research to develop recommendations on the right fonts, animations, and other web design elements that create an engaging experience with the user.

For example, a UX designer would ponder whether the user found their interactivity with the website a smooth experience or if it was confusing. Is their experience a logical flow, or does it seem forced? They will focus on the usability during the website design process.

To accomplish this, they may utilize wireframes or interaction design elements, combined with user research, information architecture, into their graphic design and product design elements.

The UX designer is responsible for predicting consumer pain points, create a user flow that is seamless and enjoyable, and determining how the UI tools are used and operate vs how they appear.

UI vs UX design: What's the difference?

Now that we've defined what UX means and UI means, let's introduce some of the key differences between the two.

First, let's clarify the most significant misconception – UI and UX designers can be all-inclusive (meaning the same individual) or separated into specialists. User Interface design will focus on the functionality of the tools – meaning are they optimized for website and application performance.

User Experience designers will focus on how the users perceive these tools. For example, are the buttons easy to navigate? Does the layout of the menu tell a logical story and inspire the consumer to a course of action?

A simple way of articulating the differences is articulated in this example. UI designers are machine-first thinking – while UX designers are human-first thinking.

We'll explain the critical differences between the two design principles in the section below.

User Interface vs User Experience: Key Differences

When you examine the big picture – it's easier to understand the key differences in the skill sets and focus of UX designers and UI designers. Here are some bullet points to really flesh it out, though.

Key elements of UI

Those who focus on the user interface of tools accessed to complete a task typically have the following skills and attributes.

  • Attention to detail. Since a UI designer is focused on the technical aspects of tools, they must have solid attention to detail. They strive to perfect the most minor elements of each tool, toggle, menu, or interactive feature on an app or website – to ensure it's quick to respond, does not consume a lot of data, and does not lead to technical errors through the website or application.
  • Integrate Responsive Design: UI designers develop tools for cross-channel and cross-platform optimization. They want to ensure that a menu or button on a desktop or laptop works just as well on a mobile device. They also want to ensure that an Apple or iOS user has the same ability to access and use the device as those on Android.
  • Good Communication and Collaboration Skills. Most professional website and application development agencies will have two independent designers – one who focuses on the UI elements and the other who optimizes the user experience. These two programmers and designers need to collaborate effectively to mitigate errors, reduce lead time, and ensure the project is completed within budget.

Key Elements of UX

The User Experience developer, as noted above, is tasked to focus on ensuring that all tools are optimized for a positive user experience that leads them to the desired job of the application or website.

  • Understand the Target User Audience: You can't enhance a user experience if you don't understand exactly who the target user is in the first place. UX designers must complete rigorous marketing research about the client's desired audience who is asking them to design an app or website.
  • Need to Infuse Some Psychology: They need to learn their needs and desires, how they process information, make buying decisions, and so much more. While this is research-driven, it also requires the UX designer to have a solid understanding of consumer habits or multiple demographics.
  • Be Good Story Tellers: The best UX designers are also great storytellers. They have a unique ability to design all user-active tools to work seamlessly together. However, they should also be good problem-solving experts to come up with solutions or concerns of stakeholders.

How are UI and UX Design Interrelated?

Although the information above may imply this, UX and UI are not two entirely separate entities. In fact, both elements work hand in hand, are both crucial and affect each other when determining how a product looks and functions.

The functionality and the ease of access, enjoyment, and engagement with website and application tools, buttons, menus, and other UI elements are crucial for complete website and app development.

The UI design process incorporates multiple touchpoints that creates a user-friendly experience but focuses mainly on usability testing to ensure a good UI experience.

The UX design process incorporates good UX best practices, works with the product development team, the design team, and clients to create an end-user experience that drives conversions. They are both vital elements of the complete web development process.

UX and UI are terms that indicate they're related to design fields. And yes, much professional application and website design firms employ two specialists to work together to ensure a positive user experience. In the end - that's the primary objective - user engagement leads to conversions.

Today's UI design must focus on the visual characteristics of design and the overall vibe it creates. Even the most beautifully designed UI will fail to provide a good user experience if it doesn't have excellent UX.

Final points on the UI/UX meaning & differences

Arguably the most crucial element of today's modern mobile app or website is ensuring it has a positive user experience. This is accomplished through multiple elements – layout, functionality, loading and navigational speed, bandwidth, content, and engagement.

It's crucial to retain the services of a professional web and application development firm with a proven record of integrating UI and UX elements into all facets of the entire app or website.

It must be seamless and consistent on all platforms and devices and create a user experience and engagement that leads to desired conversions.

Goldfish Code is an experienced agency that showcases these attributes in each project we undertake. Contact our team today if you'd like to ask more questions about how UI and UX should be infused into your website or app project.


Does UI UX design require coding?

The short answer to this question is no, a UI UX designer does not always require coding knowledge. However, this really depends on the hiring firm or specific task.

The primary job of a UX or UI designer is to communicate and understand the needs and capabilities of clients and programmers. As such, it's highly recommended that a future UI or UX designer have some basic coding and programming experience.

Which language is best for UI?

Three primary programming languages enhance UI for websites and applications: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Some of these work better with specific applications and websites.

For example, for mobile applications, most programmers prefer to use JavaScript frameworks to enhance the UI technical aspects of tools, menus, toggles, and other interface features. Many websites infuse CSS and HTML programming for optimal appearance and quicker loading.

What are UX and UI testing?

UI testing checks that a website's or product's user interface functions appropriately and that users can figure out how to use it. UX testing, on the other hand, focuses on the user's overall experience and how satisfying they find the product or website.

UI testing is typically done before deployment. UX testing can be completed during beta testing with a pool of qualified users to gain feedback and optimization before full deployment.

What is a UX UI kit?

A UI kit is a collection of design elements that helps streamline user interface design. It contains pre-made components such as input fields, navigation menus, and other common UI elements.

This makes it easier and faster to create UIs without having to start from scratch every time. You'll often find these in a framework typically written in JavaScript.

What is prototyping?

A prototype in software development is a simulation of how a real product will function and feel in the real world. It's utilized for user testing and design feedback.

They may range from an outline drawn on a piece of paper to a clickable prototype that resembles actual software, with all levels of sophistication—from an idea sketched on a piece of paper to a clickable prototype that mimics existing software.

What is a user journey?

A user journey is a person's experiences while interacting with software as they go through various stages. User experience designers, website designers, user-centered designers, and others concerned with how users interact with software use this concept.

The complete journey begins with the user interface, how it functions, and the user experience through its use and full navigation.