You have finished your presentation and feel: this pig has been washed a little too clean. The interface you designed is still displayed behind you, and in front of you sit the clients, four strong, with an unreadable expression on their faces. You are not worried; this is the best work you have ever delivered - the standing ovation can begin at any moment.
"We asked you to take on the UX design," says the CEO.
You break into a sweat. Didn't you do that? Two of them whisper to each other while the CEO stoically stares at you. You look back, then look again. If what's on your screen isn't UX design, then what did you do?
Where things went wrong (with web design)
One of the beautiful things about web design is that everyone is welcome to participate. The almost infinite (free) resources available for discovering every expertise within web creation means that you don't need a formal education to enter the digital domain. Want to join in? Come on.
At the same time, this lack of any sort of barrier is a pitfall for our field.
Because there are no admission requirements, anyone can brand themselves as a digital expert at any time and get to work. That also means that the boundaries of our field sometimes seem more like suggestions than hard limits.
That's why it can happen that clients say they expected a presentation about UX design, while you could swear that this is exactly what you just showed them.
Is there a difference between UX and UI?
User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design are often confused and even used interchangeably; designers who only focus on the interface still call themselves User Experience designers, and vice versa.
However, there is indeed a difference between the two fields, but where does all this confusion come from? Well, the terms sound suspiciously alike, and the fields have a lot of overlap.
That's why it's good to look at what sets them apart, but also to see how (and when) you see the two together.
The differences between UX and UI design
First, let's look at how the two fields differ from each other.
The work of the UX designer
The User Experience designer focuses on the digital customer journey. This expert looks at a project from above and keeps an eye on all moving parts: how do customers reach the website, what interactions have customers had with the brand so far, and what feeling do we want to convey with our product?
The UX designer is the architect who lays out the big picture of a project. Like an architect, the UX designer is not concerned with the specific dimensions of the windows or the material of the floor.
The work of the UI designer
The User Interface designer focuses on the details of the user experience. What should the customer journey that the UX designer has outlined look like exactly? This process is about actually creating designs and finding visual solutions for the ideas that have been conceived to create the best product.
The UI designer is the one who takes up the big picture and then fills in the picture. Without the User Interface specialist, there are only ideas; UI brings ideas to reality.
UX and UI design as two sides of the same coin
We can use UX and UI interchangeably because they are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other, and that's why it's understandable that some people have the idea that we're talking about the same expertise here — dividing into two smaller parts of a larger whole.
In the development of a website, you need both UX and UI design to create a successful end product. In smaller projects, both roles can be performed by one designer. Only in larger companies will UX and UI design be split into multiple roles.
They will always be expertise that coexists and, in my opinion, cannot exist without each other.
The differences between UX and UI design
User Experience and User Interface design can be seen as two functions that are connected to each other by an invisible line. In the diagram below, I briefly explain the differences in broad strokes, but you can't see one without the other.
Just as we always talk about the look and feel of a product, the same goes for UX and UI design — know the differences, understand that they work together.
User experience: How the end user experiences the product. Is the goal easy to understand?
Prototyping: Test the product in broad strokes; what works and what needs improvement.
High-level: Look at the project from above, in connection with other parts.
Look & feel: The overall feeling that a product should convey.
Design: Design the product, from brand experience to visual details.
Details: Look at the product under a microscope and refine every detail.
Two hands on one user
You are speechless; the CEO is right: you showed the user interface when they wanted to see UX design. Yet you manage to regain your composure, there is still hope. Because underlying the designs you showed them is the user experience that you designed, but didn't speak about before.
You go back through the presentation and explain how the client can see your UX work between the lines, as every user interface is an expression of the underlying user experience. Both expertises work together and are inextricably linked.