What are UI and UX? Discover the Difference & Relationship Between The Two

Dec 28th, 2021.22 mins read

Relationship between UI and UXRelationship between UI and UX


In maximum conversations around building a product or a website, the terms User Interface(UI) and User Experience(UX) are always synonymously mentioned and are also used interchangeably. In Part I - What is User Interface and User Experience? How UX is Not UI? , of this series, we explained what these two components are and how UI is a component of UX.

This would also clear the generic confusion that takes place when these two components are a part of a thought process, debate, or discussion.

When spoken about in general and not in any detailed context by individuals with a little non-relevant technical background to the subject, they might seem to be describing the same thing.

But they are not. They are interrelated and stand out in their stark differences as well. Read on to know what their interrelations and differences are:

Understanding the Relationship between UI and UX

Although the two are overlapping concepts, there exist subtle yet noticeable differences between the two as mentioned above.

Where every interaction of the User with the digital product is through the User Interface, the overall experience of the user while interacting before, during, and after using the product counts as User Experience.

But what comes first, UI or UX? Let's say, you are supposed to design a room for a toddler boy. Ideally, what would be the first step?

To know about the person who will inhabit the room- the toddler.

The moment you confirmed the gender, age, and other basic details of the toddler you laid the foundation of offering a User Experience.

You might take the effort of knowing the toddler through his parents, to get an idea of his preferences.

And you empathize with the toddler by taking safety parameters, a decent storage place, and a good enough play area, into consideration.

Now UI will follow. You could have painted the wall plain blue, but you think of enhancing the toddler's experience by incorporating a built-in rock-climbing wall, ensuring all the safety parameters.

Here you gave an aesthetic appeal to the wall while keeping the 'usability' factor in the frontline.

The result you gave the toddler was a cohesive relationship between UI and UX - an unforgettable User Experience through a cleverly optimized User Interface.

Difference between UI & UX

Following are the differences between UI and UX:

  • Where UX is cognitive science, revolving around how a product impacts, influences, and impresses the user, UI is far more technical, it provides a digital interface to a product, facilitating a point of interaction via which the user will feel the experience.
  • UX focuses on designing a product as a solution to the user's needs or problems, while UI focuses on how the interface appears and operates.
  • Ideally, UX design starts as soon as product design begins keeping the user in mind, and then UI follows.
  • UX design aims to deliver a feel of a user experience to the user while using the product, whereas UI provides the user an interface through interaction and visual elements like screens, icons, colors, responsive design, or anything which a user can see.
UX DesignUI Design
Applied in Physical and Digital productsApplied in Digital products
Aims towards EffectivenessAims towards Aesthetic Interaction
It's more about the FeelIt's more about the Function
Based on - Research, wireframesBased on - Touchpoints, Visual Mapping
Comes prior in product developmentComes after in product development
Situation and Solution basedIntuitive, Interactive interfaces
Involves Competitor and Consumer AnalysisInvolves Consumer Analysis

The Two Aspects Start Out With Different Aims

At the most basic level, UI design is made from all the different factors that allow the user or the respective person to interact with a website, product, or service.

UX, on the other hand, is what the user or the individual interacting with that product or service takes away from the entire experience.

While UX design aims at the user's journey to solve a problem, UI design focuses on how a product's appearance seems and functions.

UX design aims towards identifying and solving user problems; while UI design is all about creating intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, interactive interfaces.

UX Design Comes Before UI Design In Development

When the development of the product begins, UX design usually comes first in the timeline of the process, and then it is followed by the UI design.

The UX designer is instrumental as he/she carves out the whole structure of the user journey; while the UI designer adds to this given frame with his/her visual and interactive elements.

It's similar to how construction works. If the foundations are not laid strong, their outer, skeletal work is not good enough to support the material in between, and the constructed model may break.

You could say that UX design is somewhat the architect in the product development process whereas the UI design is more of a builder.

Both are very different, they might be poles apart but are needed in space together.

The Two Design Aspects Cannot Be Applied Together Everywhere

Even though they might be mentioned together, synonymously, UI and UX design apply differently in different cases and are always not applied or required together.

UX design applies to any kind of product, service, or experience - this can be a service, a website, a store, or even a consumer product, both in person, physically, and digitally.

But, UI design is specific to digital products and experiences - it cannot be applied to anything in physical reality.

However, both UI and UX design are crucial for the success of the given product and they work closely together.

But despite the cohesive structure and requirements between the two, their roles are quite different.

The Working And Efforts From The Two Aspects Vary

The most important difference between UI and UX designers is that they have different use for prototyping, a process both parties follow to understand the preferences of the user.

Many UI designers believe a prototype should be a high-fidelity model, i.e., it should be the closest, most identical reference to the user's choices.

However, for the UX designer, fidelity is an afterthought; they are more centered around the logic behind the interface's flow, navigation, and functions.

UX design deals with research, testing, development, content, and prototyping.

UI design is a process of visually guiding the user through a product's interface using interactive elements across all platforms.

The Two Play To The Different Strengths of The Product

UX design is all about developing and improving quality interaction between a user and all elements of a company.

Meanwhile, the UI design transmits the brand's strength and visual assets to a product's interface.

UX design is focused on everything that affects the user's journey to solve a problem.

On the other hand, UI design is a process that mainly focuses on how the specific product's surfaces look and function.

Speaking Technically

"UX is only good when its aesthetics follows. Imagine creating a great product or service but displaying them with hard-to-read typography, a small or super big button, a color palette that is perceived as untrustful, or images that are disrespectful to a particular culture. Those are essential aspects that you need to consider, and your product or service won't thrive if you don't nail them all." — Adriano Trenahi, Product Design Manager at Eventbrite

The two concepts UX and UI rarely exist without each other as they have a closely-knit relation in Design Thinking :

  • If the UI design involves the user, directly, indirectly, or empathetically, it touches the ambit of UX. Without apprehending the user, the UI does not add as much value to the product, it remains a simple interface.
  • Using standard UI design patterns caters to common interface problems (like a sign-in page or date picker page), saving time and money. But it is crucial to adapt the patterns so that they match the context of the product and the user. Otherwise, it can affect the User Experience negatively.
  • If the interaction and the visual elements of the UI are well thought out, keeping the user in mind, the product ought to offer an excellent user experience. For instance, you buy something, you don't have cash plus you are in a hurry. You'll open an online payment app, the icon for making a new payment is closest to your thumb, easy to see, and easy to click. Doesn't the interface here, solves the purpose of the app and aids in a great user experience?

Takeaway - While One Is Limited To Digital Means, The Other Goes Beyond

To sum it up on a shorter note, UX design is a complete, user-driven experience that may not be limited to the screen, it may extend to an activity, a physical product, or so on.

On the contrary, UI design is usually visual design and information architecture around screens.

UX design is based on the client's needs and requirements while UI design is based on the user's needs and research.

Stay tuned with us, to know how UX design and UI design teams work together, in our next and final installment of this series.

Advanced UX Tips

Get actionable tips on user experience designs, delivered straight to your inbox.