The difference between User Interface Design vs. User Experience Design is the difference between the tools someone uses to interact with a computer vs. the experience someone has while using the same computer and the overall feeling gained from the interaction.
While UI design could mean creating a simple array of buttons to interact with a computer to achieve a result, without designing for a user’s experience, these buttons could be seemingly meaningless and therefore useless to someone. UX design helps complete and gives a user interface purpose. An array of buttons on a site might tell a computer to do something but it could be completely useless without UX. “Back in the 1970s, if you wanted to use a computer, you had to use the command-line interface. The graphical interfaces used today didn’t yet exist commercially. For a computer to work, users needed to communicate via programming language, requiring seemingly infinite lines of code to complete a simple task. “ (https://www.usertesting.com/blog/ui-vs-ux/). By understanding that people recognize colors, groupings, sizes, and other differences to communicate their intended actions, UX gives a user interface meaning to users and aides in communicating between humans and computers.
The nuance in job titles and roles is difficult to see and even industry professionals have a difficult time standardizing or defining what the title “UX Designer” actually includes. To summarize the complexity, Sarah Doody from InVIsion says, “The UX industry does not have standardized job titles. Even the three most common titles—UX designer, product designer, and interface designer—mean different things at different companies at different times”. There are many reasons for this, many owing to the complex range of skills required to work with the UX field, many of which have are unrelated to the skills one might typically associate with the term “designer”. A lot of this confusion can be clarified by defining what design means. If we assume a designer is someone who builds or improves something with an objective goal or audience in mind, a UI designer can then be understood as someone who builds user interfaces to work at a functional level with the understanding that a human will be using it. User experience design goes deeper than this by designing an interface, for example, with the objective goal of producing a desired feeling, motivation, or otherwise more psychological effect.
If for example, a company understands that users are more likely to return to their product if there is an addicting component to it, a UX designer may find that adding gamification or rewards can help incentivize engagement by making users feel good. This decision includes an emphasis on designing for psychological variables compared to building a product to simply “work”. While both UX and UI used interchangeably with varying meanings, neither can be directly compared because they are two sides of the same coin.
However, unlike UI design, UX is deeper and requires a more extensive basis for empathy to achieve the intended goal.
This can include doing things like interviewing users to try to better understand why and how they are interacting with an interface to discover insights they would not have had otherwise. Or A/B testing a product to see which one resonated with their users better and translated into higher sales. While UI is limited to a computer, UX is relevant in understanding an audience’s behavior in order to create value for that audience by making their experience better. This could include designing the overall experience of something that is not a computer as well because the root skills required are focused more on empathy and people skills. As Caroline White of Career Foundry describes the requirements, “Adaptability, communication, problem-solving and teamwork are all essential soft skills. As a UX designer, it’s important that you can collaborate effectively with those around you — from clients and stakeholders to developers and fellow designers, all the way through to the end-user”.
The lack of clarity and accuracy regarding roles is also leading to a new kind of experience design; CX or customer experience design which focuses on how customers interact with a company in the purchasing cycle.
These types of experience design are extremely valuable to companies because they allow an understanding of how people see, use, and respond to their products, allowing companies to optimize that experience to gain a competitive edge. Entire products have been replaced because new offerings provided a better overall experience and so it is crucial to invest in user experiences as to not miss valuable insights to provide value to their audience.