Build a Website Right – UI vs UX

There are many components that come into play when you’re building a website. Many different web development terms get tossed back and forth and if you aren’t a professional or are new to the world of development, this can be confusing.

Two terms that are often confused or used interchangeably are UI and UX. Although they sound similar, they are two different things and refer to two separate development processes.

Both UI and UX design are crucial for building a website, but they differ in purpose and functionality. If you’ve ever wondered how they differ, here’s a comprehensive guide on their differences.

What is UI (User Interface)?

UI stands for user interface and refers to the viewable part of your website: the images, the graphics, the text, the buttons, and everything else a user sees and interacts with. It includes the animations and transitions between and on pages as well as color schemes and image or button shapes.

UI design revolves around every visible aspect of a website. UI designers take great care to plan and layout a web page so that it has a pleasing look. A UI designer focuses on the website’s aesthetic and ensures every page is appropriately matched to a business’s theme, mission, or brand aesthetic.

What is UX (User Experience)?

UX stands for user experience and works behind the scenes. It is unconcerned with aesthetics and focuses solely on the functionality of the website. UX design includes navigation and affects how users feel about the website: Is it clunky? Smooth? Can they navigate it intuitively, or is it confusing and illogical?

UX designers focus on making a user’s experience while using the website easier. They don’t create the user interface that the user sees and interacts with, but they do design the components that allow that user interface to work and function as a user expects it to. For example, UX designers ensure that a button that reads “Home” takes users to the home page and not to an error page or an “About Us” page.

History of UX and UI Design

User interface design didn’t exist until the 1980s, when the first graphical user interface was added to early computers. User interface design was much clunkier than expected today, but it led to many basic features such as search bars, icons, buttons, and menus.

With the first creation of UI on early home computers, more users who didn’t know how to code could use computers. UI developers became more critical as they were necessary in order to allow common users to navigate and use computers.

In contrast, UX was a term that was only coined in the 1990s by a cognitive scientist working for Apple. Later, another developer created a visualization of UX design to highlight what makes any given UX design effective. This visualization went on to be referred to as the “usability honeycomb” and has since become a basic principle of UX design.

Differences Between UI and UX

Quite simply, UI is what the user sees, and UX is how the user feels. Although the two are very closely linked, a UI designer is not necessarily a UX designer and vice versa. When it comes to the tasks performed and the knowledge required, the two are quite different.

You’ve probably interacted with websites that have a great UI and a terrible UX or the other way around. You might have also interacted with websites that have both a great UI and a great UX. Google, for example, excels at both. Although the website is fairly basic in design, it’s still pleasing to look at, and it functions how you would expect it to.

How Do UI and UX Work Together?

UI and UX are very closely connected, so UI designers and UX designers often work very closely as well. One way they do so is by having the UX team create the flow of the website and draw out how they want it to work and feel. As they go along, the UI team will design aesthetics for the buttons and links that the UX team is hoping to implement.

You might be surprised to learn that it is often the UX designers, and not the UI designers, who plan the order of buttons and pages. The UX team is the one who decides where certain things will be laid out on the user interface and the UI team comes in after and makes it look aesthetic and pleasing. It is not the UI team who decides where things go first and the UX team that works around them.

Since UI and UX are linked, there is constant communication between the two teams throughout the process. This ensures that the end results are functional and pleasing to the eye.

Both Depend on Research

In order to ensure the user is both pleased by the user interface and has a good experience, both UI and UX designers must do market research before and during a project. Tastes and preferences change over time, so knowing how users anticipate websites to appear and feel can help make a design project go smoother.

Both UI and UX designers will perform research with real users. Through the use of visual prototypes and A/B testing, they can get a clearer idea of what users prefer and what features are either better or worse. It can also give them an insight into what features users expect, which ones they find cumbersome, and what ones are neither helpful nor hindering.

While both types of designers do rely on research, the type of research they perform will be different because each designer is focusing on a different aspect of the website development and design process.

Research for UI designers

UI designers often look at other websites that are in the same industry or aimed at the same target audience. If they’re working on a website for a landscaping company, they’ll look at other landscaping company websites to see how they look. They may also look at websites that failed to try and determine what aspects hindered the site.

When researching, UI designers look solely at the visual aspects. They want to know what icons users are most comfortable with, what fonts mesh well together and are pleasing for users, and what visual elements are most important.

Research for UX designers

On the other hand, UX designers research how users expect a website to behave. This is why usability testing is also a significant part of a UX designer’s job. If a site doesn’t do what a user wants it to do, then they’re experience will be negative, leading them to leave the website. To avoid this, UX designers look into user expectations.

Even though UX designers may want to incorporate something new into the website, they need to be careful doing so. If a user expects an icon or button to do one thing and it doesn’t react as expected, they may become frustrated. As such, most UX designers choose to keep basic behaviors similar and only change things up when it’s absolutely necessary.


UI and UX play a hugely vital role in the success of a website. Your website may have a very pleasing UI, but if the UX is poor, users won’t stick around long. By the same principle, if your website has a poor UI, users will leave even if you have a good UX design. Contact our TOLS Multimedia local office and trust our expert UI and UX designers to create a high quality website for you that will satisfy both UI and UX principles for the best result!

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