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UX vs UI: What's the Difference in Web Design?

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If you’re working with a web design agency or web developer to create a new website, you’ve probably heard the terms user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Both are important aspects of website design and are essential to building a successful website. While they are related and work closely together, they aren’t the same thing.

What is Website UX?

In general, UX covers all aspects of the user's interaction with the company or brand, including products, services, processes, and communications.

For websites specifically, UX refers to the experience users have when they interact with your website, and that experience needs to be smooth, streamlined, and enjoyable. According to a study by Blue Fountain Media, 43% of internet users ranked ease of use as the top priority in making their online experience better, more important than secure transactions or privacy.

To deliver good UX design on your website, you must understand the user's abilities and goals, anticipate the way in which they will use your site, and use the site structure and functionality to get them to act in a way that fulfills their own goals as well as the goals of the business. This process helps you learn how to design a website that converts visitors into customers, clients, and/or regular users.

A website with good UX will:

  • Identify a customer’s pain points and create ways to solve those problems to make sure the website is meeting users’ needs
  • Give users an easy, uncomplicated way to navigate through the site and find what they’re looking for
  • Deliver a frictionless experience that results in a successful transaction
  • Leave the customer with a positive perception about the website and the brand, while also delivering results for the company

What is Website UI?

UI refers more to the appearance or presentation of a website than the way someone might use it, including colors, layout, typography, and other design elements.

A website with good UI will:

  • Be aesthetically pleasing
  • Have an attractive color scheme
  • Employ typography that is pleasant to look at and easy to read
  • Feature a balanced, uncluttered layout with adequate white space
  • Use a clear visual hierarchy to show visitors where they are on the site
  • Utilize design elements that are familiar to users so they know how to complete their desired actions

How UX and UI Work Together

To fully understand the relationship between website UI and UX, it may be helpful to think of a website like a human body. The body’s UI is its appearance: size, shape, clothing, cosmetics, anything that makes up the overall visual impression of the person. The UX is what’s going on under the skin: the organs and systems of the body and how they function to keep the person alive and healthy.

Good UI will bring people to your site; good UX will keep them there.

As with the body, UX design is the first step: before you make your site look good, you have to make sure it works the way it’s supposed to and enables your visitors to accomplish their goals, whether that’s learning more about your company, contacting someone, or making a purchase.

Once the UX is in place, the UI creates an inviting and engaging framework than makes interacting with your site an aesthetically pleasing experience for users.   

Ideally, a website will have an equally strong UX and UI that work together to make the site attractive and engaging. An effective combination of UX and UI will make visitors want to stay on the site, and will make it easy to navigate and use when they do.

Neglecting UI or UX will hurt the performance of your website and deliver a frustrating and unpleasant experience for users. A website with a good UI and a poor UX looks great, but is difficult or confusing to use. A website with a good UX and a poor UI will work well, but may not get the chance to show its functionality because its appearance drives visitors away.  

To ensure you’re getting the best results from your site as well as offering visitors the best possible experience, your website needs to focus on both UX and UI: UX to make your website useful and functional, UI to make it beautiful and enjoyable to use.