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What is the Difference Between a UX, a UI and a Web Designer?

Firstly, just to clarify…my response to this all too often asked question, takes into consideration the semantic bias that exists in the digital design industry we are in.

Why? Due to the fact that the term ‘UX and UI designers’ suggest a particular thing to most individuals and have a completely different meaning to the businesses who are in fact doing the hiring.

I tend to prefer utilising the terms as they are utilised by employers, maybe I’m biased being the owner of a digital marketing company myself, you decide after reading this article?

‘Web Designer’ is, for absence of a much better descriptor, old terminology. Really, it’s becoming increasingly rare now as for any high up techies in the industry to utilise that term any longer.

Web designer or web developer, as an occupation has actually broadened vastly. In addition to UX and UI designers, we now have terms such as front-end engineers, UI engineers, style technologists, UX engineers, UX scientists, and plenty more buzzwords.

So what’s the difference?

Where a web designer indicated understanding of HTML ,CSS, and probably some JavaScript… UX designer is not always a technical role. Rather, a UX designer should be focused on the human aspect of the website integrated into the design. What the goals are of the website and how we can achieve those goals, effective ways to integrate the brand, how we can convert more leads and make more sales through design. This relies on usability research, scientific data, up-to-date analytics. This is really the heart of UX design today.

You will notice that the word ‘web’ has been dropped from both the terms we are discussing…why? The web isn’t the only need for usability design any more.

The increase of mobile users (5.22 billion unique users today according to GSMA Intelligence) has rapidly driven the need for UX designers. A UX designer, simply designs for ANY PLACE a user is.

There are plenty of elaborate descriptions on the web, but I’m going to attempt to offer you a more in depth description of which one performs in contrast to the other stages of the software development process.

Okay, so we have established that the UX designer concentrates primarily on the user. Particularly on the issues that impact the user, related to the software application. This indicates that UX designers are in fact more psychologists than developers. Wouldn’t you agree? A UX designer comprehends the physiology of our eyes and the details of colour blindness. A UX designer knows how humans think, behave and what makes them engage and take action. That’s psychology.

In larger companies the UX designer will perform as a key layer of the organisation that accepts user research study outcomes and create engaging designs that take this information into consideration. The UX designer will need to incorporate brand strategy and stakeholder desires.

So what about in small companies?

In smaller companies, it is the UX designers role to take on more of the design process. Wearing more of the hats usually due to a lower budget for the project, a UX designer will create user research study procedures and examine information for insights. Essentially, in most smaller companies, the UX designer is taking responsibility for whatever task that relates in any way with the user.

Let’s talk about UI…

User Interface design is more concentrated than UX. Where UX design is more focused on the actual product, the copy and terminology, colours and shapes, and branding etc. UI design is totally focused on the software interface.

A UX designer might design general designs for a broad range of mobile screens and various platforms, however a UI designer will dedicate himself for example on the layout and design for one interface, for example just one content management system such as WordPress. This can be hugely beneficial as it means they have focused on mastering that specific interface, rather than just your average ‘web designer’.

UI designers are not extremely worried with UX research study and user-centered issues, however they are worried with the integration of the User Interface. UI designers are normally required to understand how to execute styles in interactive prototyping tools, aswell as in the language or tools in which that specific application is being developed.

As I previously mentioned about how UX designers are typically needed to wear a lot of hats, the very same can be stated for UI designers. User Experience and User Interface are so typically combined since, in lots of business, the very same designers are doing both tasks. They might concentrate on one part at a time, depending on their workflow… however they’re all doing all the work.

This is the truth of the UX/UI design industry. These days, both groups are carrying out exactly same work and anybody who wishes to get a job in this industry should have experience doing both, interchangeably.

A good UX/UI designer is required to understand all of the above. Particularly research study, testing, branding, attractive design, motion and interactive patterns, prototyping, and how to create UI’s for numerous target platforms and screen sizes.

A good portfolio for a freelancer or an employee will go a long way. No matter where an aspiring UX/UI hopes to focus within the industry or what interface they are using they should be working towards a portfolio prepared for presenting to Apple or Google. They should be a journey for the visitor, with stunning UX, visual design, and optimised for mobile, tablet, and desktop.

Tips for if you are just starting out as a Freelance UX/UI designer:

1. Don’t be afraid of being a jack-of-all trades early on in your journey. Just focus on doing what you love, learning and helping people solve problems.
2. Don’t stay a jack-of-all-trades for too long, you may end up being a master of none! Find your way.
3. If you maintain a broad skillset that incorporates all areas of UI and UX and exercise them and keep up to date, you are going to be a huge asset to any business.

What have we learnt from all this?

User Experience and User Interface design are often confused, used interchangeably and overlap each other. Most UX designers are also UI designers and vice versa. I believe the most accurate conclusion is that while both inhabit much of the very same area… UX is more psychological, focusing on and closer to humans. UI is more related to the integration of the application.


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  1. Jacob Neher

    Great article Leo! I have more recently called myself a web designer. For years I referred to myself as a web developer. I guess I’m REALLY old!! Ha! You make several good points for sure. The web is definitely not what it used to be and I do agree that calling yourself a web designer doesn’t truly encompass what all we do in our businesses. Your point about having to wear both the UX and the UI hats at the same time is spot on! Most projects just simply don’t have the budget to allow for these to be completed by separate people.

    Well, I wasn’t a “web designer” for very long! Off to figure out what to call myself now! LOL

    • Leo Rees-Evans

      Thanks, Jacob! Agreed, I think this is why we need a term for all of them collectively!


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