To the unknowing mind, digital design can be a confusing world of acronyms, systems, and programs.
Web creation is not making a landing page and adding content anymore. It is an intricate world of coding for site protection and function. It is also a fun, artistic adventure to make something visually appealing.
Combine this with the psychology behind all the systems of a webpage, and you have the basics.
Simple enough, right? Not for everyone.
Software has skyrocketed, and many people are still trying to understand key differences of common terms.
Terms like web design, UI design, and UX design are often thrown around and incorrectly interchanged.
However, understanding the purpose of each tool is as easy as knowing the different parts of a house. Web design is the foundation. The UI design is the architecture and the UX design is the plumbing, electric, and other wiring needed.
Here’s how each one works, and the value in knowing the difference.
Web Design: The Foundation
A web designer is a creative at heart who has a passion for coding.
He or she is the one picking through all the parts of your brand to create a solid online foundation.
They take your brand colors and see how they work best on landing pages. They choose between different typefaces to make something users will remember and want to go back to.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a beautiful and on-brand canvas. This is the starting point for UI and UX to come in and bring the brand to life.
A Day in the Life
Web designers spend most of their days knee-deep in coding and constructing a website. They play with Photoshop edits and other graphic design tasks, too.
At first, this looks like a lot of ideas spilling out at once.
To see what works best, a web designer has to get everything out of their head first. As such, he or she won’t be concerned about the right approach right away. They just want different thoughts to play with.
This is the brainstorm process, which then picks up more direction once the ideas start to flow. It is both about the big, bold ideas and what the best decisions for the brand are.
It may take the whole morning or maybe even a few days depending on the project.
From the color options to the button designs and the typography, there is much to think about.
You can usually find a web designer clicking back and forth between their design system of choice and A/B testing. They want to get the look exactly right, and need a little bit of feedback to help decide.
Mostly though, they enjoy the freedom of making a whole new digital door open. Each web page is the full expression of their creative capacity and a brand ideology working in harmony.
UI Design: The Architecture
A User Interface designer is also a creative. Yet, they go beyond what looks good enough to stand out. Their focus is to create what feels good.
The difference is one is meant to be memorable and the other is meant to seem natural. UI design takes the abstract world of understanding a brand and gives it a blueprint.
To make something that feels good, they have to first understand what the customer’s perception of “good” is.
This requires using both their creative and research skills to contribute to a project.
A Day in the Life
UI design requires skill in idea generation as well as market studies and customer analyses.
Most interface experts jump back and forth between these roles and more in one day.
Doing so helps to close the gaps between what a business wants their brand to be and what the market needs. It creates an experience based on fact as well as feeling.
UI design cross-checks what looks good with what the best way of interacting can be. It focuses on making a strong first impression.
Designers work hard to make this seamless across the board. Once an idea is set in motion, they follow it to completion and make sure it’s adaptable.
They also focus on a seamless UI design across different platforms, like a desktop, tablet, and smartphone.
This requires prototyping and testing, then going back to the drawing board and recreating some pieces of the puzzle.
As such, it is common for a UI designer to bounce ideas off the web developer. They work together to ensure everything is up to speed, with no glitches in the overall UI design.
UX Design: The Systems
A User Experience designer is an analyzer and an achiever.
This person approaches software through the eyes of a critic. They ask the tough questions to get to the simplest answers. The goal of a UX designer is to deliver a product to market in a form that’s easiest to understand.
Remember, a website is like a home for your business. Homes need wiring circuits and plumbing systems to operate well, and websites need back-end support.
A UX designer helps you figure out what happens behind the screen.
They decide how users get from one page to another. UX design is the combination of what a user sees on the screen and what is really happening when they click or issue a command.
They know how to place contact information for the most interactions. They can guide new users to deep-seeded pages which otherwise would go undiscovered.
Basically, they understand how to keep people hooked. The more an interaction can seem like an instinct, the longer users will stay on a website.
A Day in the Life
Of all three disciplines, UX design is arguably the most complex.
One day, an experience designer can be doing competitor analyses and working on product strategy. The next, they are planning and testing everything a team has worked on thus far. Then, they check in with project goals to make sure everything is on track.
Through every step of the journey, they are in contact with anyone who has their hands on a project. This means communicating with photographers and writers as well as web developers and UI designers. It can also be reporting to managers and leading strategy sessions.
Why do UX designers take on so much management and responsibility?
Because their job is to make sure all the loose ends come together and function as best as possible. They understand creating an experience doesn’t happen overnight.
A UX designer has to know exactly what is needed in the market and how their company is going to offer the solution first.
They are more thinkers and doers than artists. Yet, they understand aesthetic design and can work well with the visual parts of a team.
Applying Web Design, UI Design, and UX Design
It is important to mention the unique functions of each role when talking about the different areas of design.
Web Building and Creating
Web designers only operate in a digital space. More so, they don’t work with app development or other kinds of software.
Usually, they specialize in internet landing pages. The world wide web is their bread and butter, and they know how to create something users will appreciate among the millions of sites out there.
A web designer works with marketing teams to boost search strategies and consumer engagements. They create sites from scratch or go into existing websites to make them better competitors. Such improvements may include adding a blog or a testimonials page, or making the site as a whole more visually engaging.
They can pick landing pages apart as much as they want, but this is the only digital realm they operate in.
Establishing Virtual Relationships
UI design has a wider reach than the web.
Although an interface designer may work with web designers on site pages, they can do much more. UI is about creating something that feels natural on any digital platform.
This includes app development, video games, and other kinds of software. It focuses on the relationship between anything on the screen and how the user works a system.
A UI designer can create forms and buttons that make users want to book online appointments for various services. They also understand how to best present different picture filters on a photo app.
Across many mediums, creating a strong UI design boils down to one thing – the psychology underlining each interaction.
When designers can identify the best gestures to use for the system they are working on, there is no limit to what UI design can do.
Making Something Memorable
A user experience can apply to pretty much anything, which means UX reaches beyond digital.
Most often, UX design is just talked about for back-end support on a website or an app. However, it can apply to the experience of driving a car, wearing athletic gear, and much more.
In truth, all products are created for the user experience. Big businesses and entrepreneurs alike work hard to bring products to market that fill a need.
Every industry depends on high-quality user experiences. This can be the satisfaction a parent has when finding the perfect stain remover. It can also be as simple a businessman’s favorite suit.
No matter the situation, brand loyalty comes down to the experience.
It is the combined efforts of market research and development, strategy, and marketing. Keeping UX in mind can help guide all aspects of product development. The right UX designer is a valuable part of any team.
Understanding the Job Descriptions
Many designers and developers alike are working on things they did not even know were possible while in school. All it takes is a creative mind and the desire to learn to get started on building a portfolio.
It is best to have a focused direction, though. This applies to anyone starting their design career or employers looking for potential candidates.
Some creatives love watching new things come to life behind a wall of code and functions. Others prefer to play with visually-pleasing programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Still, some more prefer to be the minds behind it all, managing different pieces come together.
If you are beginning your design journey, know the key words and functions to look for among various job descriptions.
Web designing is all about knowing how to speak in code and graphics to create something powerful.
Job descriptions will often specify their preferred code language. A working knowledge of Adobe systems and other editing platforms will be necessary for strong graphics. Potential employers will also ask for samples of previous web pages.
Design in this context is all about the world a web page can create. It needs someone who can take abstract concepts and run with them.
Strong candidates are go-getters who can work without much management. They deliver beyond expectations and are constantly picking up new tricks and industry trends.
UI Design requires a balanced mix of creativity and conceptualizing.
A strong interface designer knows what users want and how to deliver. Their role will involve analyzing and branding. UI design looks like research and data one day and prototyping interactions the next.
Designers work with user guides and story lines. They communicate with brand strategists and software developers. They know how to produce results for specific users across different devices.
UX designers are critical. They can dig deep into pages of surveys and market tests. They love breaking apart data and putting it back together.
They are also team players with strong leadership skills.
A UX design team has to communicate well and use soft skills to understand the consumer. They must also relate big ideas to various departments.
Build Experience Before Graduation
Be prepared for the design role you want as soon as you finish school.
The best learning is done hands-on, and there are many projects waiting for you. No matter if you can crack the code or build the best UI design, your portfolio needs more samples.