Why UX and UI Design are Inseparable

Designing an App

If you are looking to build an app, one critical step of the process is design. While working with designers you’ll hear the terms UX and UI Design thrown around quite often, but what do these words mean and why are they always mentioned together? While UX and UI Design are two different components in app design, their bond has become so closely intertwined that it is critical to understand that one cannot succeed without the other.

What is UX Design?

UX Design stands for User Experience Design, which is the process of creating and enhancing a user’s experience with a product by improving the usability, ease, and pleasure found through interacting with it. A user experiences an application through how they interact with it, so it’s important to anticipate how they will want to move through the app, what functionalities are most important, and what might go wrong as they navigate throughout the app. The process of UX Design allows you to research, test, and prototype the app to make sure it is what the end user wants. UX Design is the blueprint for an app, it will present where everything will be in the app, such as the flow of interactions and the layout of a particular page, but it does not focus on being aesthetically pleasing. If an app works and feels seamless, then the UX Design has been thoroughly thought through. But if the navigation is complicated or disjointed, or you come across an error with no way to resolve it, then, unfortunately, you have encountered poor UX. Pure UX Design (with an absence of UI design) will have the function of the app completely thought out but will not be visually appealing to the user.

What is UI Design?

UI Design stands for User Interface Design, which is the process of designing the look and feel of the application through the use of colors, fonts, images, shapes, and transitions. It is in UI Design that you determine the details of the app such as the button shapes, font sizes, color palette, and color theme. Small, but important, details are determined to help guide the user through the app. If an app is cohesive, easy to understand, and aesthetically pleasing, then the UI Design has been thoroughly thought through. But if there is no hierarchy or understandable visual elements, then the application will have a poor UI. Pure UI design (with an absence of UX design) will have the look and feel of the app completely thought out but will not be easy to navigate to the user.

Is One More Important?

The simple answer? No. Both UX and UI Design are essential when developing an app. An app can have an amazing UX Design, but, without the UI, users won’t have meaningful and enjoyable interactions. On the flipside, an app can have amazing UI Design, but, without the UX, users will become frustrated with difficult interactions. Let’s compare UX and UI Design to a house for a moment. UX Design is like the foundation and framing, while UI Design is like the siding, drywall, and flooring. A house wouldn’t be livable without any of these items, so why would an app be successful without both UX and UI Design? It wouldn’t. That’s why it is so important that both the UX and UI are fleshed out before releasing your app to users.

The Design Workflow

In the process of designing an app, UX Design comes first. It’s important to have a blueprint before going into the more granular detail in UI Design. Just like our house example, it is very difficult to add aesthetic details to something that does not have a solid foundational structure. However, this process might not always be a linear path. People looking to have the concept of an app designed to obtain funding don’t need the entire app designed, but only the critical screens needed to explain the idea. In this case, some UX is completed up front, and most of the UI is finished, so, when the person goes to get the app fully designed and developed, they have to go back to UX Design. If someone is looking to get their app developed, then both the UX and UI need to be completed prior to starting development. Depending on who you work with, some companies might do all of the UX first and then move to UI, where other companies might have their UX and UI designers work in tandem.

App design is a critical step in creating a mobile or web app, so it is important to get it right before development begins. It is important to know that your users will be easily able to interact with your app and will have an emotional connection while using it. It’s easy to overlook the design of an app when it functions and is visually appealing, but, the second something is difficult to use, the design comes right into the forefront. While UX and UI Design might be two different terms, together they are integral for an app to be successful.

Erica Holmsen Image

Erica Holmsen is the lead UX/UI designer at Lithios. She specializes in developing simple mobile and web experiences that delight. In her free time she dabbles in professional alligator wrestling.

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