If you’re a designer and like to browse the web, you probably came across at least a couple “UI vs UX” posts, if not, just google “UI vs UX” and see what pops up. Basically, people like to put these two things against each other, often saying or implyng that one (UX) is better than the other (UI).
It totally shows how clever they are and how well they understand the complexity of UX Design. 🙄
What annoys me the most everytime I see such posts is the fallacy behind this comparison, let me explain.
The ketchup bottle analogy
This is the classic example that you’ll find. A glass ketchup bottle vs the squeezable version. One is clearly much easier to use than the other, thus people say that the squeezable one represents UX because clearly, someone investigated how people used the glass bottle and realised that smacking it to get your ketchup wasn’t optimal.
Why the glass bottle represents the UI, well that is beyond me, and that’s where my annoyance starts.
Although there was probably research that triggered the appearance of the squeezable ketchup container, the other part of the story is that it was introduced as technological innovation, because before that it wasn’t possible to produce such containers. Comparing these 2 things is the same as if you compare the first iPhone against one of the latest ones.
What (I think) people mean to convey with such posts is the age-old debate of form vs function, which is a slightly different story.
UI is part of UX
As you probably already know, UX stands for User Experience and UI for User Interface. Putting these two things against each other implies that they can live independently which is not the case.
The user experience is the result of their interaction with a product or service, which means that user experience includes, but is not limited to, a user interface. The UI is one of the contributing factors for the end user experience.
Can you see now why I get annoyed?
Sill not? Well, it’s not just the bad analogy of the ketchup bottles… putting UI against UX is like putting the Avengers against Captain America, BUT you forget to remove Captain America from the Avengers. It doesn’t really seem like a fair fight, does it? (would still watch it though 😅).
The confusion, I believe, comes from people thinking that UX means Interaction Design, and assuming that UI only means Visual Design. However, the truth is that these are two complementary disciplines, both contributing to the user experience.
Interaction vs Visual is also not a thing
In design teams, you often see the partnering of visual designers and interaction designers, so they can leverage on each other’s strengths.
This team up only makes sense if they work as a proper team. What I see happening sometimes is that an interaction designer works on his own and then hands-over the wireframes for the visual designer to “make pretty”, if you’re working like this then you’re doing it wrong. Throwing things over the fence is not collaboration.
With that said, I also believe that a good designer needs to be able to do both or at least have some level of knowledge in the other discipline.
I simply can’t imagine a good visual designer that completely ignores how the user will interact with what they’re designing, the same way I can’t think of a good interaction designer that can’t layout the information in a way that will be easy to digest by the user.
Long story short… stop the fights.
If two disciplines work together towards the same goal, why should there be fights or comparisons on which one is better?
There will never be a clear answer. It all depends on the context of the problem, and the end goal for whatever you’re doing.
Sometimes you’ll need to make compromises on one side, other times in need to compromise on the other, so please just stop the fights and comparisons and start working together.