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What is UI and UX and why is it key to designing a website?

Written by Fiona Marsh

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Creating a user-friendly experience should be at the root of every business on and offline. From in-store to social media pages, customer care service and across all marketing activities, the main focus is to ensure that the customer is placed at the forefront and that their experience with your brand is a positive one, also known as  CX or Customer Experience, which we will cover in a later blog post!

In the world of website design and development, the focus on the user experience is often referred to by using two buzz words, UI and UX. And if your goal is to create a website that engages with your target audience, then both elements are key to the success of your website engagement.

Let's start with UI and what it means...

UI or User Interface design refers to the visual details of the website. The buttons that you click, the placement of headers, navigation tabs and even the use of animations, sliders or video wallpapers, all fall under UI design. It combines visual & graphic design,  typography, spacing and the information architecture,  so simply put, referring to the layout of the website (or app).  The main goal of UI design is to visually guide the user through the website intuitively, without much thought.

It should transfer the visual assets of the brand in a consistent, coherent, and aesthetically pleasing manner, bringing your brand to life.

A couple of questions the UI designer considers:

  • How will this look? 
  • Does it reflect the company's brand? 
  • Does it tie in with the offline experience and appearance?

Now onto UX...

UX or User Experience design is the process of designing your website to make it easier to use and navigate e.g. how the visitors to your website interact with the content. A good UX design can also help with your SEO. Google looks at metrics such as ‘bounce rates’ and ‘time spent on site’ when considering if a website gave the visitor the answer to what they searched for. So if your website is easy to navigate and intuitive, this can lead to higher rankings in search results. If it is difficult for the user to find what they are looking for and the site is hard to navigate this will create a bad UX design.  

A couple of question the UX designer considers:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What are they looking for? What are the goals, or call to action (CTA’s) of the site and are they best placed and easily found on the website
  • Why are they coming to the website? The intent of visitors to the site and the goals of the business, for example pages set up for eCommerce will differ from pages that are information based.
  • Where are users accessing the site? Will the site predominantly be used on mobile? This will influence the navigation and the architecture of the build.

So to summarise…

Think of UX as the backbone to your website and UI has the outward appearance of it. If your website design is easy to navigate but looks unappealing, users won't engage with it and will log off. Likewise if your design is beautiful and visually appealing but is difficult to navigate, visitors won’t use it. It is imperative that your website looks and acts the part in equal measures, incorporating both UI and UX elements.

In the words of Steve Jobs...

“ The design is not just what it looks like and feels like. The design is how it works”

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