What is User Interface (UI)? The Difference Between UX And UI

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The user interface design has grown exponentially over the past few years and bloomed into one of the most creative fields in technology. The impact of Internet-based-living has a profound influence on online users’ behavior in which website design and usability become determining factors to a website’s quality.

If you come across many recruitment posts of UI designer, it’s usually as along with UX design, UI design remains one of the most in-demand fields in the industry. Despite its popularity, the term “user interface” is still confusing many minds, especially with the leap of innovation in technology and the Internet of things.

In this article, we’ll guide you on a tour of the UI world to broaden your understanding of the user interface. Let’s dive in!

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Table of Contents

What is the user interface (UI)?

UI design


A user interface (UI) or merely an “interface” is a conduit between human and computer interaction - a graphic layout of a software/application. It includes elements that allow users to interact with a machine, software, application, or hardware naturally and intuitively. It is a space that shows how users can interact with a website, the overall design, and how information is presented. A user interface is comprised of buttons, text, images, sliders, and all items users interact with. An excellent user interface creates an efficient and friendly experience for users.

Interestingly, UI has quite a long history. The very first graphic user interface was released in the 1980s by computer scientists at Xerox PARC. Users could interact with their personal computers for the first time through buttons, icons, menus, and checkboxes. User interface (UI) design or user interface engineering is the discipline of making an interface for software or computerized devices with the priority of maximizing efficiency, responsiveness, and aesthetics. It’s all about structure, user manipulation, and communication. A seamless UI design aims to make all the tasks completed without any friction and increase usability. In the end, it creates a good user experience.

The formula of user interface design:

User interface design = Visual design + Interaction design

A UI designer can do his job by firstly sketching out the interface by a pencil, visualizing it with a computer visualization software before being built in code. A user interface designer is also a graphic designer. They’re the one to decide how the interface will look like.

An exceptional user interface will not just satisfy users by facilitating the frictionless completing of tasks, but also please them aesthetically and experimentally.

Take a look at a website with an awesome user interface: Medium

Medium interface

Medium is an online reading and publishing platform with a gorgeous and functional UI design. The site creates the first impression of simplicity and minimalism in its design with the minimal use of color, appropriate line spacing, and the right combination of typography.

UI vs. UX: What is the difference

UI vs. UX

UI and UX are often confused and conflated terms. The truth is that UX is not UI. The UI design is a part of UX design. The main difference is that UI design is more associated with the surface and the feel and looks of interface design. In contrast, UX design encompasses the whole spectrum of the user experience, including the end-users’ interactions with the company, its service like Trinetix, and its products. The user experience has gone further, not just the digital experience or experience design.

UX designers focus on finding out users’ problems and pain points and what’s the solution concerning a specific product. They will do user research to identify who users are, what’s their needs, problems, and how a product can solve them. After that, they’ll map out the user’s journey across a product to decide what should be included in the website’s interface. Interaction elements on the interface should guide users to the right steps in their journey so that they’ll have a great feel of the shopping experience.

Now it’s time for UI designers to do their job - make the interface possible. The UI designers will think about all visual aspects of the user’s journey, including screens, touchpoints users may across, button users click on, and more. Though UI designers concentrate on the surface of an interface, it’s not right to say that UI design is all about looks. UI designers also consider how to make all elements function smoothly. For example, it’s in a UI designer’s mind to create a product accessible.

Although UX and UI have many different skill sets, they’re integral to each other. Both UX design and UI design need to be flawlessly executed and aligned with users’ needs to create an excellent user experience.

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Key takeaways:

  • UX design is about solving users’ problems. The UI design is making an interface intuitive, beautiful, responsive, and interactive.

  • In the product development process, UX design usually comes first. UX designers work out on the bare bones of the user journey. UI designers bring it to life by adding and shaping up visual and interactive elements with visualization software.

  • UX sticks to all kinds of products, services, and experience both offline and online, while UI is specific to digital products and experience.

Why is UI design so important?

User interface design should never be overlooked as it brings people to your website, keep them stay, explore your products, and develop a good customer relationship.

A good UI design makes a great user or customer experience. When people have a terrible experience on your website, there are more chances your products or company will be rejected. It’s not pointless to invest in design as 94% of people decline a website because it doesn’t have an appealing look (Webrandcraft 2019 statistics report). When people are pleased to browse your site, you’ll see a massive influx in traffic and conversion rates as they’ll more likely to purchase and return. Chances are they will recommend your website to others - the sale increases in that way.

Furthermore, a well-designed UI can improve your website’s SEO performance. By following the Magento site audit checklist, you can ensure that your website is not only visually appealing but also optimized for search engines, resulting in higher rankings and more visibility to potential customers.

How to make seamless user interfaces

Know your users & define how they use your website

Above all else, you need to know who your users are - understand them comprehensively. That means knowing all demographic data of your users to analyze. But more importantly, you need to know their needs, their problems, and what helps them tackle challenges and achieve their goals. To do that, you can’t just ask your users questions like “what do you think of our interface design? Instead, be in your users’ shoes to find out what they need or communicate directly with them if possible.

The insights you get from data analytics and speaking with users will somehow reveal how users use your website and what content to highlight in the interface.

Keep the interface simple

A user interface should only have essential elements. Many unnecessary items and contents make the interface looks like a mess and confuse users. It’s better to eliminate all elements that are not helping your users and use language on labels and messages coherently. An interface shouldn’t contain irrelevant information, which creates noise in UI. Noise competes with relevant information (signal) and reduces clarity, usability, and value. It dilutes useful information with useless information. Therefore when the noise appears in an interface, it’s harder for users to find out what the website’s offering and how to reach what they’re looking for.

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common UI elements

Using familiar elements makes users comfortable; they will learn how to control the interface and accomplish tasks quickly. It’s also essential to create consistency in patterns in language, layout, and design of the website interface. Users will feel familiar with all the steps through your site and achieve their goals quickly.

Common UI elements:

  • Input Controls: checkboxes (another method of selections), radio buttons, list boxes, drop-down lists, toggles, buttons for selections, text fields for input, data fields.

  • Navigation Components: breadcrumbs, slider, search fields, pagination, tags, icons.

  • Informational Components: tooltips, progress bar, icons, notifications, messages, modal windows.

  • Containers: accordions and tabbed content.

Create a purposeful page layout

Creating a coherent UI layout design is a mighty task for even experienced UI designers. But it’s possible just by following seemingly simple but significant principles.

Divide your interface with an appropriate ratio for each element. Place elements logically in the interface. Consider how to locate each element in a specific space concerning some reference elements. That means the spatial relationship items on the page. When it comes to page layout, elements should be placed based on the importance, which draws users’ attraction to the most critical information. Well-organized elements create a neat look for your interface; also make it highly functional. Don’t let your interface be cluttered with unnecessary and disorganized elements.

Strategically use color and texture

You can use color and texture to draw attention to what information or items you want. A perfect combination of color and texture can speak as powerful as language.

The visual appearance of a website largely depends on the color in it, which usually leaves the first impression on you towards a website. Color can reflect the personality of a brand. It can set the tone, mood, conception of a brand or product. Research by CCICOLOR - Institute for Color Research reveals that people only spend 90 seconds to judge a product, and between 62% and 90% of the assessment of their initial view is based on color.

Use the color wisely following the 5 “rights”: choose the right color, at the right time, in the right pattern, with the right users, and target the right goals. Don’t add too much color; keep it simple.

Communication is key

User interface design is more than simply looking beautiful or cool. UI design is communication. In UI design, communication happens through visual elements, animations, and interactions from users with those elements.

To create effective communication with users, firstly, it’s essential to inform users about what’s happening on the website including, changes, updates, information, or errors. Use UI variations to make your website communicate effectively with the users. You should consider creating defaults, like fields pre-chosen or filled out to reduce the burden on the user.

Besides, make sure your words in the message or any information is readable and understandable. Keep it short and stick to your point.

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Best UI design tools



Available on: Mac OS

Price starting from: $99

Sketch is one of the most used tools for designing websites and applications. It also does prototyping. Sketch is a lightweight and friendly-to-use with a simple interface. You can move from design to development quickly with a few clicks. The software lets you create creative, responsive components, the transition between artboard, and animations seamlessly. After creating a prototype, you can share it instantly, get feedback, and move forward with the developer all in a shared cloud workspace.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD

Available on: Mac OS, Windows

Price: Free for XD starter plan

Adobe XD is a powerful, easy-to-use, and feature-rich platform that helps you create designs for websites, apps, voice interfaces, games, and more. It allows wireframing, prototyping with Adobe Creative Cloud collection of design tools. You can create animations between elements across artboards to add micro-interactions and motion to your designs. You can test your designs too. Coediting is super proactive in Adobe XD to help you and your team work together at the same time, in the same document to avoid duplicating efforts or merging changes.



Available on: Mac, Windows

Price starting from: $9/month for solo developers

Balsamiq is a useful tool for UI designers to design user interfaces for a website, web apps, desktop software or mobile apps. It claims to be the fastest, industry-standard low-fidelity wireframing tool. Balsamiq pursuits its mission of eliminating bad user interfaces. With Balsamiq wireframing tool, you can have the experience of sketching on a notepad or whiteboard while using a computer. You are forced to focus on the structure and content rather than on color and other details. Many features available and the simplicity in the interface makes it easier for non-technical folks to master the tool in minutes.



Available on: Mac, Windows

Price starting from: Free

Mockflow provides practical applications for planning a better UI design. Mockflow UI planning suite supports you in visualizing your user interfaces better, create user flows, document styles, and approve designs. The Wireframe Pro edition is an alternative tool for prototyping, helping you brainstorm and test new ideas. Besides, Mockstore provides a huge collection of UI component packs and templates to start any design.



Available on: Mac, Windows

Price starting from: $29

Axure is one of the most potent wireframing and prototyping tools for UI designers. It’s helpful for complex projects that are more technical and require dynamic data. With Axure, you can handle dynamic content, conditional flow, animations, and adaptive views all without code.

Adobe Comp

Adobe Comp

Available on: App Store, Google Play

Price: Free

Adobe Comp is an excellent application for wireframing, especially if you’re having an idea and want to sketch it out immediately on your phone. With Adobe Comp, you can layout an idea with real assets like photos, texts, shapes, and fonts. Then, you can send the wireframe to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, or Muse to refine and finish your design.

Invision studio


Available on: Mac OS, Windows

Price: Free

Invision claims to be the most powerful screen design tool. With Invision, you can create beautiful interactive interfaces with custom animations and transitions from several features. Notably, It’s a time-saving solution as you can make a responsive design in a single artboard instead of creating numerous artboards at once.



Available on: Mac OS

Price starting from: $24/month

Proto.io is a great tool to create lifelike prototypes. Prototypes created are fully-interactive, high-fidelity, and vivid like your real app. Creating the flow of your app is much easier by using automated screen transitions or use timeline features to animate layers. The collaboration in Proto.io is also easy that you can share your prototypes with anyone. Also, you can get feedback from your users, and do user testing via popular user testing platforms.



Available on: Mac OS

Price starting from: Free

Marvel is another wise choice of prototyping tools. Marvel has all top of the tools and tasks that bring your interfaces to life. With Marvel, you can make design interactive without code required, automatically transfer designs to development, test the usability on users, and collaborate on the way.



Available on: Mac OS

Price $129

Principle excels at interaction design. It’s suitable for building eye-catching animated interactions. Principle allows creating designs for mobiles, web, and desktop. Just choose a device preset and enter a custom artboard size to start your design. Designing the flow of a multiple-screen app becomes a breeze with Principle.

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User interface design is as more popular as how important it is to a website and users. Focus on making a great user interface for your website, and the result will pay off.

Choosing the right tool is one of the most critical steps to kickstart an excellent interface design. The tools listed in this article are some of the tops UI design tools. Pick some for you and research to understand how each tool works. Most importantly, consider what’s the most suitable one for your business.

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Summer Nguyen
Marketing Manager of Mageplaza. Summer is attracted by new things. She loves writing, travelling and photography. Perceives herself as a part-time gymmer and a full-time dream chaser.
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