The UI vs. UX debate rages on even as businesses, developers, and designers continue to follow conflicting philosophies to app development.
For businesses, the debate translates to a simple question: What should you focus on – app functionality or app design?
The answer to this question is not an easy one.
You don’t want to end up with a feature-rich app that looks dull, feels bland, and makes an easily forgettable impression.
At the same time, you don’t want a beautiful, stunning app that hardly offers any functionality to be useful to your users.
So, where do you draw the line? What should be your focus? Should you spend more on UI or UX?
Before we answer these questions, we must take a quick look at UI and UX, and understand the key differences between them.
What is UX?
In the context of mobile apps and web apps, user experience (UX) encompasses all aspects of a user’s experience with your app, right from the moment they open your app to the moment they exit from it.
An app’s UX is the answer to the question – What do users need from the app, and how to make it happen?
The purpose of UX is to create an app usage experience that is useful, user-friendly, and enjoyable. It strives to include specific functionalities that are simple, frictionless, and easy to use.
So, UX is not only focused on app functionality but also on creating seamless user interactions as they use those features.
What is UI?
User Interface (UI) refers to the interaction between the user and any digital product, such as apps.
An app’s UI is the answer to the question – How to attract, captivate, and engage app users?
UI is strictly focused on the look and feel of the app. Its primary goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing user interface that is intuitive to use.
UX vs. UI: What’s the Difference Between Them?
The concepts of UI and UX have been around for decades and are quite distinct from each other. However, the IT industry often uses the two terms interchangeably. Even job descriptions fail to distinguish between the two phrases in many cases. However, UI and UX have very different roles to play in app development.
Taking the human body analogy, UX is the skeleton, the muscles, and the internal organs that let us function as a human. UI is the skin, hair, and nails that determine how we look.
So, while UX is primarily concerned with the app’s usability and usefulness, UI is more focused on the presentation of the app’s interface.
UX vs. UI: What’s More Important?
Although the “UX vs. UI” debate is a never-ending one, the two go hand in hand in the app development process.
A UX designer identifies the problem – the user’s need – and devises an intuitive set of features that allows users to solve that problem. They define user flows within the app and develop wireframes that describe the user’s journey as they solve their problem using the app.
As mentioned before, these user flows must feel natural and intuitive.
The product of a UX designer’s efforts is usually wireframes.
This is where a UI designer comes into the picture. A UI designer takes the wireframes and enhances them with carefully chosen fonts, colors, images, shadows, logos, animations, and other design elements to enhance their appeal, improve their usability, and optimize them for different screen sizes.
All the user interfaces, which are conceptualized by the UX designer and beautified by the UI designer, contribute to creating the end-user experience. So, the UX is essentially made up of several UIs, and therefore, the design too plays a vital role in user experience.
That still does not answer an important question – should businesses focus on app functionality or app design?
App Functionality vs. App Design
From our discussion on UX vs. UI, we already know that form and function go hand in hand when it comes to app development. Ideally, they deserve equal importance. However, when faced with a budget constraint, businesses may have to emphasize one over the other. In such a case, there’s a time-tested way to pick a preference.
Focus on User Needs
Almost all app development processes work with functionality first and then move to design. That’s because you can improve the looks of a feature or function at any stage of the development process. But, if you have already chosen a design, force-fitting a function or feature to it later may not feel organic or intuitive to the users.
Secondly, good design is not the core purpose of the app; its functionality is. Users will continue to use a bland app, as long as it’s delivering the core functions flawlessly. However, if the users find alternative apps that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, then they’ll likely move on to the competitor.
Case 1: Disruptor Business
If you are a pioneer business and do not have any direct competitors, then you may concentrate on your app’s functional aspects, even at the risk of ignoring the design. The early adopters will come to you for the functionalities your app offers and will stay for it.
When your business picks up momentum, you can invest more and spruce up the app design.
Case 2: Contender Business
If you are entering a market or industry where there’s ample competition, then it’s critical that you stand distinctly apart from your competition. Your app’s design, interfaces, animations, and the entire UX will play a vital role in establishing your brand in the minds of your target audiences.
Without an immersive design, your app, or even your brand, for that matter, may not be able to differentiate itself from the established players in the business. When push comes to shove, your app design doesn’t even have to be fancy. It must be unique, reflect your brand image, and give your users an enjoyable experience on the app.
As app and web development experts, Vitec GmbH employs a slew of design and functionality hacks that help businesses offer immersive, engaging, and satisfying app experiences to their users within budget. To learn more about how we create high-impact apps within budget, get in touch.
Marc Roset is an expert in digital concept strategies, a passionate blog writer and CEO at Vitec GmbH. He brings his experience and knowledge of the last decade in software development and outsourcing strategies to creative blogs, e-books and more.
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