Difference Between UI and UX (and Other Similar Names)

Designer titles have become unnecessarily complicated these days.

 

We like to use an insane number of acronyms, like UI, IxD, IA, UX, and many, many more.

 

It’s become such an inside joke that you’ll find websites that will auto-generate ridiculous titles like:

 

  • Middleweight Augmented Reality Guru
  • Chief Human Factors Visioneer
  • Full Stack User Experience Producer

 

While we won’t cover ALL designer title acronyms that are found in the design world, we will cover some major ones.


So…what iIs the difference between UI, IxD, IA, UX?

UI Design (User Interface Design)

Goal

UI designers are responsible for making the visual design of a website appealing to users while following a business’ brand guidelines.

Responsibilities

UI designers need to follow a company’s style guide to design an interface that both pleases the user but also meets the business’ visual brand (i.e. they need to make it look consistent). 

 

That means knowing the sizing of buttons, the colors used to highlight elements on a page, what graphics to use, which font types and sizes are needed, how the business uses icon assets, etc.

Common Tools

Sketch, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

Sample Job Description

From Pandora:

This role supports PANDORA’s strategic ambition to be industry leading in omnichannel and grow our Global eCommerce business by providing critical in-house design leadership across our digital technology stack. This role will be part of a dynamic team who are responsible for all of Pandora’s websites globally.

Overall

  • Design for a variety of projects under the guidance of Global Product Management Team

  • Create clear web and digital experiences for global, regional, and market level teams

  • Support establishing global design methodology, processes, and tools

  • Establish standards and templates for design artifacts including Sketch style libraries

Global Standardization

  • Represent the team and the customer point of view in meetings with other teams, like Brand Marketing and regional and market leads

  • Ensure we follow industry best practices for eCommerce and standard deviations when it supports our customers and business

  • Work closely with both external vendors and internal, cross-functional teams on projects that range from a few weeks to a few months in length

Scope/Prioritize/Plan

  • Scope level of effort for new feature requests and create prototypes and designs that leverage existing styles and design new styles as needed

  • Support creating requirements and prioritize requests

  • Partner with regional and market leads to understanding when there are unique needs of customers in each market

IxD (Interaction Design)

Goal

Interaction designers make it their goal to make sure that any interactions a user has with a product are simple and smooth.

Responsibilities

The interfaces these designers create are logically thought out. All behaviors and actions are intentionally designed specifically so that the product is simple for the user to use. That means that the actions allowed by the product need to be intuitive and have a defined purpose. In other words, interaction designers design the flow through the application.

 

An interaction designer might also have the duties of a UI designer because designing the flow of a user interface, or UI, usually includes designing the UI itself as well.

Common Tools

Axure, Sketch, InVision

Sample Job Description

From PlayStation:

 

Are you ready to do the best work of your life? Is every project an opportunity for you to gain a deeper understanding of users and improve your abilities? Do you want to own the experience from concept through implementation? Then join us as we redefine what it means to experience content on the PlayStation® platform.

 

As a Designer at PlayStation, you will play a key role in shaping the world’s largest game and content distribution platform. You will collaborate directly with a talented cross-functional team of designers, researchers, engineers, and business partners to ideate, communicate and define experiences that both delight users and support our growing business.

 

While this role is located in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa district, you will be part of the larger SONY global design group, collaborating with designers both locally and globally to elevate the design practice across the organization while being exposed to emerging technologies.

 

As a Designer in this role, You Will

 

  • Design the end-to-end user experience of an internal tool that facilitates design collaboration
  • Conduct user research to develop a deep understanding of PlayStation’s cross-functional needs
  • Create design deliverables that may include, but are not limited to, wireframes, flow diagrams, storyboards, user journey maps, visual design assets, and prototypes
  • Help define product requirements, roadmaps and design principles for programs and initiatives including providing feedback and direction during the product life cycle
  • Participate in formative and evaluative research with our research team to better understand users and gauge the effectiveness of new and existing product solutions
  • Work closely with product management, engineering, design, and other stakeholders located around the world throughout the product cycle to define UX goals and the user experience
  • Adapt to the growing needs of our users in an Agile environment.
  • Build design solutions that are informed by stakeholder needs, validated by user feedback, and integrate into a long-term vision.

IA Design (Information Architecture Design)

Goal

Information architects make sure the product’s content is logically structured and organized.

Responsibilities

Information architects tend to be organized individuals. They need to make vast, complex information/content easy for users to navigate through. Basically, if the user is at sea, IA designers would be the compass.

 

That means being able to predict what a user might search for. IA designers often do this by doing an audit of an application. They will break down all the content on a website first, group similar information, create categories and subcategories, make hierarchies of information, and design menus. Organization and logic are key here.

Common Tools

Omnigraffle, Axure, Keynote, Visio

Sample Job Description

From Amazon Web Services:

The ideal candidate will have a track record of driving enterprise-level information architecture, communicating content strategy to senior-level executives, managing complex projects with multiple stakeholders and competing priorities, and successfully resolving issues. You will possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills and an ability to translate ambiguity and incomplete information into insights and bias for action. You will have a customer-obsessed and collaborative approach, a strong desire to learn and be curious, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get things done.

Job Responsibilities

  • Lead discussions with stakeholders to identify the priorities in content, structure, and usability that will enable organizational imperatives for the field.

  • Lead or contribute to the development of the following core deliverables: requirements matrix, content inventory, content audit, content analysis, content matrix, content flow, content types, content model, content scorecards, and taxonomy.

  • Define requirements to solve complex layout or structural problems, and design navigational structures for multiple content types.

  • Align IA strategies with the business direction and initiatives, ensuring that the structure supports priorities.

  • Help institute a content governance model, including requirements for content onboarding, retention rules, metadata used, content approval, and publishing process.

  • Across all roles and geographies, measure, track, and analyze results to provide data-driven recommendations for maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of content.

  • Collaborate with stakeholders across the content ecosystem to extend and optimize the field enablement portal and its content model to support customer and business requirements.

  • Contribute to the corporate-level AWS vision for content strategy and knowledge management by helping to inform technical strategy in areas such as structured, topic-based authoring, Darwin Information Type Architecture (DITA), component content management systems, and programmatic quality control.

  • Evangelize the principles of information architecture, minimalism, multimedia, and user-centered design, bringing an outside-in perspective from the content domain for best practices, current technologies, and industry trends.

UX Design (User Experience Design)

Goal

UX designers try to make the best experience possible for users that interact with their products.

Responsibilities

If you think the goal definition above is broad, you would be correct. A UX designer tends to be a combination of UI design, interaction design, and information architecture design. A good UX designer has a good understanding of research, design, and (a bit of) coding.

 

UX designers usually start with setting goals for the product and initially defining who the users are. They then look at what competitors are (or aren’t) doing, talk to users, and analyze existing data that could explain common user behaviors.

 

Much like interaction designers, they will create user flows and journey maps. Much like information architects, they will create site maps that show the hierarchy of information of the website.

 

After wireframing to create a skeleton version of the application, UX designers will create mockups, much like UI designers. These mockups are then turned into prototypes that are tested with users to make sure the product creates a good user experience (these tests are normally called usability tests). Then, the cycle of all the above starts all over again with the new information they’ve received. This iterating method is called agile.


If you want to learn more about UX design, we wrote another article here that goes into more detail.

Common Tools

Sketch, InVision, Adobe Photoshop, Axure

Sample Job Description

From Google:

As a UX Designer, you will own and lead feature development. You will be able to navigate ambiguity and contribute to early product definition. You are also able to create elegant design solutions within a fast moving, agile environment. You are also able to combine strengths across disciplines to create a compelling and effective point of view.

You will bring a mix of great visual aesthetic with an ability to understand how to make a complex product feel simple and intuitive. You should have an inspiring portfolio, great design sense, a love for complex problems and the ability to clearly articulate how a product should work both in software and in the physical world.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience collaborating closely with a variety of other UX disciplines (research, copy, audio, prototyping).

     

  • Experience and knowledge designing for machine learning, specifically machine perception.

     

  • Experience designing software experiences relating and interacting with physical products.

     

  • Ability to thrive and deliver results in an ambiguous environment and distill complex processes into simple, clear user interactions.

     

  • Excellent leadership when collaborating with Design, Engineering, Product, and Marketing

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