The Difference Between A UX Designer And UI Designer

Jan 24, 2022Mikenzi Ross

When it's time for your startup to build a product, you'll need UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design. Many people see UX/UI design and wonder if there’s a difference between a UX designer and UI designer, or are UX and UI the same?

The answer…?

They are not the same.

Boom—done, you can stop reading now…

(Just kidding, please don’t leave, we worked really hard on this, and there’s still a lot left to discuss.)

In truth, UX and UI design are wholly different disciplines that accomplish two unique but equally vital goals for any product. Now we'll explain the difference between UX designers and UI designers, and how they apply their skills to bring products to life.

What does a UX Designer do?

UX designers are very much like the architects of the digital world. They build the experience and make a product operational. They create interactions (AKA: user flows) and nurture engagement with users by optimizing your app for usability.

UX designers delve into what your unique audience needs from your product. With this insight, they identify how your product can offer solutions that make your customer’s life easier—which leads to the long-lasting success of your app!

A UX Designer’s superpowers include:

  • Strategizing the best user experience for the specific audience
  • Researching, defining, and tapping into your audience’s unique needs
  • Understanding how to apply fundamental principles, and the latest psychological insight, to create engaging experiences
  • Testing user experiences, and knowing how to interpret and apply user feedback to strengthen user retention
  • Ensuring the person using the product inspires every design decision

What does a UI Designer do?

If UX designers create the interaction, UI designers polish and refine it. They use visual elements to strengthen the relationship between users and your product (usually referred to as micro-interactions.)

For example, UI designers enhance the user experience with psychology-based visual communication using color, font, and graphical elements.

UI design can even “reward” customers for interacting with the product (think how certain messaging apps will display little animations when you send an emoji.)

Being that UX focuses on the functionality of a product, UI enhances functionality by applying the form. The fact is, an effective user interface is critical to a product's success because it connects with users on an emotional level.

A UI designer’s superpowers include:

  • Creating emotionally engaging micro-interactions that connect with users
  • Applying visual elements like fonts, colors, and animations to instill brand identity and strengthen user engagement
  • Understanding how to apply their UI design to enhance the underlying UX without distracting or overwhelming the user
  • Comprehending and transforming wireframes into polished user experiences
  • Understanding graphic design principles to ensure the appropriate impact is made
  • Helping users understand and navigate a product through visual elements

Do you need a UI designer, a UX designer, or both?

Since there is a difference between a UX designer and UI designer, it’s time to figure out which one your team needs.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, you can’t have a finished product without both UX and UI design. It’s up to you to decide whether to hire two individual designers, or a singular designer who says they can do both.

One way or the other, both UX and UI are integral and equally important—but there’s something you should consider if you’re leaning towards hiring just one person.

While UX and UI designers can provide both services, many experienced designers say it can be a red flag to see someone with "UX/UI designer" as their title because it indicates that they may not fully grasp just how specialized these two skills are.

It's not to say that someone claiming to be a UX and a UI design specialist isn't skilled, it just means that you should thoroughly review their portfolios and their process to ensure they understand the differences and how to apply them.

The Design Project does understand each of these specializations, which is why we provide startups with not just a devoted UX design specialist—but also our entire team of experts who offer support behind the scenes.

TDP founder, Dianne Eberhardt, shares how she usually defines the difference between UX and UI design to clients.

“UX is about the flow—the process. It’s about putting yourself in the user’s shoes and figuring out how to get from point A to point B in the most effective way possible (and what that looks like.)

UX designers dive into the psychology of understanding what a perfect user flow is [for any specific audience.] Then once a wireframe is created, that is where UX stops and UI begins.

UI takes the user flow and arranges it to meet design best practices, user best practices, and [ensure brand consistency by] pulling from what the brand is already doing.

In short: UX is creating the process for how the user travels from beginning to end, and UI incorporates branding and design elements to create that delightful end-user experience that ties everything together.”

                                                       —Dianne Eberhardt, Founder of The Design Project

What stops startups from hiring a UX and a UI designer?

For some startups, a significant element of deciding between hiring one "catch-all" designer, or two individual designers each specializing in UX and UI, comes down to budget limitations.

However, that's the nature of the startup environment, and those who can “wear multiple hats” usually thrive better.

As we said a bit earlier, you can have all of the benefits of a FULL team of UX and UI design experts for less than the cost of just hiring one. The Design Project works specifically with startups, understanding the demands and nuances of this unique environment, and has revolutionized the UX design process in the startup world.

You can even try the TDP experience for free, so that’s a win-win, right?

Our best advice for hiring a UX/UI designer

We hope this insight into the difference between a UX designer and UI designer boosts your confidence around UX and UI. You should feel pretty awesome, and everything you’ve learned today will assuredly make your product way more successful tomorrow.

But there's something else your team should do before you start reviewing UX and UI designer resumes.

Hiring the right designer for your startup requires more than just understanding who they are. It also requires a clear understanding of who you are.

  • What product do you want to build?
  • Who do you want to help?
  • How do you want customers to perceive you?
  • What is your big picture goal?

Working with a UX Designer and a UI designer will be way more effective when you know the answers to those questions. Additionally, having this insight on hand helps your designers, too!


Because clarity eliminates roadblocks and establishes effective communication—all of which allows your design team to work more effectively!

But you don't have to search further than right here on our website to find UX experts that turn your product into a revenue-generating machine. If you're ready to take your product to the next level, click here to schedule a free consultation call with a TDP strategist.

Not ready for that type of commitment yet? No problem! Give us a test run with a free 7-Day trial.

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Mikenzi Ross
I'm that weird little copywriter your mother warned you about

Mikenzi Ross

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