User experience design is a newer, exciting career path that’s creative and technical and directly impacts how users interact with a product. Within this area, there are two main concepts: UX vs. UI. Both areas aim to make a user’s journey through a website or app easier, more efficient, and even delightful — but their focuses differ in scope.
So, what’s the difference between UX vs. UI? Are there different responsibilities and skill sets required for each role? Which area gets paid more? In this guide, we’ll cover:
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UX Design vs. UI Design: Definitions
What’s UX vs. UI? UX design stands for user experience design, while UI stands for user interface design. The main difference between the two is what part of the user experience journey they focus on.
>>MORE: What Is UX Design?
UX design is about the user’s entire journey on the website, app, or product you’re working on. It focuses on the big picture of how the product is structured and how the user will interact with it from start to finish.
On the other hand, UI design is a part of UX design. It focuses on the features within UX design that make the experience better — like a website’s graphic design, call-out boxes, colors, buttons, and headers.
In summary, UX design is the big picture of the user experience; UI focuses on the design features that make up that experience.
UX vs. UI Careers
Although UX and UI are related, and some professionals work on both elements, there are differences between these designers’ responsibilities, skill sets, and even salaries.
>>MORE: Learn how to become a UX designer.
UX vs. UI Responsibilities
UX design responsibilities include mapping the product’s user experience from start to finish. UI design responsibilities involve building the features within that experience.
UX vs. UI Skills
Because UX and UI focus on different parts of the user journey, different hard and soft skills are required for each career path.
Skills required for each focus area align with each area’s expertise. For example, UX designers need research and problem-solving skills to think big picture about the user experience. On the other hand, UI designers need design skills to focus on the features they’re creating.
“At the end of the day, both UX and UI designers want to create products that delight their users,” says Kelly Jura, vice president of brand and user experience design at Screencast-O-Matic. “User experience designers should have strong analytical abilities. They should approach problems like a scientist. User interface designers should have strong visual design skills and sweat the details.”
Despite these differences, there is overlap between the two career areas, especially with how designers need to communicate with others at work.
“A fundamental skill all designers need to craft is the ability to articulate their designs,” says Zohrane Dyer, user experience consultant at UX Connections. “They need to justify their choices to enable them to sell and convince stakeholders and the product team.”
>>MORE: Practice UX and UI design skills with Accenture’s Product Design Virtual Experience Program.
UX vs. UI Salary
UX designers and UI designers focus on different areas of the user experience. As a result, they need different skill sets to be successful in their respective roles — which can sometimes mean different salaries.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t separate UX and UI designers regarding salary and job outlook. However, in its information on web developers and digital designers (which includes these professions), the average salary is $95,460, and the job growth rate is 23% through 2031, much higher than average.
According to Glassdoor, the average salaries* for each position are typically within a 5% difference at each experience level:
|UX Designer||UI Designer|
|Early Career (<1 Year Experience)||$82,100||$80,300|
|Average for All Experience Levels||$97,300||$99,600|
|Experienced (>15 Years Experience)||$141,200||$133,600|
*Salaries are rounded to the nearest hundred.
UX vs. UI: The Bottom Line
While UX and UI design both focus on how a user experiences a product, the focus areas of each career path differ. UX designers are big-picture thinkers who often collaborate with external stakeholders to map the entire user journey. UI designers then design features to make that journey come to life.
So if you’re interested in working in user experience, either career path provides technical and creative opportunities while directly impacting the user. Of course, it all depends on what kind of skills you want to flex — do you prefer problem-solving and research, or are you more excited about design details?
Get hands-on practice working in user experience with BP’s Digital Design & UX Virtual Experience Program.
iImage credit: Canva