UI/UX – Whats the difference?

April, 2020

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Creativity

UI/UX – Whats the difference?

UI design and UX design are two of the most often confused and conflated terms in web and app design. And understandably so. They’re usually placed together in a single term, UI/UX design, and viewed from the surface they seem to be describing the same thing. It’s often hard to find solid descriptions of the two that don’t descend too far into jargon. But fear not!

What follows is an easy-to-digest primer on these terms.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of what differentiates them and how they relate to each other. So let’s dive in!


What is UI Design?

The “UI” in UI design stands for “user interface.” The user interface is the graphical layout of an application. It consists of the buttons users click on, the text they read, the images, sliders, text entry fields, and all the rest of the items the user interacts with. This includes screen layout, transitions, interface animations and every single micro-interaction. Any sort of visual element, interaction, or animation must all be designed.

This job falls to UI designers. They decide what the application is going to look like. They have to choose color schemes and button shapes — the width of lines and the fonts used for text. UI designers create the look and feel of an application’s user interface.

UI designers are graphic designers. They’re concerned with aesthetics. It’s up to them to make sure the application’s interface is attractive, visually-stimulating and themed appropriately to match the purpose and/or personality of the app. And they need to make sure every single visual element feels united, both aesthetically, and in purpose.

What is UX Design?

“UX” stands for “user experience.” A user’s experience of the app is determined by how they interact with it. Is the experience smooth and intuitive or clunky and confusing? Does navigating the app feel logical or does it feel arbitrary? Does interacting with the app give people the sense that they’re efficiently accomplishing the tasks they set out to achieve or does it feel like a struggle? User experience is determined by how easy or difficult it is to interact with the user interface elements that the UI designers have created.

So UX designers are also concerned with an application’s user interface, and this is why people get confused about the difference between the two. But whereas UI designers are tasked with deciding how the user interface will look, UX designers are in charge of determining how the user interface operates.

They determine the structure of the interface and the functionality. How it’s organized and how all the parts relate to one another. In short, they design how the interface works. If it works well and feels seamless, the user will have a good experience. But if navigation is complicated or unintuitive, then a lousy user experience is likely. UX designers work to avoid the second scenario.

Designing in a vacuum leads to less than ideal results.

There’s also a certain amount of iterative analysis involved in UX design. UX designers will create wireframe rendering of their interface interactions and get user feedback. They’ll integrate this into their designs. It’s important for UX designers to have a holistic understanding of how users prefer to interact with their applications.

How They Work Together

So a UX designer decides how the user interface works while the UI designer decides how the user interface looks. This is a very collaborative process, and the two design teams tend to work closely together. As the UX team is working out the flow of the app, how all of the buttons navigate you through your tasks, and how the interface efficiently serves up the information user’s need, the UI team is working on how all of these interface elements will appear on screen.

Let’s say at some point in the design process it’s decided that extra buttons need to be added to a given screen. This will change how the buttons will need to be organized and could require changing their shape or size. The UX team would determine the best way to lay out the buttons while the UI teams adapt their designs to fit the new layout. Constant communication and collaboration between UI and UX designers help to assure that the final user interface looks as good as it can, while also operating efficiently and intuitively.

Research is Key

Research is vital for both UI and UX designers. It’s important for both disciplines to gather as much good information as possible to assist them in crafting appropriate designs, and both follow a similar approach.

Both will research what users want. What they expect from applications of the sort being developed. This research is often iterative, involving usability sessions, where real users will interact with scaled versions of certain functionality or visual designs being tested to determine whether the designers are moving down the proper path. Feedback is integrated with each iteration.

This process involves generating low fidelity prototypes, like wireframe renderings of interface elements in order to gauge a user’s response strictly to the functionality being tested. This can also involve fast visual prototypes and A/B tests of different possible versions of the look and feel of the interface to determine which one users prefer.

In all cases research helps guide the steps designers take as they build their contributions. However, the information UI and UX designers are looking for is very different.

Research in UI Designs

UI designers need to make sure the visual language they choose fits the class of application they’re writing. They’re trying to predict user expectations. If your team is designing a travel app, it’s important to research how other travel apps have been developed in the past. Which ones worked? Which ones didn’t? There are design lessons to be learned from the work others have done before.

Research might indicate that people prefer outlined icons instead of bold shapes. This is a visual shorthand that people are comfortable with and enjoy. UI designers would then do well to incorporate that lesson.

The exact aesthetic they choose is up to them, but the basic “rules,” or the need to conform to user expectations, is something designers ignore at their own risk.

Not to say risks shouldn’t be taken. UI designers want their interface designs to stand out and be memorable. But this must be balanced against making sure people recognize the purpose of the elements you’re placing on screen.

Research for UX Design

UX design is particularly interested in user expectations. All of the experiences and interactions that users have had with every application they’ve used in their lives have helped set their expectations for how interfaces are supposed to work. If a UX designer isn’t intimately familiar with these expectations, they could inadvertently design an interface interaction that seems logical to them but breaks commonly accepted conventions. Users don’t like when an interface behaves very differently than they were expecting, and this could negatively impact their experience.

If a UX designer decides to do something different, they need to have a very good reason, because breaking a deeply trained expected behavior will likely cause people to do the wrong thing frequently.

As an example, most people are comfortable with the idea that you click twice on a file to open it and once to select it. This is an interface behavior that has existed almost as long as there have been graphical user interfaces.


UI vs. UX: Two Very Different Disciplines that Work in Harmony

UI design and UX design involve very different skill sets, but they are integral to each other’s success. A beautiful design can’t save an interface that’s clunky and confusing to navigate, and a brilliant, perfectly-appropriate user experience can be sunk by bad visual interface design that makes using the app unpleasant. Both UI and UX designs need to be flawlessly executed and perfectly aligned with pre-existing user expectations to create an excellent user interface/experience. And when those stars align the results can be astounding.

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Strategy

The Ideal Marketing Team?

Marketing is an essential part of a successful business, and the structure of the marketing team within a company will define how successful the department can be. There are different ways to structure a marketing team based on the company that the team is a part of. Picking the right structure and team members creates the foundation for success. 

However, many companies need to learn more about marketing teams and structures to be more effective. Here is a look at the structures of marketing teams and how companies can choose the ideal marketing team for their needs.

Changes in Marketing Teams

Workplace, Team, Business Meeting, Business People

The organizational structure for marketing teams has changed in the past two decades. The traditional model included a department separate from the rest of the company that focused on print marketing operations as the primary means of reaching customers. 

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Television and radio changed this to make all three options equally weighted and forced teams to add new skillsets for different mediums. Digital marketing is forcing another change in how companies structure their marketing teams.

Today, marketing teams are moving away from focusing on a specific medium, like newspapers and television, and toward customer and relationship-focused models. This change puts the focus on the experience rather than on the means of reaching customers. The result is a potential improvement in quality and engagement among a much wider audience. 

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However, companies must adjust to see the benefits of digital marketing and the restructuring of marketing departments.

The Types of Marketing Department Structures

Current research shows that marketing departments are shifting toward six defined department structures. These structures are based on the views of the company when it comes to customers rather than focusing on the best methods of different mediums. Overall, this shows a greater concern for the quality of the connections made with customers rather than focusing solely on reaching the greatest volume of customers. 

Here is a look at the six types of marketing department structures.

Customer Experience Model

Currently, one of the best options for marketing departments is to switch to a customer experience model. Companies that provide services see the best returns on this model, but product companies can see similar levels of success if they focus on the customer experience aspects of their operations. This model often incorporates brand management and awareness methods that are tied to how customers interact with the company.

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For this method to be successful, however, the company has to have a strong focus on the customer experience. Many companies are making this transition because they want to draw in customers based on having a better experience than competitors, even with similar products and product quality. Many companies have found that customers are more focused on experiences and even ignore products and quality to some extent in favor of a better experience.

Ideal Marketing Team Structure Survey 1

For marketing teams, this means highlighting the positive aspects of the customer experience by focusing on a complete experience. Social proof is often a useful tool since it is easy to collect and gives customers a reliable look at how customers currently feel about working with the company. This also means taking advantage of social media and similar tools to create an online brand with a positive message.

Segment-focused Structure

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Rather than focusing internally, a segment-focused structure pinpoints the needs of a segment in an industry. This is similar to how marketing departments performed in the early years of digital marketing. However, it is more focused on identifying specific target segments and creating content for the needs of the segment. It focuses more on the group rather than on the individual customer. That way, it can reach a wide audience of people with the same problem to solve.

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For marketing departments, this means creating an online persona within that industry and focusing on being a problem solver. Companies want to be the go-to option for people with a specific problem. So, focusing on the experience of solving that problem using the available products and services is essential. 

Marketing departments need to have an acute awareness of what is happening in that segment and industry so that they can adjust as needed to target the right segment.

Operational Teams Model

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The internal structure of a marketing department can cover many different areas of operations. In an operational teams model, the department is divided into teams that focus on specific goals or functionalities. 

For example, a department can have separate teams for advertising, social media, and research. Each team excels in its area and does not overlap with the others.

This structure is useful for building teams of specialists that excel in a specific area. That way, companies can see major improvements in specific operational fields. However, the teams must be able to collaborate to reach marketing objectives. If the teams cannot collaborate, then much of the specialized effort could be wasted.

Geography-focused Model

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Marketing teams for major, national, and international companies may need to be divided into functional teams that focus on a specific geographical area of operations. This is because marketing needs change based on location.

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McDonald’s Menu in India

For example, a company that advertises in the U.S. needs different methods for advertising in India. The tastes of consumers changes in each area, and legal requirements may also necessitate the need for different methods.

In this case, companies can see major benefits because the teams are experts in their areas. Therefore, many companies develop teams with specialists who live in those areas. With that level of immersive experience, marketing methods can be much more effective. 

However, the company needs a unifying department leader or structure to help the teams work together. This will keep the underlying brand and message of advertising the same across the regions.

Channel-specific Teams Model

While many companies are trying to build multi-functional teams, the rise of different digital marketing channels makes the challenge more difficult. A channel-specific teams model creates teams that focus on specific channels. 

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For example, a company can have a social media team, a print team, and a video content team. This can be drilled down even smaller by creating teams for different platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

The key to being successful with channel-specific teams is to have a unifying structure that  makes sure that the advertising delivers the same quality and message across all of the channels. Each channel can have its own unique look and feel, but it all must represent the brand cohesively.

Product-based Teams Model

Companies that have many products may benefit from using a product-based teams model. Each major product gets a team of marketing specialists that can promote it effectively when and where it is needed. The biggest benefit is that every product can stand on its own and be placed with the segment that most needs it. 

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The potential drawback is that these products should function completely separately from any other major product from the company. That way, multiple teams won’t have to coordinate to increase sales. They can just focus on one specific thing to get the best results. It also makes it easier for the company to see which products are worth investing in based on marketing returns.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Team Structure

Choosing the right marketing team structure for a company begins by identifying how the company needs to operate. Product-based businesses need to sell products either on volume or by value. If the product has a high value, the company can get by selling less of it and focus on the quality of those transactions. Alternatively, companies that need to sell on volume will focus on a different approach. Knowing what the company needs to do to survive makes the decision much easier.

Companies that provide services or can stay open with lower volume levels can focus on experience and relationship-focused methods. For example, a company that has services should focus on the customer experience model. Customers are often most focused on what their experience with the company will be, and companies curate experiences to match. So, that should be the marketing/selling point for the company.

A company that sells high-value products should focus on a product-based teams model for the marketing department. For these companies, they often have fewer customers that spend more money with the company. 

Many companies cultivate relationships with consistent buyers, including other major companies. So, the marketing department should focus on marketing the product as a solution for these types of clients. SaaS (Software as a Service) companies do this often by connecting with other major companies that need technical infrastructure for their operations.

Companies that are international or cover a wide area should focus on the geography-focused model. This gives them the best options for adjusting to the needs of different markets. Companies like Microsoft do this since the needs of each market vary widely based on their location. Each product and marketing strategy is tailored to the needs of each market for maximum effectiveness.

Companies that use a diverse collection of channels and mediums should use either the channel-specific teams model or the operational teams model. Both options provide flexibility and infrastructure for addressing the needs of specific platforms. The difference between the two is how the company markets. However, many companies incorporate elements of both structures to accommodate the needs of the company.

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Finally, any company that focuses on solving a range of problems that are specific to a group of related customers should use a segment-focused model. Apple is a prime example of this as it covers an entire segment of tech users. By offering multiple related products to them, the company makes the lives of customers across that segment easier. The marketing structure should reflect that to provide the most value.

Choosing a marketing team structure is easier once it is clear what the company needs. Start with some internal research to see what drives the company forward. Then, identify the structure that matches the needs of the company. The result should be a dramatic change in how the company’s marketing efforts affect sales and customer relationships.

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Strategy

Domain Authority 2.0

Domain Authority used to be all about links.

Not anymore.

Today, Google also evaluates your site based on ExpertiseAuthoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Also known as E-A-T. In many ways, E-A-T is Domain Authority 2.0.

Last year’s Google Quality Rater Guidelines REALLY focused on E-A-T.

E-A-T section of guidelines

To be clear:

E-A-T has been a part of the guidelines for years.

But E-A-T seems to be a more important ranking factor than before.

For example, Google’s new “How Search Works” report mentions that they want to rank “reliable sources”.

Google search report on prioritizing reliable resources

They even cite E-A-T as a key ranking signal:

Google search report on E-A-T

Here’s how to bump up your site’s E-A-T.

Be An Expert (Or Hire One)

If you hire random freelancers to write your content, you’re in trouble.

That’s because Google wants to feature content that’s written by legit experts in their field.

Google guidelines – Creator of the main content

They even go as far to say that medical content needs to be written by health care professionals.

Google guidelines on creating high E-A-T medical advice

This is a tough thing to fake.

In fact, Google might be using a new form of Google Authorship to figure out who’s behind a piece of content… and whether or not they’re experts in that space.

Google may be using a form of Google Authorship

So if you want your content to rank in 2020, it needs to be written by people that know their stuff.

(Especially in the health niche)

Be Transparent

Google probably focuses on off-site signals to figure out your site’s E-A-T.

That said:

The rater guidelines spend a lot of time on evaluating the site itself.

For example, the guidelines point out that:

Google guidelines on creators information

This means having:

  • Thorough about page
  • Easy to find contact page
  • References and external links to sources
  • Privacy policy and terms of service
  • Author bylines on every article

Get Cited

Most of Google’s evaluation of E-A-T happens off of your website.

Which makes sense.

Any random person can claim to be an expert.

But getting other websites to agree with you?

That’s a totally different story.

In fact, Google’s guidelines state that:

Google guidelines on trusting external sources

So:

Besides creating an awesome site, how do you get other people to mention you and your site as a go-to resource?

First, you need to be cited on lots of other trusted websites.

These don’t even have to be linked mentions.

Marie Haynes tweet about external mentions

Something like this can help Google see you as an expert on a given topic:

HackTheEntrepreneur – Brian Dean podcast

Second, your site as a whole needs to be associated with a specific topic.

Again, this comes down to off-site mentions. Specifically, mentions from other authorities in your field.

Google guidelines on website reputation

For example, getting listed as the #1 SEO blog by Ahrefs probably boosted Backlinko’s reputation in Google’s eyes.

Backlinko as "Number one SEO blog" on Ahrefs