It’s a common misconception to lump UX/UI and web design/development into the same category. Another widespread misunderstanding, even among those inside the industry, is the belief that UX/UI designers adopt a more strategic approach, considering usability and the human experience, whereas web designers do not. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth.

The differences between these fields are more practical. Rooted in distinct applications and practices, each of these roles require differing skills, mindsets and approaches.  In this article, we will set out to unravel the relationship between web design and UX design, shedding light on their unique roles and functions. We’ll also explore the common design principles that bind them and delve into the fundamental differences in mindset that define each discipline.

Web Designers/Web Developers: Crafting Websites with Branding or Marketing in mind
Web Designers are the architects of the digital world, engaging website visitors effectively to enhance the online presence of brand, company or organization. They craft web pages to tell compelling visual stories, align with brand identities, and ensure ease of exploration. Their mission includes strategic direction and purposeful control utilizing images, text, elements, negative space, and layout to guide visitors toward specific goals. They provide developers with prototypes, serving as visual blueprints for website construction.

Web Developers are the engineers who transform designs into functional websites. They are skilled in languages such as CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and more, ensuring websites perform as intended. Their responsibilities include creating responsive layouts, optimizing navigation, and safeguarding page load times, security, and cross-browser compatibility. They also manage server-side operations and databases to deliver a seamless user experience.

UX/UI Designers: Enhancing User Experiences
UX Designers are dedicated to shaping the user’s experience with digital products such as mobile or desktop apps, website apps, wearables, games, and even the usable interfaces in cars. They achieve this through in-depth user research, usability testing, and data analysis, informing experiential decisions. Their work involves creating logical information structures, site maps, and user flows for seamless navigation. UX Designers may also visualizing product layouts and interaction patterns via wireframes.

UI Designers focus on designing the user interface of digital products, providing aesthetics to the graphical elements that a user directly interacts with on mobile apps, website apps, platforms, and devices such as buttons, emoticons, toggle switches, form fields, and more. UI design exclusively pertains to digital screens and interfaces, as the very definition of a user interface is the point of interaction between people and devices.

How they are different

As we mentioned, UX/UI and Web design/development are different roles – defined principally by the purpose of the digital experience.

The web domain: Shaping website experiences
If you haven’t guessed it already, the key to understanding web design is in the title itself. Web designers specialize in designing websites, such as those that describe a product or service without enabling direct interaction with the product on the site. For instance, a brand may require a home page, about page, pages detailing their services or products, a team page, testimonials, a blog, portfolio or gallery, and a contact page – all designed to enhance usability and engage customers and prospects throughout the experience. Web designers excel at crafting websites that consider the visitor’s experience while delving into these areas of a website. In essence, web designers are creative strategists that exclusively cater to website visitors, expertly ensuring every component of the site is strategically designed to evoke emotions, facilitate learning, and prompt desired actions.

The user world: Enhancing Digital Interactions
Similarly, the essence of UX/UI is also encapsulated in its title. UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) designers address pain points and develop solutions for websites, apps, games, and other digital platforms that users interface with actively and directly.  Perhaps siting some examples will help: think about Google, Amazon, Expedia, QuickBooks, PayPal, Slack, Salesforce, HubSpot, Upwork, and more, where the digital platform is in essence the product.  In the B2B space, there are countless applications in the same vein as the aforementioned popular platforms that require UX/UI design. This realm demands a deep understanding of human psychology, information architecture, and interaction design. UX/UI designers exclusively consider the end users of a product, striving to streamline interactions and make them as effortless as possible.

How they are similar

Throughout the evolution of UX/UI, numerous fundamental principles have emerged. However, many of these principles are not confined solely to the realm of UX/UI; many of these same principals have been followed in the web design world, reflecting the interconnected nature of design in the digital landscape. Here, we explore a few of the key principals that are embraced by both disciplines:

Websites and digital products are scanned, not read in full:  As we find ourselves in a time that’s flooded by information overload, the way we interact with content and information is by scanning rather than meticulously reading. To cater to this scanning behavior, various design strategies are used, including incorporating graphical components such as buttons, icons, and other visual elements amidst text to convey information in a concise manner. Users and visitors typically scan for instantly recognizable elements , and then, if engaged, they delve deeper.

Clarity and Simplicity: The quest for clarity and simplicity is a principle that resonates across the digital spectrum. Whether on a website or a digital product, finding information quickly and acting promptly is the goal. This principle encourages the removal of unnecessary elements, the use of negative space, and the adoption of straightforward, uncluttered designs. By adhering to this principle, designers ensure easy navigation, swift information access, and efficient engagement.

Know the Audience: Understanding the target audience is a universal principle that underpins effective design. Deeply rooted in marketing fundamentals, this principle has been embraced by both UX and web designers. Prior knowledge of the audience, their preferences, needs, and expectations is indispensable for creating designs that resonate. Whether designing a website or a digital product, aligning the design with the audience’s specific requirements leads to more engaging and effective experiences.

Visual Hierarchy: The principle of visual hierarchy is pivotal for guiding attention and interactions. Designers understand the significance of emphasizing critical elements. By using techniques such as color, size, or placement, they ensure that attention is directed intentionally. Implementing this principle enhances navigation and decision-making efficiency in both website and user environment

These are just a few of the principles that underscore the synergy between web and UX design. By embracing these principles, designers from both disciplines can create efficient, and engaging digital experiences that cater to the evolving needs and behaviors of online audiences.