Web and interaction design is a design discipline which focuses on the interaction between human users, machines, and the systems that help them interface. It is often split into user interface (UI) design, which focuses on the arrangement and information architecture of a website or piece of software, and user experience (UX) design, which takes a more holistic approach to formulating the way a user interacts with that software. UI design and UX design necessarily have large overlaps in terms of techniques and processes.
What is user interface design?
UI design is the design of the interfaces for machines and software with the goal of maximising usability. Good user interface design allows users to easily finish the task at hand in a way which is easy and efficient. Often the best interface designs are deceptively simple, making a complex machine or process appear easy. A great example of this is the Google search engine, which performs incredibly far-reaching searches using a highly sophisticated algorithm, but presents users with a simple, self-explanatory search bar and little else to confuse them.
The UI design process works to balance technical functionality, usability and aesthetics in a way which makes a positive user experience. The goal is to make a system which is more than simply operational - but also enjoyable, easy to use and effective. To achieve this, UI designers utilise skills from the disciplines of graphic design, typography and information architecture to create highly usable, intuitive systems.
What is user experience design?
User experience design is a broader discipline which consists not only of UI design, but also ergonomics, psychology and user
research. This holistic field focuses its attention not just on the system, but also on the people who interact with it. The benefits of strong UX design include:
Removing unnecessary or confusing product features
Simplifying design documentation and lowering the educational requirements to utilise the software or website
Improving the overall usability of the system
Assisting the design process generally with informed user information
Increasing acceptance and proficiency by the users
How do UI design and UX design relate to the web?
When the internet first went public, the technology used to design and code websites was very limiting. As technology has become more sophisticated and the network infrastructure has allowed websites to become larger and more complex, the line between a piece of software and a website has become increasingly blurred. Many websites these days would be better termed ‘web applications’, as their functionality extends beyond the typical expectations of a website.
When web developers and web designers are tasked with using web technology to solve a novel or complex problem, or offer a sophisticated software functionality, they may find they lack the skills to create a usable finished product. While web developers and web designers are likely to have the technical skills to solve the problem, they may lack the knowledge of information architecture, ergonomics, user research and human psychology to create an elegant solution to the problem.
UI and UX designers round out the whole web and interaction design team, so that websites can offer more than they ever could in the past.