UI/UX are essential cogs in the design machine. They ensure programs, websites, and products are usable and engaging. But what exactly are UI and UX and why are they so important?
What is UI/UX?
UI is short for user interface, while UX is short for user experience. They’re often used interchangeably but there is some distinction: UI has to do with the aesthetic elements through which a user interacts with a product, whereas UX concerns the experience a person has with a service or product.
UI and UX work together in many ways. User interface design programs the look of things with the goal of facilitating usability – essentially improving the user experience.
UIs come in three current formats:
- Graphical user interfaces (GUIs): Visual representations on digital control panels that users interact with. A smartphone touchpad is a GUI.
- Voice-controlled interfaces (VUIs): Interfaces that are controlled by voice. Smart assistants like Siri or Alexa are VUIs.
- Gesture-based interfaces: Interfaces that are controlled through bodily motions. Virtual reality games are gesture-based interfaces.
UX is a little more nebulous. It’s all about the user and how they experience a product, system, or service. Their perception is what counts: specifically, their perception of the utility, efficiency, and ease of use.
Why UI and UX is important for U
UI and UX, done effectively, boost engagement, user trust, and conversions.
That last one is the important one because the main goal of any company is to drive sales. UI and UX play a major role in meeting this goal. Good UI/UX design improves usability and customer satisfaction – both drivers to gaining and keeping users.
It’s all in the numbers. If a site has good mobile UX, 74% of users are likely to return to it. Their experience of the app was seamless enough to encourage them to return. However, a bad mobile experience will make 52% of users lose faith in a company. And, while we’re talking sales: a frictionless UX design could see a boost of 400% to conversion rates.
UI and UX are critical considerations when it comes to developing a product be it an app, website, or VR experience. Without them, you risk losing user confidence in your product or service and that loss of trust can have devastating effects on your conversion rate. We have another dedicated guide to boost the conversion rate by utilising the design principles here.
How Experience and Interface work together
Both UI and UX are coherent design pathways with a lot of similarities. They’re complementary aspects of design – no one is complete without the other.
Though they have separate organisational roles, both are needed to produce a coherent end product. UX provides the data-driven projection of how a user will feel when using your product while UI ensures that feeling comes to fruition.
Separating the two can have dire consequences for your end product. You might have a beautiful interface that’s impossible to use, for instance.
UX without UI design can leave your user feeling put off and alienated by your interface.
The key to a beautiful, usable, effective product is the marriage of UI and UX. They have to bounce off and inform each other throughout the design process.
Top UI/UX trends for 2021
Now you have a solid grasp of UI/UX and why it’s so essential to your design process, let’s take a look at some of this year’s trends: remote and virtual.
The pandemic has changed the world. The way we work, play, exercise, and socialise has shifted virtually overnight. It’s no surprise, then, this unfortunate time has brought a catalyst to the design realm.
What started in 2020 has continued into this year: UI and UX have gone remote and virtual. AR and VR are now commonplace in every industry from healthcare to education. Shares of Zoom went up 600% in a year. The UI/UX landscape is now one of the virtual meetings and augmented backgrounds.
Because AR and VR are still relatively new technologies, they suffer from a lack of industry best practices. This is where UI and UX designers come in. They’re essentially paving the way for AR and VR products to cater to their user markets.
Personalisation in the world of design is an incredibly engaging strategy. At its core, it’s about your brand creating individual content for each of your users based on specific information such as date of birth, order history, etc.
The main goal of personalisation is to make the user feel special – like the content was designed with them in mind. This will, in turn, boost your conversion rate which is all-important for the success of a business.
Personalisation isn’t just a UX trend, it’s also become best practice in the industry overall. Apple and Google are leading the charge by developing personalised assistants that can learn to understand who’s interacting with them based on face, voice, or fingerprint.
This is where AI plays a part as well, often without users even being aware of it. You see it in everything from your personalised music suggestions on Spotify to your recommendations on YouTube or Netflix.
As technology advances, so too will the ways in which we’re able to personalise content.
The pandemic changed the UI and UX game in a lot of ways. One of them was the surge of touchless interaction – using an interface or product without actually touching it. These interactions include voice user interfaces (VUIs) and air gesture control.
Even prior to Covid, voice interactions were growing in importance. Many industry leaders styled it as the up-and-comer trend of the next decade. Then the pandemic hit and suddenly voice interaction had a very real benefit aside from mere convenience.
Adding VUIs to your projects can now boost your reach and engagement, and that trend isn’t slowing down. This can mean anything from using voice chatbots to employing voice-activated user commands in an application.
As for air gesture control: it’s a technique that takes different touchscreen gesture control mechanisms and applies them in such a way that people need only gesture through the air to make things work on specific devices.
A great example of air gestures can reflect in the European luxury car brand, DS Automobiles’ latest release. It features contactless controls that are worked via mid-air haptic feedback and gestures. Early reports indicate the system might offer up to three times greater accuracy than touchscreens.
Whichever touchless interaction route you pursue, know that it’s one of the key trends of 2021.
Humans are visual creatures and we’re naturally attracted to movement. The savvy can leverage UI and UX designers to better engage users with their designs.
Animation is taking over in 2021. Everything from micro-animations to full-scale 3D is on the cards, immersing viewers and boosting conversion rates.
This push towards more movement in our interfaces is partly to answer an innate human instinct but it’s also practical: there’s been no better time to use animation because the technology to display it is at its most sophisticated.
Any motion effect will impart a brand story far more effectively than plain text or a static image. With the power of animation, you can relax users, engage potential customers, and drive sales.
Micro-animation, in particular, deserves a special mention. These innocuous yet effective little motions are some of the best tools in a UI designer’s arsenal. Everything from rollover states in buttons to website loading visualization is customizable – and should be!
You’d be amazed at how effective these little touches are in driving user engagement.
A push for uniqueness
Previous years saw a push for websites that adhered to all the rules of careful, pristine layout design. This trend seems to be shifting in 2021, with a focus more on uniqueness than perfection.
As a result, interfaces, and designs break the mold and challenge UX designers to come up with new and interesting ways to keep things usable while simultaneously pushing the boundaries.
This can result in unorthodox layouts – layouts that do away with the rules of grids and symmetry. The trick when developing these interfaces is to not sacrifice the users’ ability to navigate and use them.
This isn’t a form of over-function trend, rather one that pushes UI and UX designers to engage users with fresh new content.
Summary: UI and UX are design staples
No program, website, or product works without a combination of effective UI and UX design. As an industry, the UI/UX sphere is working hard to provide users with effective, usable, and engaging products and platforms.
There you have it. Now you know everything there is to know about UI and UX. Well, almost everything. If you have any questions, get in touch with our team.