Designers, you should know better!


I’m sure by now you’ve all seen these things. These clever little images that underscore the design industry’s persistent need to separate UX design from UI design. But as a designer, if you still think this way, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and it’s time to rethink your approach. 

Sorry to break it to you… It’s both!

The days of separating UI from UX (or interaction design) are over, and it’s really sad that designers are still trying to push this useless dogma that they should be kept separate. Designing user experiences means you have to consider both the visual AND the interaction of an product, at the same time. Not separately! Why? Because no matter how you think about it, you simply cannot separate the presentation of a thing from how people will experience it.

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

– Steve Jobs

This is perhaps one of the most cited quotes by designers, in defense of design playing a larger role in the product development process. Specifically, the part where Mr. Jobs said “Design is how it works.” But if you actually read and understand what he’s saying, you have to also consider the sentence right before that.

When you read both of them together, he is saying it’s not just how things look, it’s both how it looks and how it works!

So why do designers feel the need to make these silly distinctions like the one at the beginning of this post? Is walking on the concrete path somehow not a user experience?

Here’s another example, found in a recent article where someone criticized windows 10.

This is exactly the thing I’m talking about. How can one reasonably separate how something works from what it looks like? Windows 10 works like older versions of Windows because it looks like old versions of Windows. Windows 8 was a bold move from Microsoft because they did away with the ancient concept of a “Start Menu”. Personally, I felt Windows 8 was a sign that Microsoft was really trying to change. But that’s all been undone now that we’re back to the same old, same old, with just a revised presentation to separate it from it’s legacy.

Furthermore, to conclude that Windows 10 could work differently (if we follow Mr. Duarte’s line of reasoning) would mean that the designers and engineers at Microsoft should create a different user interface design!

Good design is about bringing it all together!

Good UX design will always bring various disciplines together, not isolate them. It’s certainly true that there are people with a stronger affinity to certain aspects of the design process (like visual design), but to properly design experiences, we have to pull all aspects of product development closer together. If we, as designers, believe that design should play a larger role and be about “how it works” as Mr. Jobs said, then we cannot simultaneously to push forth the idea that you should separate how something looks from how something works. These 2 disciplines need to work together as one unified vision in order for a product to have a great user experience.

Anything else is just rhetoric.


From the post on Medium.

I’ve read some interesting commentary from people on this topic, and I think it’s certainly controversial for designers to not want to separate UI and UX, especially given the plethora of “UI is not UX” posts out there. But the reason why I wrote this is because I feel very strongly that drawing these distinctions between UI and UX are just not healthy for the industry as a whole, and we as designers should not continue to reinforce these outmoded concepts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried following that line of reasoning, that all you have to do is focus on interaction in one step, and UI in another. And in theory, you’d have a wonderful user experience at the end. But in real life, things never work in neatly organized silos. I’ve been a part of too many projects where that kind of assembly line approach to design failed to yield the kind of results that anyone (the user especially) was truly happy with.

In the end, I just don’t buy it anymore. A user interface design is not a veneer onto an experience. It has to be part of the whole approach, from the defining database structures to the font sizes. It has to be how it works, and in turn, it has to be about how we all work together.

Designers, you should know better!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s