UI vs. UX Design: What’s The Difference?

Whether you’re running a DTC eCommerce website or mobile apps, you know how important design and usability are. Experts often say that every dollar spent on improving your user experience brings in between $2 and $100 in return. 

The goal is to make your website as easy and intuitive to use as possible. This is UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) design. They’re both important aspects of design, and they work together to create this easy, intuitive functionality – but they aren’t the same.

In this article, we’ll focus on UI vs UX for eCommerce websites (although the principles are the same for every type of website).

We’ll also explore:

  • The difference between UX vs UI, why UX and UI are equally important, and how they work together
  • Real, hands-on examples of both UX and UI design
  • How Anatta approaches UI and UX to increase conversions for DTC industry leaders

What’s the difference between UX and UI Design?

Let’s quickly summarize the two terms before we go any further. Here’s an easy way to tell the difference between UI and UX:

  • UX is how an eCommerce website is built and how it works

  • UI is the way an eCommerce website looks (like fonts, colors, buttons, and images)

That means that UI is actually a part of UX. Imagine your customers are taking a road trip. UX includes the roads they take, the traffic along the way, and even the car they’re diving. All of the things that create the experience of the journey to their destination. UI is the sights they see along the way.

Good UX designers will focus on the interactive aspect of the product to increase usability. UI designers will focus on the visual part of a website. For example: On a website, UX designers will build the entire site’s architecture and the page’s physical layout. On the same website, UI designers will be focused on things like how the buttons are displayed, how images slide in, and where a user is most likely to click.

This is the science of interaction design. To create a product or system that offers a positive user experience, you need both UI and UX as part of your overall information architecture.

What is UX Design?

Now that we have a high-level understanding of the differences between what a UX designer and UI designer do, let’s take a deeper look at UX specifically.

UX design is the process of designing your website in a way that provides a great experience for its users from start to finish. UX also encompasses how a user feels when interacting with your website.

Why Are UX Designers Important?

An important part of the UX process is meeting the needs of your user. You want your users (your customers) to have an outstanding experience on your website, so UX is crucial. When this happens, you build customer loyalty.

As Don Norman, the father of UX says, the goal is to create human-centered design to enhance lives.

Expert UX designers can clearly define your customers’ journey and guide them on a frictionless path through your site, helping them move seamlessly from product discovery to “Order Now.” For DTC eCommerce brands, effective UX design means more conversions.

The UX Design Process

UX design elements might sound strictly visual, but they’re actually deeply related to your overall business strategy. UX designers aren’t just graphic designers who work on a site’s visual elements. UX designers base their design work on user research.

The goal of the UX design process is to identify your business objectives — and then create a user experience on your website that encourages prospects and customers to follow your funnel all the way through from start to finish.

Here’s how Anatta approaches UX & UI design when we work on eCommerce websites for our DTC partner brands.

Identify Business Objectives

Common business objectives are removing friction on the website, improving site speed, or increasing mobile responsiveness. Each of these objectives serves a larger goal of driving more revenue.

At Anatta, we pull from our years of experience in DTC eCommerce, along with usability insights from the leading UX research institutions to help your brand uncover quick wins in site experience immediately. We also segment your customers into user personas with pain points for each.

Who is your target audience for your website? How do they shop online? If your target audience is women in their 20s shopping for clothes, they likely look for different design elements than men in their 60s shopping for motorcycle parts.

Studies show that credibility judgments are 75% based on website aesthetics, so user testing and digital design play a huge role in your user’s experience – and their likeliness to convert.

Get the Right Tools in Place

Next, deploy the right tools for success. That could be migrating to Shopify Plus or creating a headless CMS. It could even mean integrating an A/B testing tool like Optimizely. The goal is to get as much data as possible about how users currently interact with your website before we can begin improving their user experience.

Conduct User Research, Then Build A/B Tests 

Now it’s time to dig deep to find great A/B testing opportunities. We turn to research for this step. Exhaustive UX research means digging into the user flows to pinpoint exactly where the user experience is strong, and where your site has some bad UX (where customers are bouncing, abandoning, etc.) 

The UX designer or researcher’s job is to start with a hypothesis. That could be something like “The landing page is working, but we think the add-to-cart process is confusing.” 

Once we have the hypothesis, we can create an A/B test that collects data on the current iteration versus the new design. If an A/B test archives statistical significance, that change may be appropriate for your users.

Develop Designs and Deploy to Production

We start with wireframe development of the improvements we want to make. This is part of your information architecture: that’s the design and structure of your information. After your approval, we’ll test prototypes and then create interfaces. 

Once we push those changes live to production we continue to collect data to make sure the new changes are achieving their goals.

Real World UX Examples (and how they worked)

Dollar Shave Club is one of the most recognizable DTC brands. During our partnership with DSC, our team was able to unlock growth for the brand through research-backed UX improvements.

After extensive UX research, our UX team uncovered that DSC’s mobile users were more likely to add items to their carts when browsing products within a two-column display. According to our user research, this change to mobile product listing pages would help customers scan products faster, and reduce scrolling.

This new responsive design helped Dollar Shave Club increase their add-to-cart rate by 3.67%.

The mobile product listing page Anatta’s UX Team designed and tested for Dollar Shave Club.

Brunt Workwear is a direct-to-consumer brand of workboots and work apparel that raised $20 million in a Series B round only 17 months after launching. One of their goals was to improve site speed and reduce shopper friction.

With Anatta’s help, Brunt was able to increase their mobile conversion rate by a stunning 40.7% in less than two quarters.

Brunt Workwear’s desktop and mobile PLPs, designed and optimized by Anatta.

What is UI Design?

UI design, or user interface design, focuses on a website’s interactive elements. Digital designers or graphic designers will work on buttons, text, images, sliders, text entry fields, screen layouts, navigation bars, etc. Anything a user interacts with is a graphic design element that the UI designer focuses on improving.

Why Are UI Designers Important?

User interface is critical for the success of your website, system, or product. Specifically for websites, UI designers improve interfaces and maximize the responsiveness, efficiency, and accessibility of any site. Your site’s interface is how users interact with and navigate through your site to find what they’re looking for. 

The goal of the UI design process is to facilitate seamless interactions between your site and your customers, which turns visitors into buyers. Even more simply: good UI designers help steer incoming site traffic into more conversions.

Elements of UI Design

Each digital design element serves a purpose. It might be there to communicate information or to help the user navigate the site. Let’s take a look at some real-world examples to help understand what UI elements are and why they’re important.

In this screenshot from clothing company Mack Weldon, we can see these UI design elements:

  • A dropdown menu that shows a lot of information quickly and easily

  • Font and color that aligns with the unique visual style of the brand 

  • Icons for search, account, and bag that instantly communicate non-verbally

Aventon’s product detail page designed by Anatta.

Aventon ebikes appeal to both professional and casual bikers. On their product detail page (PDP) our UX Team implemented several user interface features like:

  • Icons for speed, range, and payload capacity

  • Dropdowns for frame and size options

  • Buttons for a sizing tool and add to cart

  • A range of colorful, detailed images and videos 

How UX and UI Designers Work Together

UX and UI designers build visual and interactive elements. If UX UI is done right, your users are presented with an intuitive, beautiful, functional product that meets their needs and leaves them satisfied with the experience.

Neither one is more important than the other. UI and UX designers work closely together on visual design elements like fonts and interactive design components like menus and buttons. The goal is the same: the end user’s interaction is part of an easy, frictionless, responsive user journey from product discovery to checkout.

Why Your User Interface & User Experience Matters in eCommerce

User experience and user interface design are equally important for DTC eCommerce brands. Your customers must be able to easily navigate your website, find what they’re looking for, and make a purchase. When done right, UI and UX designers also help brands increase web traffic, build customer loyalty, and increase conversion rates.

However, even in the tech industry, very few companies currently conduct UX UI testing. That means eCommerce brands have a huge opportunity to level up their user experience and thus grow their brand.

Design a High-Converting Site Experience with Anatta

Your success in DTC often begins and ends with how effectively you solve customer problems. Your site’s user experience design is a great place to learn where customers face roadblocks with your brand.

For more than 15 years, Anatta’s UX approach has helped DTC brands like True Botanicals, Four Sigmatic, Dollar Shave Club, and more — all design engaging site experiences for higher conversions and customer loyalty.

Send us a message to learn how.

  • avatar
    Nirav Sheth
  • Nirav is the CEO and founder of Anatta. Nirav received his engineering degree in 2006 from George Washington University. Prior to Anatta, he served as founder of Dharmaboost, a software company working with Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, and New Leaf Paper. He is also cofounder of Upscribe, a next-level subscription software for fast growing eCommerce brands.