Website design · Web Development

What is the difference between UX and UI designer and web designer?

Harpreet Singh Senior QA Engineer (Freelancer)

November 27th, 2016

A while ago I started working on a website for my company (of course, without any prior experience) and I am really struggling. I mean, I managed to make something but it is far from what it should look like. Since it has to be something to represent my company well, I decided to get some help and I read that there are all kind of designers and developers but I don’t get the exact difference among them. For example, what is the difference between UX, UI designer and a web designer? Is web designer supposed to know also about UX and UI?

Jared Spool Maker of Awesomeness at Center Centre and UIE

November 27th, 2016

In design, roles and titles are less important than skills. The skills of user experience design, ui design, and web design all overlap substantially.

It doesn't matter if you hire with the right title. It only matters if you hire someone with the right skills. And, as you can see, there's no uniformity in title assignment. (There's no governing body that enforces a person gets the correct title, therefore everyone has a different one.)

For your situation, you want to look for someone or a small agency who has the experience to build the design you want. You should describe what you're looking for, then, for anyone you talk to, ask them to show you work that matches. Have them describe the process by which they came to those designs. Ask them probing questions, like "What was the most challenging portion and how did you overcome it?" and "Who did you work with? What did they do and what did you do?"

That should help you find the right person for the job.

Christoph Ranaweera validate early, pivot and kill fast instead of feeding a zombie

November 27th, 2016

I'm not sure what the official definition is but I see it this way:

UI designer is more graphical focussed designer to make things look good.
UX designer takes care of user experience so users don't get lost, understand the offer and how to use the page. But they don't have to be graphical

Webdesigner should put the two above together plus some level of technical knowledge to at least being able to judge what is technically doable and what not.

Leo Frishberg UX Strategist, Product Manager, Phase II

November 27th, 2016

I agree with both of your respondents to date, but I'm not sure their answers have helped you completely. To Jared's point, I, as well as many others in the UX/UI/IxD community have been confused by what we're calling ourselves, so it's no wonder you are also confused.

Part of the problem comes from the title "design." So my question back to you would be: "What problem are you facing?" You've suggested you are concerned about what it "looks like" and it "has to represent your company well."

These are important considerations at the "surface" or "visual" or "graphic" design layer. So, based on those specific concerns, you would be looking for talent that has experience in branding, and visual or graphic design. Ostensibly because you're working in a Web environment, this individual or firm should have experience in that context. Again, as Jared suggests, a good interview process with a strong portfolio of work that has the aesthetic resonance you're looking for will likely fit the bill.

With that said, don't be too surprised if the person or firm you hire starts to ask deeper questions about your product, service and business. Here is where things get a little tricky: while you thought you might have needed help at the surface layer, a strong designer will need to understand the "full stack" of your business to properly express its brand. And in that process of discovery, the designer may uncover all sorts of opportunities to improve elements at any layer of the stack: from business strategy, to product functions and features, to operational improvements.

But a) you didn't hire them for that (perhaps because you didn't know those opportunities for improvement existed) and b) they may not be the right designer to address those questions. Because you are getting immersed into this discipline, you may not know, just from the interview, whether and to what extent they'll be able to help you up and down the stack.

Here's one possible way to address your current challenge: find someone fairly experienced in design (in the area you're working - let's say "web") via Meetups, LinkedIn, associates, however you do it. Hire them (or make some kind of arrangement) to come in and review your current situation from a "design" perspective (brand, UX, product, strategy - whatever). It shouldn't take a lot of their time to give you immediate impressions of where you'll likely need the most help. You might consider bringing in a couple of different experts (max three!), if you can spare the compensation (a few hundred dollars, or some reasonable exchange for a few hours of work) since you'll get different perspectives each time.

Armed with those initial "design" impressions, you'll be in a much better place to find the right resource at the right price to address the likely challenges your facing.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

November 27th, 2016

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There is not standardized names for these roles and a lot of overlap.  Rather than use the labels,  I would recommend you test for understanding:

"Designer": imagines how a product or service will look, behave, be constructed, or fits into user/customer's lives.  Might not actually "implement" a design.   For instance, a designer might work with artists to create the actual images or layouts, with programmers to code websites or apps to behave a certain way.    Many implementers say that they are designers but their designs might not be very good.  (

For an example you might be more familiar with, compare an architects (designs the over all building) and a carpenter (builds/implements according to architecture plans -- might be able to build without plans, but their buildings might not be as usable or attractive one designed by a talented architect,  but that architect might never swing a hammer.

"Web Designer":  "Designs" websites.  May or may not implement them.  

Design may focus on appearance ("graphical designer") or 

interaction / behavior ("User Interaction (UI) designer") or 

the totality of the user experience including both appearance and behavior and connection with the user's other activities ("User Experience (UE) designer").

Note that a UI or UE designer might specialize in design for non-web applications, such as native apps, physical design ("industrial designer"), etc.

I recommend you TEST for expertise by requesting the following:

Web Design:   Show me a "specification" that you were given for a website.  Show me the resulting site.  Explain to me how your expertise  was critical in converting to the specification to the resulting website and what that website achieved (measures of success).

Graphic Design:  Show me the written specification of what your graphic design was supposed to achieve.  Show me the resulting graphics you created.  Why were these great choices?

User Interface / User Interaction design.   Show me the specification for what users were supposed to be able to do using the product or service. Show me how you connected user goals to the interaction steps (number of pages, clicks, gestures, etc. they have to use to achieve their goals).  Explain why this is a good set of steps for that purpose.  

Find out how much the person implemented themselves, and how much they used other skilled experts.   And pay close attention to how well they are able to explain the thinking of their designs.

John Missale Chief Technology Officer and Chief Security Officer at WorldNow

November 27th, 2016

The UX and UI designer can be the same person if it's a small application and they have those two skill sets. The real difference is when you are creating an enterprise application. The UI designer is responisble for the look and feel of the application, the UX designer is responsible for the user's journey. Now that we are doing more design using micro-services architecture, the distinction between UX and UI is more pronounced.

Greg Cutler User Interface Designer at Tata Consultancy Services

November 29th, 2016

The designer must be able to design for the engineers, the business stakeholders, other designers (current and future), and the people testing the software. I also need to be able to ask the engineers questions about the limitations of the software. For example, an engineer may have written a component that doesn’t care about another component. I may or may not have that knowledge and design something that creates a dependency between the two components. These differences must be spelled out so that everyone is on the same page before anyone touches the code. 

Understanding limitations is important at the end of the process, but it hampers creativity in the beginning stages of design. Using the architect analogy, go look up architects' first drawings for actual buildings that have been built. Frank Gehry is famous for drawing these crazy scribbles that then eventually become things like the Walt Disney Concert Hall. If Mr. Gehry had been concerned about things like load-bearing walls during the first half of design, the building would probably not be as remarkable as it is. If your designer shows you scribbles in your first meeting, it's a good sign.

I hope that helps.