What’s the Difference Between Web Design and User Experience?

If we want to understand what the difference between web design and user experience is, we need to go back in time…

difference between web design and user experience

A mere 10 to 15 years ago, the web was a vastly different place. A web designer was a catch-all term for anyone who, in some way, shape or form, could build a website. Back then, we were far more liberal with what ‘user experience’ entailed, and with few web standards and more freedom to experiment, many sites were rich, interactive experiences built entirely in Flash (RIP, old friend) feeling more akin to video games rather than the structured sites of today.

What’s changed in web design over the past one and a half decades?

Everything! No longer could you build a pretty website and call it a day (#sadface). One of the major impacts was mainstreaming smartphones that didn’t support the Flash websites everyone had built. This called for new web standards to be implemented.

HTML5 and CSS3 became the new in-crowd, but more importantly, websites needed to behave and operate in more predictable ways, so users are instantly familiar with how your site works. Practices such as your company logo appearing in the top left, navigation links on the right, and hamburger menus became commonplace and immediately recognisable to a user.

Due to this shift in practice, web designers are now split into more niche roles; Visual Designers, User Interface Designers, Interaction Designers, User Experience Designers, UX Strategists, Digital Designers. Put any combination of web buzzwords together and it’s likely another role in the industry today.

What exactly is the difference between web design and user experience?

Web design refers to the aesthetics of your site. In other words, the colours, fonts and imagery as well as the user interface design. The latter is critical to drawing the users’ eyes to certain elements or call-to-actions. Web Design and User Experience (UX) are meant to work in tandem for a cohesive experience, even if they are quite different. The latter, for instance, defines much of how the user interacts with a site.

Here are some examples of what you should – and shouldn’t – do to create good UX:

Good UX focuses on the human aspect of using a piece of software and seeks to make interactions and engagements more accessible, useful, and satisfying. Web developers can often omit this human element when they focus more on functionality and practicality, less on user satisfaction. It’s the difference between ‘Does this website work?’ versus ‘Does this website feel good to use and is pleasing on the eye?’. The latter plays a vital role in the Aesthetic Usability Effect – where users perceive attractive products as more usable.

In an ever-changing industry, providing users with proper and well-planned user experiences is crucial to converting sales from your website. WildWeb can assist and develop a tailor-made solution for your business.

Browse our different website packages or contact us directly and one of our team will walk you through the options.