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UI vs UX: Revisiting the age old debate

With technological advancement reaching the common man's hand in 21st century, everybody seeks to experience technology without spending much brain and time. Mobile and Web consumers nowadays expect quick and consistent navigation with seamless experience. Hence the growing emphasis on professional UI/UX design in software applications.

While we realize the immense importance of a visually appealing and user friendly application experience, UI/UX are the terms that are generally used interchangeably in the software world. As a matter of fact, the terms are closely linked when being talked in software design landscape.

UI is not UX

By definition, UI or User Interface is the graphical layout of an application which a user interacts with. This includes buttons, input controls, screen layout and every micro-interaction. UI designers create the look and feel of a user interface for an application.

UI.png

UX or User Experience determines how easy or difficult is to interact with the User interface elements on the application. This being the main reason people generally confuse UI and UX to be similar terms and use them interchangeably.

Granted, it is completely fine to use UI/UX together in software design, wherein, the UX designers are also concerned on application UI to ensure smooth navigation and provide a seamless application experience. However, it should be understood that UI is just one of the salient elements in UX as shown in Fig. Designers work on both user interface and user experience design for a customer friendly application.

When it comes to application testing, UX/UI are mostly covered during user acceptance testing phase in an SDLC. While teams do realize the importance of UI testing early on (along with functional testing), to avoid any defects percolating to later tests, usability testing (UX and UI teamed up) is generally scheduled after/with integration tests to accommodate application agility. However, teams end up doing highly expensive rework, due to last minute customer feedback on supposedly less important non-functional aspects like user interface and experience.

UI testing: Test early test often

Validating seamless user experience may seem more relevant during end of the application testing processes, however validating UI with respect to interface, design and navigation requirements need to be taken up way early.

With the rise in customer centric business requirements, it is thus prudent, that UI tests be planned early and be done repeatedly till all functional and non-functional requirements are met. UI automation scripts come handy while planning repetitive tests like performance, load and device/browser compatibility. Early performance or compatibility testing allows capacity planners and infrastructure architects with early warnings on any potential problems with the scalability of the architecture. UI layout and navigation may be volatile during early stages of the application development. Teams must carefully isolate application UI and functionalities to enable independent tests for better results. Automation scripts must be used where functional or UI requirements are stable. QA techniques in early forms can be applied to usability or design testing even before the UI is integrated with functionalities. Automated regression tests should be conducted as often as possible through the course, and not just as part of final QA activities or just before system integration.

A volatile UI may be a ticking bomb towards the end of application lifecycle which may adversely affect the user experience offered by the application. It is thus wise to stub out non-functional testing especially UI for early defect detection and avoid rework post integration tests.

Happy testing!

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