What is the difference between UI and UX?

June 17, 2014

Defining the difference between these two fields can cause debate in the design world, as there can be many misconceptions about what the difference actually is.  This blog aims to look into the simple and more complex differences between UX vs UI. First, lets have a look at the standard definition of the two terms:

User Interface Design (UI): This is what the user looks at when they visit your website. The physical elements that make the site work and give your users the point of interaction. It is the tools you offer on the site and the means of communication between the person and the system.

User Experience Design: This is how your user feels on your site and when they look at your site - the interaction itself.   It includes interfaces and refers to all the elements of a thing as perceived by a person.

Metaphors seem to be the best way to describe UI and UX differences. Imagine all the pieces of a bowl of cereal are separate things that your users are looking for on your site. The spoon used to eat the cereal is the user interface and the user experience is the act of consuming the cereal.

As you can see, both UX and UI intertwine together and make up the entire package of a good website. Ultimately, you strive to offer an excellent User Experience (UX) for your user but User Interface Design (UI) is a very important element of this.

Let's apply this to a website. Each button that a user can press on a website is one element of the interface and all of the elements on a page put together make up the User Interface (UI). The User Experience answers the question 'Why?' For example, why is the 'My Account' on the top left in a maroon colour? Why are the social icons at the top of the page? Researching and understanding your user answer each of these questions. Good user experience consists of a deep understanding of your user.

What do User Experience Designers do?User Experience designers will go through a series of processes to find the best journey for their users. The may conduct interviews, complete audits, host usability tests and complete competitive and analytical analyses. From this research, UX professionals will create personas of their users, messaging frameworks, experience maps, site maps, wireframes and storyboards. Each one of these processes will help to further define the problem users need to solve.

The UX designer will then work with the UI designer to build the right website and experience for the user. A builder with no tools is powerless as is a builder who builds with no knowledge or advice on what the owner wants in a house.

What is your experience with UX and UI? Were you aware of the difference or has this enlightened you a little? How will these affect things for you in the future? Looking for a UX UI Design agency? Contact us for a free consultation.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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