Defining User Interface vs. User Experience

When discussing user interface vs. user experience, the terms are often used interchangeably, causing confusion for everyone who’s not involved deeply in the digital and marketing industries. When you typically see the terms placed together into a single term, "UI/UX Design" it’s no wonder. To understand the difference between UI and UX, you must first know each term's standard industry definitions; then we will slice it all down in a delicious example to bring it all together.

UI design or UI experience is the interaction between the user and the device or app. UI experience design focuses on how the look and feel of the device or app and how the user will interact with it. The UI designer makes sure the user interface is as natural as possible. They take every visual aspect, interactive element, and sound the user may interact with into consideration. These interactions include but are not limited to:

  • Buttons
  • Text 
  • Images 
  • Animations
  • Touch/sound
  • Icons
  • Spacing
  • Colors

In short, the UI experience designer focuses on the aesthetic appeal of the device, app, etc. They not only want it to be pretty but make sure it flows and the user interacts naturally rather than having to hunt for the information they need. 

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the UX design definition "UX encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products." UX designer determines the overall usability to interact with the elements the UI designers have created. They design how the interface works, how it is organized, and if all the pieces relate to one another. They focus on driving a good user experience and making sure the user interface operates cohesively. 

Now that we know the UI and UX differences let's look at how everything comes together. The UX designer figures out how the user interface will work most effectively, while the UI designer determines how the user interface looks and feels. Whether UI or UX, the teams need to work together throughout the entire process to create a successful result. We’re going to use an example most everyone loves -  pizza - to demonstrate user interface vs. user experience and how the results of misaligned efforts can negatively impact the overall consumer experience.

UI and UX Differences in the Real World

UX figures out all the toppings and knows what goes into the pizza to make it perfect for your eating experience. The UI figures out how to place the toppings, so the pizza is pleasing to your eyes, and every bite is a blast of all the flavors together to give you the best overall experience. 

Next, you order a supreme pizza. This time the UX team figures out all of the toppings and how all the flavors work together to give you precisely what you want in your pizza. However, it doesn't look very appetizing. Poorly laid out toppings ruin the overall sensory experience. It might still be great pizza but it won't be anywhere near as perfect or enjoyable as the first pizza.

On the other side of the coin, you might get a beautiful, fragrant and mouth-watering pizza delivered. Perfect browning of the cheese, toppings arranged so masterfully that just looking at it, you know and feel that this will be the absolute best pizza you have ever had in your life, and you can’t wait to dig in. You take your first bite, and BAM! It’s horrible. Instead of the supreme, you ordered, beneath the surface, it turns out to be pineapple and anchovies. 

It takes UX and UI working together to incorporate the selected toppings AND make it beautiful and taste delicious. That’s a pizza you would talk about for years to come, and would keep you coming back - the entire goal of great UX and UI - serving up the ideal consumer experience.

Looking to learn more about user interface vs user experience and how their collaboration could improve your customer experience? Get in touch with us!