The Difference Between User Interface and User Experience

Shalom Solomon

User experience and user interface are most likely the most misunderstood concepts of today's digital era. Probably because they became popular around the time the internet was becoming dominant or because the people to coin and name the concepts were techies.
Well, whatever the case may be, there seem to be a lot of erroneous assumptions on UI and UX.

Most common is the assumption that User Interface and User Experience are purely technological concepts or that they are expressly rooted in software programming.
Though, these hold some element of truth, neither of both assumptions are completely accurate especially for user experience.
Donald Norman, is the Cognitive scientist who first coined the term User Experience in 1990s while working for Apple.

He believed that the design of digital products (the McIntosh which Apple was working on at the time) should be tailored to expressly appeal to the taste of the user. 
Therefore, User Experience is not a technological concept rather, it is a scientific one that deals with understanding the emotions generated in a user while using a product.
In the same vein, occupations like a UI designer and UX designer are misunderstood by employers especially. You'd see job vacancy ads for a graphic designer or a web developer when in actual sense, the employer wants a UI or UX designer.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

The Difference Between User Interface and User Experience

We've talked about the misconception people have on the exact roles UI and UX designers. There's yet another common wrong assumption people hold about UI and UX. Which is that user interface and user experience are the same thing.
So here on out, we'll be discussing the ways in which user interface and user experience are different.
First off, we'll start with their definitions.

What is UI?

User Interface is anything that enables a user to interact with a product or service. User interface deals with the graphics, fonts, images, typography and the general structure of a digital product that enables a user to access it's functions.

What is UX?

User Experience on the other hand is the experience of the user while using a product or service. Was the experience good, was it poor or was it neutral? 
Now based on their definitions, it is obvious, that both UI and UX are focused on the user of a product or service. This is the point of similarity and also difference.

While User Experience seeks to ensure that a user has the best experience while using a product or service, User interface on the other hand takes the findings from user experience and creates a visual representation.
The design of user experience is dependent on the research of the designer to determine the best way a product would give good user experience to anyone using it.
The User interface would now be designed based on the research findings of the UX designer.

Career Foundry gave a very apt illustration to differentiate between UI and UX.
Think of the UI as the stirrups, saddle and reins that enable a person ride a horse and UX would be the experience of riding the horse.
Another illustration uses red paint to describe the relationship between UI and UX. UX is the chemicals that make up the paint while UI is the final product of the paint itself.

So basically, UX involves
  • Research
  • An overall understanding of user behaviour
  • Using the information to improve experience of using a product or service for users.

UI on the other hand, is mainly focused on, the visual representation of the UX designer's work. It uses 
  • Typography
  • Colours
  • Style and branding symbols
  • Spacing
  • The quantity of items on a webpage 
  • Graphics and images
To achieve the results of the UX designer's work.

The UX designer, creates a wireframe kind of like architect's blueprint, based on the findings from research on user behaviour. The UI designer now improves on this wireframe by adding specific elements like fonts and colours. It is at this point that the work of UI designer overlaps with that of the UX designer.
This is an example of a wireframe wireframe image

To Conclude,

User Interface and User Experience are different yet closely related. This has led to a lot of confusion and misinterpretation of the roles of a UI designer and UX designer. 
For most companies, the UI designer also doubles as the UX designer. This is acceptable because as stated earlier, both fields are closely related and as such the UI and UX experts have to work together to achieve the best results. Note that both professions can be learnt individually. That is to say you do not need to learn UI to be a UX designer and vice versa.
That's all for now. Hope you learnt something new?
Have a nice day...

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