What is the difference between User Experience and User Interface design

The Difference Between User Interface and User Experience Design

This post aims to answer the question of “What’s the difference between User Interface and User Experience Design? 

Since starting work here at Buzinga, I’ve become crazy interested in the User Experience process and art-form.

There is literally so much more that goes into the way we interact with the technology in our lives, than I ever would’ve given credit for.

One massive lesson I’ve learned here is that there actually IS a difference at all – and that it’s quite a fundamental difference at that.

UI and UX are always just kinda ‘thrown in’ together whenever someone talks about them which makes it easy to assume that they’re the same damn thing.

“Sweet UI/UX design man.” < — yes that’s how all designers talk…

Like most other graphic designers, I assumed that if a piece of technology had a bad user experience it pretty much meant that it was in need of a general makeover. A little less drop shadow, losing the gradients and choosing the right font weight….

I was wrong.

The truth is UI was the first to pop his little darling head up. So it’s no wonder why most folks think that UX is the same thing.

At University, they don’t actually teach you much about UX, because historically it’s always been a function performed by Business Analysts…which is kind of lame since Business Analysts are generally analytical people where as ‘user experience’ in my opinion relates to ’emotion design’.

Just so that we’re clear

User Interface is the screen with the elements that we interact with directly. Buttons, Scroll Boxes, Sliders, Text, etc. They are in other words; Visual Elements.

User Experience on the other hand is the ability to capture the User’s natural thought process in a functional design. It’s about combining the ‘users mind’ with that of the Designer.

Most of the User Experience is not seen to the eye – but felt. Or better yet; not felt at all.

A practical example

I normally use the simple example of ‘Facebook login’ to explain the difference between user experience and user interface design to clients or other designers:

Facebook login, has been around for about 12 months. It gives the user of an application the ability to add personal details to their in-app profile without having to enter them manually. (Provided that permissions are given to extract those details from Facebook).

What this does, is take away what was becoming (and still can be) an onerous process – and ultimately a huge barrier of entry for the user. “Another freaking account to create, another freaking password to remember…”

Not to mention this is a 10-15 minute process that can leave users frustrated and annoyed, and often causing them to stop using the software.

The result

Since the integration of Facebook Login, the climb in usage of these apps has been dramatic. Fact.

The problem with the login/account creation process wasn’t the sexy buttons or forms. It (for the user) was the long-winded process of completion before they can even try the app. Even if the UI is beautiful and crystal clear, it wouldn’t be enough to fix the problem.

My summary

What is the difference between user experience design and user interface design?

To design great UX we need to step away from the idea that we can see the problem on our screen and start to think ‘like a user’. Get inside their heads, focus on their problems and understand the processes behind the beautiful ‘experience’ we create.

The difference is this: UI Design is Fixing the issue right. UX Design is Fixing the right issue.



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Zac is a seasoned Graphic Designer with a passion for mobile app design. By constantly introducing new techniques and ideas into our development process he's raising the standard for app design in Australia.

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