UI vs. UX: The Final Guide

It’s not probably the first article you read about the difference between UI and UX, but I’m trying to make it the last one.

What is the difference?

If you came here to hear a sentence and leave, this is enough for you:

The difference between UI and UX is in their nature. UI is all about tools and external objects. It’s visible, hearable, touchable and objective. But UX is all about you (as a user)! It’s experience, often invisible, inaudible and subjective.

That’s it! If you want to go, hope you enjoy life :)

Hi my remaining friends! Let’s talk more about this amazing discussion.

What is UI?

UI is the acronym of ‘User Interface’. It is something that places between a human and a computer or digital product, and helps the human (user) to get connected with that. It could be physical, graphical, virtual, etc. But nowadays, when we say UI, most people think we’re talking about GUI (Graphical User Interface). We connect with computers through the graphical UI we see on the monitors. But UI is not all about GUI. Back in the days, we used Command-line UI in order to use computers. But now we can connect with products in a lot of ways. For example, when we command our phone through Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, we are using VUI (Voice User Interface).

When we use motions and gestures to connect through Kinnect, we’re using ‘Gesture driven UI’. New User Interfaces may be invented in the future which lets us connect with devices in different ways (like just thinking).

I Explained all of these explanations to say UI is about ‘tools’.

UI is about external tools and it’s not a part of humanity. Nowadays, these tools are accessible with 3 out of 5 senses: ‘sight, touch and hearing’.

Now, what is the UX?

As the name implies, User Experience is an experience the user gains and feels while using digital products or services. Ask yourself “is it possible to feel the experience your friend is feeling while using a game or app, like when you feel objects you see and hear from speakers or monitors?”. You might answer: “Yes I can see his/her face gets sad or happy”, or “Yes I can see her/him struggling to find a way to do his/her tasks with the app”, but it’s not the experience really. These emotions are the external outputs of their real experience. You most probably cannot feel any user’s real experience by watching or hearing them.

The experience is different from person to person. Even the most experienced UX researchers cannot exactly comprehend a user’s experience while using a product. They only can measure the outputs of the user’s real experience by using some methods and tools. (Remember these methods, we’ll back to it.)

If we want to understand the difference between UI and UX, it’s better to understand the difference between external objects and internal experiences.

Now you may ask if the UX is an internal experience, so why most UXers define it as research, persona, user journey, usability testing, etc. Well, I should say what they are pointing is UXD (User Experience Design) and UXR (User Experience Research) that includes some methods you can use to make a better UX for the user. But it’s not UX itself.

What do people mean when they say a UI doesn’t have a good UX?

If they mean the UI causes a bad UX in the user’s mind, yes it’s true. But if we consider UX as an objective thing in the UI (e.g structure), that’s wrong.

As I said before, you can measure the user’s satisfaction with methods like interviews, usability testing, etc. The true ‘Good UX’ or ‘Bad UX’ could be found beneath the user's words, reactions, and working with the product.

Another example is when observing the user in usability testing. You can ask her to think aloud and say what she thinks and feels. So the inner feeling that is so hard to achieve becomes more objective and you ‘might’ feel it better to realize which bad UX or good UX is going on.

Recap

UI is objective tools, touchable, audible, visible.

UX is subjective experiences and feelings. Not always visible, audible, or touchable (for others).

UXD and UXR are methods, manners, and careers.

Hope you enjoy :)

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UX/UI Designer