Why UX is Not UI

User Experience (UX) Design and User Interface (UI) Design are some of the most misused terms in our industry.

Job advertisements often write “UI/UX’ as if they’re interchangeable. As UX guru, Don Norman said, “they just sort of entered the vocabulary and no longer have any special meaning. People use them often without having any idea why, what the word means, its origin, history, or what it’s about.”

So, what is the difference between UX and UI? What exactly is meant by ‘good UX’ or ‘poor UI’?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding these two terms. Let’s first take a deeper look at what each of them means.

Defining UX and UI Design

User Experience or UX is the term used to encompass the entirety of how a person feels when interacting with a system or product. While the system or product doesn’t necessarily have to be digital, in most modern contexts it generally refers to any product that has a form of human-computer interaction (HCI).

The process of User Experience Design (UXD) relates to how UX designers evaluate how a person feels when interfacing with a system and the methods and processes they follow to increase efficiency, satisfaction, utility and a range of other quality attributes.


The UX design process is a multifaceted one involving many steps ranging from user research and prototyping to development and usability testing. In short, designing UX relates to designing the entire experience.

Apart from research and design, a UX designer can also be involved in areas like marketing, communications and support to ensure that the experience is cohesive from start to finish.

UX design applies to the design of any medium – a product, a website, an app or an event. It draws from many disciplines like cognitive science, anthropology, psychology, computer science and graphic design.

User Interface Design (UID) on the other hand is concerned purely with how the product looks and feels. The user interface (UI) is the visual and technical elements of an interface, like the controls, the buttons etc that allow the user to interact with the product.

To make things simpler, let’s consider UI in the context of a restaurant. The UI of a restaurant would be the visual theme around it – What color is the wallpaper? How are the chairs and tables aligned? How bright or dim is the lighting?

In the online world, a UI designer is responsible for creating typography, icons and other interactive elements that solve direct interaction problems for the user.

UI elements on the Facebook homepage

UI elements on the Facebook homepage

The Difference between UX and UI

For a lot of people, the line between UX and UI is blurry.

To put it simply, UI is what faces the user when they look at the product whereas the UX covers the entirety of the user’s dealings with the product. UI is generally about visual and information design around the interface. UX is about the complete experience, and it may not even be about an interface. To deliver an exceptional overall experience, they must go hand in hand.

To understand things easily, think of a rollercoaster in an amusement park. UX is the anticipation leading up to the ride. It is the feeling of excitement and thrill during the ride. It is the feeling of wanting to try it again.

User Interface, or UI, is the way the ride is built. The construction material (nuts, bolts, concrete, steel), the quality of the ride (how sturdy is it?) and the placement of loops and turns.

Although the UI doesn’t constitute the entirety of the experience of sitting in a ride, it is a very important part of it.

But keep in mind that great UI does not mean great UX. And bad UI does not mean bad UX.

Some sites are designed to look pretty, but they can be frustrating to use because of slow loading times, frequent crashes or unconventional navigation.

On the other hand, some sites have very poor text-based UI, but they have excellent UX because they do exactly what the users expect them to do.

Websites like Craigslist and eBay are examples of websites which have very simple text interface without fancy buttons. But they still have millions of users per day. Users like it because they can get things done easily and quickly.


Craigslist homepage

There are numerous factors that influence UX. Content, IA and interaction design are just three of the many aspects, aside from UI design, needed when creating a great user experience for your users. Each factor contains its own set of processes and requires a sense of empathy for the user.

While visual aesthetics and the user interface design are essential in UX, it’s important to remember that the user experience encompasses all aspects of your end-user’s interaction with your site or product.

At UXBERT Labs we specialize in UX Research, Design & Development services that deliver world-class experiences. With offices in Riyadh and Dubai, our team of UX Researchers, Designers, and Developers deliver custom designed and built software to help businesses succeed.

Interested in working with us? Email us at hello@uxbert.com and let us know your research, design or development needs.

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