Categories: Events General

What’s the difference between UI and UX?

Two weeks ago we were honored to have Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path’s CEO, come speak to us about the difference between User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).  UX designers and researchers often say that UX is the most important element, and therefore a great UX and mediocre UI trumps a product or service that has a great UI, but mediocre UX.

But can there ever be bad UI and awesome UX?  Doesn’t a good interface automatically make you have a good experience?  Not always.  Virgin America is a prime example – the overall experience is pretty great – from booking a flight to finding your seat in the plane – but then when you go to order a meal or pick a radio station to listen to the on-flight interface sucks.  You’re forced to scroll through options only 5 at a time and sometimes your touch screen doesn’t work.

And what about Home Plus, the Korean supermarket, that was a panel of images with QR codes in subways? This allows busy commuters to buy food in the subway and get it deleivered to their homes.  If the interface wasn’t strong, the whole experience end-to-end wouldn’t be realized, so here the experience relied heavily on the interface.

Brandon called out three ways to untangle a user experience problem:

1. Context of the Experience
Think of the journey from the customer’s perspective.  If this journey is happening over time and channels, then create an experience map to show what the user is thinking, doing and feeling throughout the whole experience.

2. Rules of Engagement
Experience Principles are guidelines for the interaction of the service.  Much of a UI is dealing with how the service looks and feels and the voice and tone, but where many products are lacking is in the experience principle area.

3. Measured Delivery
Figure out how to ship “cupcakes” to customers, not the bare cake as v1 and then the filling as v2 and then the icing as v3.  Customers don’t think like that.  Ship a product that has a little cake, a little filling and a little icing and then your next release can be a larger cake.

And of course we need to be concerned with the experience of the first run, since that is the first impression a user has with our product.  However, another way to look at it is to building products in which we can delight customers at the peak and end of their experiences.  According to Daniel Kahneman’s peak and end rule, we judge our experiences almost entirely on how they were at their highest peak – whether that was pleasant or unpleasant – and how they ended.

Thanks again Brandon for visualizing so clearly the differences between UI and UX – we’ll be referring to these slides quite often!

3 comments on “What’s the difference between UI and UX?”

  1. DanieW wrote on

    Why split the ideas into slightly unrelated entities? Does a bad UI not mean a bad UX and vice versa? I think for a good UI design you have to look at having a good UX for different roles of customers.

  2. Chris wrote on

    I see an example of measured delivery in FF 13’s blurred thumbnails for the new tab page (presumably to address potential privacy issues if the browsers is shared among multiple users) and the clear thumbnails in FF 14.

  3. Yishay Cohen wrote on

    Small correction (because those who can’t, nag ;)):
    The link to the Experience Map is broken. You probably meant (
    Other than this, great article. the Measured Delivery idea helped me win some in a debate with product managers.