UX is focused on the user’s journey to solve a problem, UI is focused on how a product’s surfaces look and function

1. UX is focused on the user’s journey to solve a problem, UI is focused on how a product’s surfaces look and function

Ken Norton – Partner at Google Ventures, Ex-Product Manager at Google

“Start with a problem we’d like to solve. UX design is focused on anything that affects the user’s journey to solve that problem, positive or negative, both on-screen and off. UI design is focused on how the product’s surfaces look and function. The user interface is only piece of that journey. I like the restaurant analogy I’ve heard others use: UI is the table, chair, plate, glass, and utensils. UX is everything from the food, to the service, parking, lighting and music.”

2. A UX designer is concerned with the conceptual aspects of the design process, leaving the UI designer to focus on the more tangible elements

Andy Budd – Co-founder of Clearleft, Founder of UX London

“Common logic would suggest that, if you design the UI, and a person experiences a product through the UI, that makes you a User Experience Designer. However, this would also imply that designing your own home makes you an architect, and fixing a tap makes you a plumber.

Often the words used to describe a discipline end up being divorced from their original meanings. For instance architect literally means “head mason” and plumber means “lead worker.” Two names which clearly no longer articulate or explain what that profession does.

In a professional context “User Experience Designer” has a specific meaning and set of skills, based on a community of practice reaching back over 20 years. In this world, a User Experience Designer is concerned with the conceptual aspects of the design process, leaving the UI designer to focus on the more tangible elements.

Jason Mesut best describes the difference (and the overlap) between UX and UI in his “double diamond” model. In this model, the UX designer has deep skills in strategy, research, information architecture, and interaction design.

The UI designer (now fashionably rebranded as a digital product designer in Silicon Valley) also has skills in Interaction design. However, their focus skews towards areas like information design, motion design, and brand.

While some people would claim deep expertise in all those areas, this is quite rare. After all, if you’re an expert in everything you’re probably an expert in nothing.”

3. There is no difference between UX and UI design because they are two things that aren’t comparable to each other

Craig Morrison – Head of Product at RecordSetter, Founder of Usability Hour

“I hear this question all the time, and I’ve answered it multiple times. Ultimately I’ve come to this conclusion…

There is no difference between UX and UI design because they are two things that aren’t comparable to each other.

For example, it’s kind of like asking, “What is the difference between red paint and the chemicals the paint is made up of?” There is no difference. Red paint is made up of all sorts of different chemicals that when combined together make red paint.

Just as the user experience is made up of a bunch of different components, user interface design being just one of them, that when combined together make up the user experience.

Here are a few other questions to illustrate my point:

  • What is the difference between a MacBook and the shape of the keyboard keys?
  • What’s the difference between tea and the type of material the tea bag is made from?
  • What’s the difference between a car and the color it’s painted?

If we’re talking about delicious cake (and why wouldn’t we be?), UI is the icing, the plates, the flavour, the utensils, and the presentation. UX is the reason we’re serving cake in the first place, and why people would rather eat it than hamburgers.

4. UI is the bridge that gets us where we want to go, UX is the feeling we get when we arrive.

Jason Ogle – Host and producer of User Defenders podcast, Designer at NCM

“I think one of the most important things to keep in mind in our artificially-intelligent world we’re flying headlong into, is that UI is no longer just a series of buttons relegated to the four corners of a screen–and UX is not just a screen-based prototype meant to increase conversions on a landing page.

It can also now be considered our voice and intentions powered by whatever the machines think we’re saying or wanting in any given context.

UI is the bridge that gets us to the other side of where we’re wanting to go.

UX is the feeling we get when we get there when the bridge is well-built, or plummet to our death (talk about bad UX!).

It’s also possible to have a good user experience without a user interface. In fact, if it’s really good, oftentimes your users won’t even know it’s there (how many knots do you notice on the wooden bridge on the way across?).

Keep in mind that we’re always creating UX, all the time whether behind a keyboard, in the grocery store line, in our workplace, or on the freeway (God help us).

To sum this up, as I always say to my superguests at the end of every User Defenders podcast episode: Keep fighting on in creating great UX for other humans!

Whether that requires a UI or not.”

5. UI is focused on the product, a series of snapshots in time. UX focuses on the user and their journey through the product

Scott Jenson – Product Strategist at Google

“I don’t get too wrapped up in this distinction as they frequently are used interchangeably. However, when pressed, I see the UI as focusing on the product, a series of snapshots in time.

The UX focuses on the user and their journey through the product. The UI tends to be the specifics of screens, focusing on labels, visual style, guidelines, and structure.

The UX is the path through a product, escaping the screen and articulating the user’s journey and motivations, justifying why things are in the UI and even more importantly, why things are left out. The UI copes with constraints; the UX challenges them.”

6. UX encompasses all the experiences a person has with a product or service, whereas UI is specific to the means by which people interact with a product or service.

Chinwe Obi – UX Researcher at UserTesting

“User experience (UX) is the interaction and experience users have with a company’s products and services. To gain UX insights, this might include conducting research to learn about the positive and negatives points of an experience and taking those learnings to make improvements that positively impact a user’s experience.

Think about ordering food online for a pickup delivery. The UX consists of the user’s interactions with placing their order on a company’s website, their in-store experience of picking up their order, and also their satisfaction with their food.

User interface (UI) is the specific asset users interact with. For example, UI can deal with traditional concepts like visual design elements such as colors and typography. It can also look at the functionality of screens or more unconventional systems like those that are voiced-based.