UI vs UX: How are They Different?

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are closely related terms that are often used interchangeably. Despite this, they are unique and separate terms. In this article, we’ll discuss what is UI, what is UX, their similarities and differences, and where to find support for your organization’s UI/UX. 

What is UI? 

Simply put, UI is anything used to engage or interact with digital products or services. This includes:

  1. Touchscreens

  2. Buttons or icons to click on

  3. Mouse cursor

  4. Voice user interface (VUI) 

UI can more broadly be defined as “the look and feel, the presentation and interactivity of a product.”. One difference between UI and UX is that, unlike UX, UI strictly applies to digital mediums. UI makes up all of the mechanics of using or accessing a digital product or service. UI designers use the languages of buttons and icons, color palettes and typography, visuals, layout, and intuitive design. 

What is UX?

UX is the internal experience the user has when using a UI. Or more specifically when they interact with a product or service through a UI. Don Norman, cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, created the term user experience back in the 1990s. He says, “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”. Despite being such a broad umbrella of a term, UX is primarily used within the digital field in conjunction with UI.

When it comes to UX design, the way the user feels about their experience and the ease of accomplishing their task are of paramount concern. A positive UX is full of ease, efficiency, relevance, and pleasure. UX professionals use the following traits as part of their best practices:

  1. Useful

  2. Usable

  3. Findable

  4. Credible

  5. Accessible

  6. Desirable

  7. Valuable

UX vs UI: Differences and Similarities

UX and UI are both using design thinking, considering user needs to achieve the same goal: an excellent product that leaves users delighted. 



Analyzes the competition

Full understanding of the design process of the UX, including pertinent research

Uses customer analysis and user data

Uses customer analysis

Develops content

Researches design for use

Wireframing and prototyping

Needs user guides and storylines

Full processes of testing and iteration

Uses UI prototyping

Works with UI designers for a successful product

Animation and interactive graphics

Coordinates with developer or developer team

Accessibility on all mobile devices

Complete analysis and iteration cycle

Works with developers to implement


One difference between UI and UX is that, unlike UX, UI strictly applies to digital mediums. As we learned earlier, UX encompasses the totality of a user’s experience with an organization, not just what’s accessible through a digital interface. Another way of looking at it is that UI is part of UX and UX informs UI. 

For example, here are four processes that UX professionals use to navigate touchpoints with the user:

  1. How is their company’s product discoverable by users?
  2. The steps users take while they interact with the interface.
  3. How do the users feel and think about their experience trying to accomplish their task on the interface?
  4. How the user feels and thinks about the organization overall. 

Only steps 2 and 3 have to do with the UI, and step 3 is about the experience of using the UI, not the UI itself. 

How Do UI and UX Complement Each Other?

One popular metaphor for UI and UX is that of a restaurant. UI is the chair, table, plate, silverware, you use to eat your meal. The UX is the meal, the service, the lighting—everything else that influences the overall experience of the meal that the UI of silverware and dishes facilitates. If the goal of both UX and UI is a positive customer experience, they are intertwined in their execution. While these are usually thought of as two separate terms, some industry professionals disagree with their distinction and see them as parts of the same whole. Craig Morrison, associate creative director at Truvani says “There is no difference between UX and UI design because they are two things that aren’t comparable to each other…its…like asking ‘What’s the difference between red paint and the chemicals the paint is made up of?’ There is no difference….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.”. 

Optimize Your UI/UX with Encora

Here at Encora, we design UX that drives engagement and adoption. Intuitive platforms that are simple to navigate are key for customer growth and expansion. Without seamless UI/UX customers will look elsewhere. Our expert UI/UX services are built on a foundation of deep awareness of user needs and preferences, allowing you to retain existing customers and attract new ones. With UI/UX from us here at Encora, we can design interfaces that will support your brand and encourage new growth within your market. Contact us today to get started!

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