What does UI or UX mean?

What could two short letters stand for, you ask? Amazingly enough, each has an extended definition!

UI has often been spoken of, especially among the membership of Compumatrix. To answer what UI stands for, is it enough to know it stands for “User Interface?”

How about UX then? UX stands for “User Experience.” What does that have to do with you?

Lets first look at UI on a fundamental level; UI is the user’s ability to interact with a digital device. Be it buttons, touchscreens, keyboards, and yes, even sounds.

UX, on the other hand, is what the user takes away from that experience. How does it make you feel? Happy, sad, proud, upset, inspired?

Though often used interchangeably, the two terms are distances apart in meaning.

Brief History of UI’s

Scientists at the Xerox corporation created the first Graphical User Interface (GUI). This GUI, for the first time, allowed users to interact with personal computers using commands. These commands were carried out through icons, buttons, menus, and checkboxes.

This GUI meant that no coding was required to interact with the computer; hence, the personal computer revolution began.

In 1984 Apple Macintosh introduced the first “point and click” personal computer and, as such, was the first successful home computer to use this type of interface.

Computers, amidst their prevalence in both home and work settings, needed more user-friendly design. If interaction weren’t easy and fun, they wouldn’t sell. This necessity birthed the career of the UI designer.

Due to the growth of technology, expectations, preferences, systems, and accessibility has increased dramatically. The UI designer role has remarkedly developed with the demand for other areas, such as mobile phones, augmented and virtual reality, and even screenless interfaces (often referred to as zero UI) such as voice, gesture, and light.

The field of UI designers is chock full of opportunities in many diverse areas. UI designers could choose from working on websites, mobile applications, wearable technology, and smart home devices, to name a few. As long as computers are part of our daily lives, UI designers will find jobs creating interfaces for users of all ages and backgrounds to use effectively.

What, then, is UX?

UX refers to the experience of the user regarding the enhancements of the UI. Once developments and improvements on UIs were created for users to interact with, UX could be defined. The measure of their experience with a device, whether positive, negative, or neutral, could be measured and evaluated.

Source: User Experience Rocks
Source: User Experience Rocks

The term “user experience” (UX) was coined in the early 1990s by cognitive scientist Don Norman when he worked for Apple. He defined it as such:

‘User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

This definition is broad and could envelop ALL interaction from a user’s perspective, not just the digital one. Some UX professionals have elected to call the field “customer experience,” and others have carried it a bit further and name the field “experience design.”

Little does it matter what it’s called in reality. Norman’s original definition of UX is always at the core of every thought experience.

Peter Moreville created a great visual that focuses on what makes an experience a good one, and what should be brought into effective UX design.

Source: Peter Moreville
Source: Peter Moreville

The foundation for UX professionals’ best practices have centered around and guided their efforts with this “usability honeycomb” and the objectives laid out with the users on:

  • how your company’s product relates to the “usability honeycomb.”
  • the interaction sequence with the interface
  • the thoughts and enjoyment which arise as they accomplish their efforts
  • the overall impact they receive from the interaction

Companies depend on UX designers to convey a product and service that will be beneficial to a customer, which allows them to do their work enjoyably and achieve the desired outcome.

UX designers work jointly with UI designers, UX researchers, marketers, and product teams to garner information through research and analysis to understand users’ needs and desires. The information gained through quantitative and qualitative research is applied to increase user-end experience.

What’s the difference between UI and UX?

Fundamentally, a UI consists of all the components that enable a user’s interaction with a product or service. Conversely, a UX is what the user interacting with that same product or service retains from the entire experience.

Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen summed it up perfectly when they said:

It’s important to distinguish the total user experience (UX) from the user interface (UI), even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. As an example, consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.

Don Norman

As per usual, experts take diverse views on the subject. Below are just a few from some accomplished people from the tech industry:

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

Craig Morrison

Craig Morrison – Head of Product

“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.”


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

Jason Ogle

 Jason Ogle – UX Designer

“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 super guests at the end of every User Defenders podcast episode: Keep fighting on, creating great UX for other humans!”

“Whether that requires a UI or not.”


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

Chinwe Obi – UX Researcher

“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 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.”

“To continue with the online food order example, UI would focus on the visual design of the screens a user interacts with, such as which color to make the order button and where to place it on the page. This can also include any interfaces a user might come in contact with in-store.”


We read and learned about the amount of thought, research, and work that goes into UI’s and UX’s. Therefore, we can better appreciate the task at hand right now. The effort exerted to ensure the UI and UX excellence helps set the stage for Compumatrix to be recognized as the exceptional corporation we know! We will all be proud that we are members and will not hesitate to share our company with others.

About the author

Gail holds one of the most challenging role in the Compumatrix Leadership: Membership. She ensures that that members and potential members enjoy the benefits of being part of the Compumatrix community.

Comments

  1. good info and intriguing actually because of the way so many things or terms are often interchanged with others when in all actuality there is major differences and because of that difference so much can be construed as misunderstood — thank you Gail for a great read —

    1. i had to come back read this posting again after reading Gails posting on social trading — and putting all these pieces into a thought process is very expansive in the thought process — its like UI leads to the whole UX and then that experience is part of the social trading and literally copy trading aspects also — alot to grasp on this labor day Experience lol — thank you Gail great stuff really is —

  2. Gail really liked your blog. I will apply Peter Moreville’s 7 pillars to my event business! And I’m happy to know that Compumatrix is ​​taking care of both UX and UI, so that in the near future we can immerse ourselves in our work and be very successful with everything to come!

  3. i had to come back read this posting again after reading Gails posting on social trading — and putting all these pieces into a thought process is very expansive in the thought process — its like UI leads to the whole UX and then that experience is part of the social trading and literally copy trading aspects also — alot to grasp on this labor day Experience lol — thank you Gail great stuff really is —

  4. Sometimes (heck lots of times) my incompetence with UI leaves me with a frustrated UX experience! However, on the other hand if my UI works first time out, then my UX is worth a celebration 🙂 This would be a very interesting job – enabling the customer to have a great and productive experience design or customer experience.

  5. Gail, I had to reread it again to get the juice out of every wording, the explanation, definitions have made all this simple and easy to understand, everyone reading will flow and get all the background info of what is to come and happening on our side.

  6. Gail, when I first looked at the image in your blog, my first thought was that is like most people and the image on the right is all the people of Compumatrix. When I came to the second image, my mind said, that is Compumatrix. As I read to ChenweObi-UX Researcher, my thought was she is describing what Compumatrix has done and is doing and will continue to do. Yes, this is Compumatrix Networks International.

  7. Thanks for this great explanation. These terms are both new to me but it completely is understandable. While reading this blog, I can think of a website I order school books from each year for my kids. Its so unbelievably un-user friendly that last year a took the time to send a very detailed comment to the company. If I could have purchased from Amazon I would have!! The UX was not user friendly and I delay the purchase of these books every year because of my experience. It has actually gotten better but still needs improvement.

  8. Nice to have this all explained to us while we are on pins and needles all waiting for the UI to get the ball rolling in the CDAP. I was fascinated when the first laptop computers came out and I could not believe that you could simply put your mouse over on top of something, click a button and it would cause an amazing reaction to the page and everything in the computer. We have some a long way huh ?

  9. When we really think about the details of everything that goes into an online business, it’s mind boggling! And we are so blessed in this company to be associated with the BEST in the field. Thank you for explaining the difference between UI & UX, Gail. Another great tool for the Sophye School of Crypto 🙂

  10. UI is the Bridge that gets us where we want to go; UX is the feeling we get when we arrive ! That statement is
    the “Aha moment” of enlightenment when reading this Blog…I understood very well what the Author was referring to
    but couldn’t find the words to verify my insight.Looking forward to participate in Compumatrix UI and UX

  11. As usual Gail, you bring to us new and valuable information we need to recognize as business owners in the digital world, which exclusively for many of us is Compumatrix.
    This was a very understandable lesson in the difference between UI and UX. Most of us experience both of these in everyday life without even recognizing that we are doing it.

  12. UI I have learnt stands for user interface which is the input matrix that allows us to use a digital machine such as a computer or cellphone. It make it possible for use to interact with the machine to get it to do what we want it to do. UX, is what we feel as a result of using the machine. God user interefaces tend to result in good user experiences and vice versa.

  13. Gail, thank you once again, i had to reread again and again, im learning a lot in this and understanding some terms that looked very confusing at first, the tech world we are in is becoming much easier to navigate through.

  14. I like this article because it is very informative. Before this I had never even heard of UI or UX. I think it is important to recognize the differences between the two. Also, how both UI and UX have cons to them. I think UI and UX go together and without one you would not have the other.

  15. Thank you for explaining the difference and similarity with UI and UX. It seems like a gray area with UI and UX and your blog was excellent with references from professionals explaining the subtle differences. I appreciate the feeling of the UX, going deeper into the feeling and what we are not aware of like the bridge example.

  16. There is another word I like to hear when it comes to UI and it is user friendly and I think our new CDAP will be just that! So therefore the UX should be 5 star on our site. I have been to many websites and the worse I have experienced is some of the government sites to crammed up with way to many links and buttons. Very informative blog thank you.

  17. I’m with Andrea, I think the best definition and explanation is the one about the UI being the bridge and the UX the feeling you get when you arrive. I think Compumatrix is the UI and our success will be the UX. Can you imagine how we will feel when that success is finally realized? I Can!!

  18. Well once again a great post.Explanations put forth and examples given are great.As folks have commented the UI is the bridge and UX the destination .The administration ow going ahead with the UI integration becomes more understandable as to the need as well as time taken to implement the system for smooth sailing when it gets going.

  19. just was reading couple older posts about history of family and the changes evolving everyday and that brings me here to this great blog posting and the understanding now of UI and UX and reading replies — I like the comparisons made and how a few are understanding in older terms — like that analogy — thank you very much

  20. UI/UX is actually everywhere in our world. Take the shape of the handle on your coffee mug. If it’s small and doesn’t fit your fingers comfortably or makes drinking hot liquid from the cup unstable and you spill it in your lap, you’re probably going to leave that mug in the back of the cupboard and reach for your old favorite. The design of the mug or its UI made for a bad UX – hot coffee in your lap! My fine arts degree is in UX design so I sometimes use everyday examples to help people understand what it is I do – it also helps to keep their eyes from glazing over. 🙂

    Another interesting topic is the ethics of UI/UX. As a UX website designer I may have the ability to entice you or make you feel like you need to buy something, but should I? A popular example is how complicated it is to unsubscribe from newsletters etc.

    This was an excellent article to help us understand what’s being worked on in the CDAP and will give us all a better appreciation of everything that goes into a complicated interface.

  21. After reading your blog, I sat down and thought about the two words User experience and User Interface. I know that User experience is what we get by working in Compumatrix for example, while User Interface is what the developers, web designers and Software developers do to simplify use. I am very much looking forward to the opening of CDAP and their work.

  22. After “reading” this blog, I have to say how remarkable it is to get to the point that you can take this information and at the end of the story people like me can actually login to the CDAP and use it in a manner that even I can understand. It seems that the work our programmers do make it possible to have this easy to use User Interface which translates into our User Experience. Maybe my explanation is incorrect but it still makes sense to me.

  23. As far as i understand,both UI and UX are very compatible in product,user experience and user interface, how we see things in the UI and and how things work in UX, UX is a process and UI is deliverable,these two systems interact together,UX plans to create and UI design it.The UI and UX are very well applied in compumatrix, yes we are very proud to introduce others.

  24. agree with the thought from Zahra there is so much to learn — some moments I wonder if I have the ?? to actually grasp it all ?? but am very much now after a fifth read –and reading so much here in blog area — UI is understandable especially after thinking back 25+ years and remembering my first computer screen and interface — and now I also know if I can’t have good Usable experience not just computers but life — then I work at finding pros to get me where i am going — so my UX is a great Experience n a Successful Experience — great stuff Gail — rj

  25. A good interface would help computer tasks to become easier to understand and would help to reduce the risk of errors, and the apply the knowledge towards understanding newer tasks.

  26. What I am concerned about is if the GUI goes bad or has some sort of technical difficulty can that particular portion of it have to be replaced, or does a whole other unit have to be bought. The GUI does make life simpler, however.

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