What’s the difference between UI and UX?

A.D.D. Version

This is UI.

This is UX.

Any questions?

Non A.D.D. Version

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 where we want to go. UX is the feeling we get along the way and after we arrive.

When the bridge is well-built, we have a better chance of safe/pleasurable arrival. If it’s not well-built and we use a 💩 grappling hook and rope set, we have a far greater chance of plummeting to our death like Sylvester Stallone’s girl-friend in the opening moments of “Cliffhanger” (talk about bad UX!).

It’s possible to have a good user experience without a user interface.

I had a wonderful UX at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse last week with my beautiful wife to celebrate 19 years of marriage.

But that didn’t require an interface, unless you consider a $62 cowboy ribeye an interface (I’m open to this…it does go in-your-face!).

The UX was being with someone I love (oxytocin receptors), in a wonderful, romantic setting and no kids (serotonin receptors), with some amazing comfort food (dopamine receptors).

You can have a good (or bad) UX without a UI, but if your users’ end-goal requires a UI, it had better be a good one (a.k.a. well-researched/tested) in order to create a good experience for your users.

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.

This article was originally published on UserTesting Blog on October 17, 2018

Follow me on Twitter for ramblings about bad design, contrarian design issues, William Shatner lyrics, and other occasional randomness like when Patrick Swayze played that motivational speaker in Donnie Darko.

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Articles that fight for the users. A companion to the podcast at userdefenders.com

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Jason Ogle

Jason Ogle

Host of @UserDefenders podcast. Human. Designer. Story-Catcher. Deep-Diver. Husband + Father x 7. Has a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.