Branding July 23, 2017


These two terms are often used interchangeably making it even more difficult to grasp the two concepts. What exactly do UI and UX mean? What are their differences? The devil lies in the finer details hence lets first cover the basics. UI is an acronym which stands for user interface whereas UX stands for the user experience.

Avoiding the technical terms, think of these two in terms of a car. UI is the collection of the steering wheel, the gear, the breaks, the accelerator and the height control, they allow you to interact with your car. UX, in turn, is the car’s acceleration, stability, consumption rate and clearance, they collectively form your experience with the car. Easy, right? Let’s now dig deeper into the finer details.

UI: Meaning and evolution

User Interface (UI) is the platform through which humans interact with machines. This includes keyboards, mouse, screens and buttons among others. The primary goal of UI is to allow humans to effectively operate and control machines while allowing the machines to simultaneously give feedback that will allow the user to make decisions.

This term is widely used in web design and app and development. UI is concerned with the look and layout. This refers to the colors, buttons, animations, widget, typography and diagrams among others. Actually, UI provides the element of visual emotion and context to a wireframe through fonts, positioning, colors and sizing of the bland black text and grey boxes. UI adds life to content through pairing images and copy, setting things on a grid and fine tuning type hierarchies.


Early computers had minimal UI. Except for a few buttons, these computers mostly used punched cards as the key input method for computer programs and data. It wasn’t until 1981 when Xerox Star was launched when personal computers with graphical user interface (GUI) emerged. Xerox star used windows, radio buttons, Icons, checkboxes and drop-down menus. GUI heralded a revolution which was later furthered by Apple in 1984 when they introduced Macintosh, the first commercially successful desktop. Macintosh used multiple windows and a ‘point and click’ mouse. GUI was later standardized by Microsoft through its Windows operating system. UI continues to evolve even today. Mobile UI is clear evidence of this unending evolution.

User Experience (UX)

User Experience (UX) was coined by Don Norman during early 1990 while working at Apple as the VP of Advanced Technology Group. Norman defined UX as all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its Services, and its products. Ever since then, the term has been used so widely such that its meaning has become malleable.

By definition, UX is so broad making it hard to understand. In a bid to make the term easier to understand, Norman recently came up with key characteristics that act as the benchmark for high-quality user experience. He explained that the prerequisite for exemplary user experience is the ability to meet exact customer needs without a fuss or bother. This is followed by Simplicity and elegance.

 Differences between UI and UX

These difference between these two terms were summed up by Don Norman when he said:

“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.”

Like everything in life, different people have different versions of how different these terms are. Its, however, important to understand these two concepts, that way, their differences will emerge with ease.

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