UX is not UI – The Differences Revealed

I’m about to say something that’s going to throw you, given how much time I’ve spent interchanging UX and UI in a lot of contexts in recent times. But, I’m going somewhere with this if you bear with me. UX is not UI. Oh, they are closely related, but they’re not mutually exclusively the same things. They coexist and cannot exist without one another, but by themselves, they have different meanings.


Having explored this fact that UX is not UI, your next expectation is going to be for me to retract my use of these two nigh interchangeably, but I don’t plan on doing this, because in the way I did it, I wasn’t wrong. That will explain itself as I explain how they are different and yet part of a single whole today.

More people are familiar with UI, or user interface, which consists of the visual controls and forms and  which represents output from the computer and facilitates input from the user through interaction. GUI, or graphical user interface, is the more commonly associated term. Websites, command terminals and game menus are also UI, and serve the same purposes. They are not, in and of themselves, UX, or user experience.

UI is the physical mechanics that allow users to interact with software in a usually visual manner. This doesn’t make it UX, but it makes it the biggest component of UX.
UX is basically every aspect of a user’s interaction with a service. This includes their perception of the service as an identity, brand and perception of the company. It includes how they react and think during any part of any process they perform through the service, and of course, it includes the user interface, which in its very critical role, greatly shapes the other things UX is made of to be what they are in the end.

Studying UI will give you great insight into one aspect of positive UX, and one of the bigger, more critical ones. However, it is insufficient for becoming truly UX proficient and seasoned. In the same vein, studying UX will give you a lot of UI insight due to its inclusion, but will provide it in a more managerial aspect, not suitable for professional UI design learning in most cases.
They are distinctly different things with different definitions, but one cannot exist if it does not contain the other, that being UX containing UI. They are forever intertwined and inseparable. Associating UI and UX as closely as I and many other writers do is not wrong, as long as we don’t try to pass UX off as just being UI. Since UI is such a big part of UX, it’s going to be one of the bigger focuses of the topic, naturally.

UX is not UI, but if you fail at UI, you will fail at UX. If you do not have a sense of UX, you will fail at empathically designing your UI as well. At that point, it’s best to just commit to some design study, and master UI in itself, and master the other facets of UX as well. They’re useful skills so why not?