For many people, today’s alphabet soup of techno-acronyms is a frustrating puzzle that hides both the meaning and, more significantly, the importance of the terms they represent. The acronyms “UX” and “UI,” for example, both refer to “users,” but each refers to different aspects of the user as they participate with the software. To ensure that the design of your technology enhances the values embodied in both its “UX” and “UI” characteristics, you need to understand the nuances of exactly what each term means.
Why UX and UI are different – and equally important
Sometimes, the confusion created by technology acronyms causes errors in how people think about their tech, which can also limit how they use and benefit from it. One reason why acronyms create such confusion is that there are so many of them. A quick Wiki search for ‘technology acronyms’ brought up 29 million page results and the top-ranked page listed a chart with 120 rows each filled with metadata related to specific, tech-related acronyms. (Notably, in the “U” section, neither “user experience” (UX) nor “user interface” (UI) is included, despite those being, perhaps the most important acronyms in use for businesses today.) No wonder most business people don’t go out of their way to develop a deep tech-acronym vocabulary if they don’t need one.
However, in the case of UX and UI, understanding the meaning and importance of each is critical to the proper use and deployment of them both:
In general, the acronym means what it says: in the digital realm, UX defines how a user – U – experiences – X – engaging with a particular digital asset, be it a website, mobile application, communications tool or another technology system. And by ‘experience,’ the technocrats are referring to any element of the human experience that is touched or influenced by its engagement with its environment, in this case, its digital environment.
So ‘UX’ encompasses a wide scope of tech design that should flex depending on the user’s expectations of it and its content. Further, the type of technology often suggests the optimal experience of it.
- The concept of a ‘User’s Expectation’ should be the actual driver of your site’s UX design. Why is the consumer coming to your site in the first place? What is this consumer looking for and what do they expect to find? Addressing those questions first will help guide you through the development of your site so it responds to those exact concerns.
And when developing that responsive design, you need to determine some answers of your own: What is it that you offer that you want them to see? And what do you want them to do once they find it? To program your site appropriately, you’ll need to rely on the data that optimizes your ability to respond to your customers.
- The type of content affects the UX, as well.
- Appropriate visual programming, for example, should provide enough detail to display its topic and content in a way that also pleases or informs the viewer (user). Many studies have confirmed that visuals that are too bright, too dim, or that have too large or too small fonts are all off-putting to most viewers. That initial discomforting impression is often all the reason the consumer needs to bounce off the page and over to that of a competitor.
- Having the proper content is also critical. To enhance the UX for visitors to your website, you should be posting relevant and current data that responds to your user’s need at the time; it also helps to offer them related goods and services or to suggest alternatives that perhaps they’d not yet considered.
Your organization will attract and engage better with your potential customers when your technology embraces these fundamental concepts of UX and optimizes how your users experience your digital presence.
“User Interface” design also refers to how users experience a digital asset but focuses more on the actual programming that facilitates the experience, including the screens, keyboards, mouse movements, etc., that show up on the website or app. While different from UX, UI plays an equally critical role in the success of a site or an application because it makes (or should make) it easier for the consumer to actually use the technology tool.
Take a sales site, for example. To delight the consumer (and thereby enhance their UX), the site would:
- present product options specifically tailored to match the user’s query;
- make it easy for the shopper to select the items they want to purchase;
- shift seamlessly into and move through the purchasing stage, including payment and delivery functions, and
- present the buyer with a receipt and delivery details.
Each of those steps requires a series of actions on the parts of both the consumer and the system (when the consumer clicks on a product option, for example, the system responds with more detailed information about that product), and each of those actions is an interface between the user and the system. Making each interface object easy to find and use will facilitate the user’s ability to achieve their goal for searching the site, which is also the ultimate goal for the enterprise.
Ergo, designing user interfaces to smoothly and satisfactorily move the user through their engagement with the asset is the goal of digital system designers who focus on UI as opposed to UX. Considering how quickly the digital universe turns these days, you’ll have all you need to succeed if all you learn about technology acronyms is the distinction between high-quality UX and UI designs.