UI vs UX: What’s the Difference for Users, Anyway?

UI vs UX
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Do you get confused or defensive when people use UI or UX in a sentence where you think it doesn’t belong? You’re not alone.

These two acronyms are likely some of the most misunderstood and misused terms in the website design/development arena. It’s unfortunate given how important these terms are to your business and your customers.

Without a focus on each in its proper place and time, any project that relies on the satisfaction of end users will fall flat.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on the true difference in UI vs UX. We’ll talk about why this difference matters. And we’ll journey together as we explore how UI and UX work together to create the right experience for your customers.

It’s All Semantics, Right?

Before we get into the thick of it, let’s look at why we actually care about a UI vs UX difference. If people really use them that interchangeably, does it really matter?


The difference matters because you can have a great UI with a poor UX or a great UX lacking only in the area of UI. Whether you’re building a website or creating apps, you need both in order to generate a usable end product.

For this article, we’ll focus on your website UI and UX because for most businesses the website is where these two are so important. But this can be applied across any software that may be associated with your business.

What Is UX?

UX stands for user experience. It’s the manner in which a user perceives your site.

Does your website evoke emotion? Is it easy to use? Do they like your layout? Do they feel connected to your brand? Do they understand what you’re all about? Would they share your website with others?

Some would argue that the above describes CX (customer experience) rather than UX. But we’ll take on one controversy at a time — thank you very much.

Why Is UX Important?

UX is important because if you’re not generating a “good feeling” about your website, visitors have no reason to stay. If they have no reason to stay, you just lost an opportunity to convert a visitor into a customer.

Let’s look at some examples.

How quickly do you flee a webpage filled with typos? We’re not talking about 1 or 2. That can actually make a business seem more approachable. We’re talking about a scenario in which each new paragraph becomes a game of “where’s the typo”?

It gives you a bad taste in your mouth. It looks like the website owner doesn’t care about quality content. On a more technical level, it may be hard to read. This website is giving you an impression about the owner by providing a poor UX.

If your website is this bad, why would they buy anything you’re selling?

What about the inverse? You visit a website that has images that evoke a happy feeling. You really like the colors. You recognize the brand as a trusted source for whatever they’re selling. Maybe you feel connected to this brand because you follow them on Twitter.

You like this website. You stay on it longer because it makes you feel like they value you as a customer and can relate to you as a person.

This is UX.

What Is UI?

UI or user interface, on the other hand, involves the tools that you put in place that allow a user to interact with your website.

This would include things like:

  • Buttons
  • Fields
  • Radio buttons
  • Bread crumbs
  • Tags

Why Is UI Important?

When someone enters your website, you don’t want them to just be there. You want them to do things on the site, navigate from page to page, maybe click on an offer or send you their email.

These are all part of the interaction with your site. In the digital marketing world, we’d call these micro-conversions. Regardless of size, they’re important.

Each interaction a user (customer) has with you through an interface, the more psychologically invested they become in your website.

They become more comfortable with your navigation systems. They begin to trust you. They start feeling that they’ve come this far in filling out fields. They might as well keep going.

These microscopic micro-conversions lead to something much greater as we’ll discuss next.

How the Two Work Together

You may have guessed it already. UI is actually an important part of the overall user experience. When you have a solid user interface in place, it affects the way users perceive your website and your brand

It’s not UI vs UX or UX vs UI. It’s UI working together with UX, and as an integral part of UX, to provide an overall experience.

You could have an amazing UI and no one cares because there’s no UX. Or you could destroy the connection that people feel to the experience you provide by providing a poor user interface.

What UX Without UI Looks Like?

Let’s look at two examples from well-known and respected companies. In each of these cases, they had an established and expected user experience. But when UI disasters strike, they can derail even the most solid UX.


Scottrade has positioned itself as a leading online stock trading platform. It allows individual traders to kick out the middle man, the broker, and trade shares directly online.

Their website and brand foster trust and loyalty.

Then Scottrade releases their digital app (which has since been fixed BTW). The app looked like the website and brand that people knew. Their loyal customers expected it to be well-made and dependable as they knew the brand to be.

They had certain feelings about it based upon their overall user experience with the website and company.

But the app was a UI disaster. It was difficult to navigate. It was hard to read on mobile devices. It looked great as a whole — just like the website. But the function just wasn’t there. The beating on social media and the onslaught of bad reviews ensued. UX couldn’t save them because UI didn’t come through for them.

And their user experience suffered because without the right user interface, the overall UX is also poorly perceived.

But no hard feelings, Scottrade. You listened to your customers and fixed the issues. That’s what companies should do.


Apple? You may have heard of them.

After their big comeback with the introduction of some of the first and best smart phones roughly 10 years ago, they developed a reputation of UX and UI.

In fact, Steve Jobs  famously said:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

But then came Apple Maps, a product that just wasn’t ready to see the light of day. It just didn’t work. And because it didn’t work, the endless lines of Apple loyalists cried out against the brand for letting this UI disaster happen.

Some of them demanded fixes. Other wanted their money back. Others wanted Apple to integrate its bitter rival, Google Maps until a real fix could be implemented.

The user experience was bad because the user interface didn’t work as it should.

These companies show that you can’t have a great UX without a strong UI. But what about the opposite?

What UI Without UX Looks Like?

UI without UX would be a website that works great. It’s easy to navigate. It loads quickly. It even has lots of great buttons and such to click on. The website designers put a lot of time and energy into the functionality of the site.

But it evokes no feelings of connection for one reason or another. It seems cold and unrelatable. The branding is inconsistent across the site. The content seems to be written for search engines, not people.

This website isn’t generating any traffic because they’re not building any kind of user experience.

So again, it’s not UI vs UX. It’s both working together to meet your business objectives and goals.

What UI vs UX Means for Your Design Teams

In UI vs UX, user experience is the overarching vision for your website. It’s your style guide and brand experience. It’s, therefore, a broad and sweeping look at everything as a whole.

Your UX designer(s) needs to be big picture thinkers who understand how every component of the user experience interconnects.

They create the framework in which all other components fall into place. That is in no way a diminutive of UI.

In the battle of UI vs UX, user interface is the minute details that make the UX amazing by having a UI that works.

Your UI designer(s) needs to be highly technically-skilled and detail-oriented. They need to have a basic understanding of the big picture in which their designs fit. But they should be able to narrow their vision as needed to hyper-focus their energy on the interface.

They must not only understand how to create an interface for the end user. To qualify as great UI, the user must be able to interact with this interface in a seamless way.

That leads us into what UI vs UX or UI + UX or UI within UX — whichever way you want to look at it — means for your customers.

What UI vs UX Means for Your Customers

When you put an emphasis on customer/user experience, customers recognize that you’re doing it. It says a lot about your values.

Sure, you want to make money. Who doesn’t? But you don’t think of your customers as sheep who will just blindly follow you regardless of what you do or how you treat them.

While your organization values the efforts of its founders, leaders and frontline employees to build its brand, you understand that without the customer, there is no company.

For customers, this means a smoother, almost second nature, interaction with your brand.

Through this UI vs UX, that isn’t really a versus at all, they feel a great connection to your brand. The way everything on your page works flawlessly simply becomes what they expect from you.

56% of consumers feel more loyal to companies who “get them”. When you’re providing the right experience, customers feel you do just that.

What UI vs UX Means for Your Business

72% of businesses say improving user experience is their top priority and yet too few could really explain UI vs UX. But now you can. And you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Customer Loyalty & Promotion Because of UI Vs UX

Loyal customers will spend 67% more than those who aren’t. You need loyal customers to efficiently run your business.

On top of this, customers who feel that they’re getting an amazing experience want to share that experience with others — friends and strangers. They do this by:

  • Writing great reviews
  • Sharing your blogs, posts, videos on social
  • Recommending you to friends who continue the cycle of free promotion.

Improved Search Ranking (SERPs) Because of UI vs UX

Having a great UX and UI helps your SEO ranking. Because more people are staying on your site and interacting with your site, search engines like Google see you as a higher authority website.

UI and UX are really what SEO is all about.

Better Business on All Sides Because of UI vs UX

Having a clear understanding of UI vs UX and how they work together to create an overall phenomenal user experience helps businesses thrive from all sides.

  • Gain more traffic through SEO
  • Generate more qualified leads
  • Convert leads into customers
  • Turn customers in loyal ones
  • Turn loyal ones into promoters
  • And on and on

These user activities turn into real revenues for your company as well as reduced costs for customer acquisition and retention. Everything simply works in your favor when you’re providing the right experience.

Taking UI vs UX to the Next Level

Understanding is the first step. Then planning, implementing, measuring and adapting your strategies. It doesn’t have to be UI vs UX when you understand how they work together in perfect harmony.

To learn more about how we can help you develop the right user experience for your customers, start by requesting a 100% free SEO report for your website.