The difference between user interface and user experience designer


I just read a blog about what differs between user interface and user experience design. Designers keep writing about it. For me a signal that there is much uncertainty about its definition. This uncertainty and their given definitions surprise me.

A summary of the blogs I read: a UX designer designs the complete experience, a UI designer designs the components a user may encounter. But that doesn’t make sense. Starting with the usability of a user interface. A user interface designer will focus on these criteria:

  1. Efficiency: How fast can the user reach his goal?
  2. Effectiveness: To what extent does the goal of the website and the goal of the user correspond?
  3. Satisfaction: How pleasant was the user interface?

What about the whole experience? The experience from the beginning until the end, including the user’s memory of a service. In that case, you also have to consider things like: What is the tone of voice from the help desk?, How does the organization deal with returns?, and so many other things.

We need to design the total experience, the big picture. And there it is: the user experience designer has been born. But how do you design an experience?

Strictly speaking, the user determines, in conjunction with your service, the experience. You cannot possibly keep these countless situations under control, even if you would have all possible means. Also, the use case you focus on, has a multitude of versions. Designing the experience is, strictly speaking, impossible. And that is okay. You do not want to impose an experience and forcing users into a straitjacket. This will lead to the opposite of what you wanted to accomplish.

Okay, if we keep the behavior from the user out of scope. In that case, can you design an experience?

This means the UX designer need to have complete control over the strategy, concept, design and development process. That is impossible. Even a simple product or service can quickly become complex and requires many disciplines to bring it to the market. Each discipline influences the experience in its own way. It is absurd and arrogant to think that only one discipline can control all variables. Is the UX designer going to develop the back-end? The back-end has a big impact on the experience. Is the UX-designer an all-rounder? A prescription for superficial products and services?

The UX designer does not exist. Only as a team you can create a product and an experience. Either call everyone or no one a user experience designer. Either way, the job description itself has no meaning at all.

I believe the term UX designer was born out of uncertainty about the role of a new type of designer who covers several disciplines within an organization. Current organizational structures demand a job description. And old thinking pattern. It is foolish to force different roles into one job description. Accept that someone can have different roles. That is why I find Holacracy so elegant. It is not based on fixed job descriptions, it is based on a combination of unrelated or related roles per person.

Back to UI design. Many examples that attempt to show the difference between user interface and user experience design are actually examples of better user interfaces that ultimately affect the experience.

If you need to call Barclays you can do so via the app. This allows you to skip the authentication over the phone because you did that when you logged into the app. This is a great example of outstanding user experience design. I am sure getting the telephone system and mobile application to talk to one another was not easy. Yet no doubt it saves hundreds of users hassle everyday.

Paul Boag, 2015, User experience design is not what you think.

A perfect example of a much more efficient user interface. Fewer steps are required and thereby a better experience.

The process and the composition of the team have the biggest impact on the experience. Not an individual.

Image : abDevLabs
Source : Bart van de Biezen