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Customer Experience and Design

User Experience vs. User Interface: The Risks of Confusion

Are light switches only for turning lights on? Does a chef only cook with salt? With the exception of NASCAR, do drivers only make left-hand turns?
Recently, it’s become fashionable for some people outside of user experience (UX) to boil down all of UX to “UI/UX.” Stakeholders are heard saying “Oh yeah, we’ll have our UI/UX team look at it.” It’s catchy, but misunderstanding the difference between user experience and user interface (UI) comes with some big risks.
Using the popular catchphrase “UI/UX” risks educating stakeholders that UX is only about user interfaces. Depending on the stakeholder’s maturity with the practice of UX, they might think UX is UI. What if you thought yoga was only the downward dog position? Hopefully, I’ve already made my point so let’s have some fun with it:

  • Skating/falling
  • Nurses/needles
  • Teachers/grades
  • Dog/bites
  • IRS/taxes

Except for that last one, all of those first categories are a lot more than the single attribute listed after it.
The field of UX is comprised of a multitude of sub-areas, like analytics, strategy, architecture, usability, and research (just to name a few). UX can provide insight from a wide range of data from qualitative to quantitative. From formative insights during development to summative insights at the end of a project. If UX is branded just to be “UI,” stakeholders are less likely to support a balanced and mature UX involvement with their projects. They have been taught to think “UI/UX.”
What if we were to say “stakeholder/spreadsheet.” Stakeholders are far more than just a spreadsheet. But if all we constantly hear is “stakeholder/spreadsheet” we begin to lose sight of how much stakeholders have to offer. We hear stakeholder; we think spreadsheet. An exceptional stakeholder understands the big picture. One that includes vision, discernment, and team motivation. For this reason, we want stakeholders to understand the difference between user experience and user interface practices.
An exceptional UX practice provides:

  • Confirmation of user goals
  • Practical insights with user needs
  • The ability to build confidence that the process is on track for success
  • Post launch confirmation that expectations were met

If we must boil UX down to any one thing, how about “UX/ROI?” Because at the end of the day, a successful UX program is about return on investment. Happy, satisfied users vote with their wallets and stakeholders can measure that kind of ROI. Let’s promote and sell the entire UX store. Your Perficient Digital UX team can help you to do just that.

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