First comes UX, then UI design - in that order

Summary:What's the difference between user experience (UX) and user interface (UI)? UX is the process, UI is the tangible stuff.

User experience (UX) -- the most important piece of application delivery -- is often misunderstood.

Photo: HubSpot

That's the view of Aaron Sanders, who states that UX often gets confused with user interface (UI). Actually, they are two distinct considerations, he notes on a recent post at InfoQ.

Sanders shares the analogy of a bowl of cereal:

"The bowl is a container for the information like a browser or server, and as shown, the spoon is the UI. The UX, on the other hand, is how all of the components come together. The cereal in the bowl, milk poured in, spoon sticking out has everything needed to enjoy a nice bowl of cereal."

UX is about navigation and strategy. It's all the business thinking that takes place at the start of the application design process. It's a "blend of all the things like visual design, interaction design, information architecture, and user research," says Sanders. The UI is the tangible end result of the process. 

UX encompasses user research, interviews and observations, "working with the team on the flow of user tasks, interactions and how the information will be put together for easiest consumption," Sanders says. Questions that should be asked during the UX process include: "What are the business, creative, or other internal goals? What does the user want to accomplish and what are their goals?"

The UX design process focuses on putting together a "a visual design and presentation layer in order to build the UI." At that stage, application designers will focus on the "treatment of graphics and text, interface and page elements, and navigational components."

Topics: Enterprise Software, Social Enterprise, Developer


Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. Joe is co-author, along with 16 leading industry leaders and thinkers, of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation. He speaks frequently on cloud, SOA, data, and... Full Bio

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