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UI, UX & XD. What’s the difference?

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Meetings easily devolve into hot bowls of acronym soup.

Experience design vernacular is not meant to be used as smoke and mirrors around a board room table. Experience designers are meant to create meaningful relationships among people, products, services, and environments, not create more chaos.

Shared understanding expedites workflow. Let’s break down some common UX acronyms.

UI = User Interface

Simply put, a user interface is the presentation of information. User interfaces are more than digital experiences.

  • Digital Interfaces
  • Printed Media
  • Signage
  • Audio Interfaces
  • User-Interface Design is enhanced by good user experience research.
  • There are times when industry best practices and the goals of the users or the business don’t align. Great designers find the right balance.
UX = User Experience

The user emotions and experiences discovering and engaging with a service or product.

  • How does a user get there?
  • How do they feel?
  • What inconveniences will they encounter?
  • What do they need or desire?
  • What do they care about?
XD = Experience Design

Defining the touch points of a product or service and how users and external factors will access, interact with and manipulate information.

  • When and how does the user encounter the business throughout the entire customer journey?
  • What outside factors influence the experience?
  • What systems are involved?
  • What outside factors does the product or service need to take into consideration?
  • What factors will reach the sweet spot between users, technology and the business?
IA = Information Architecture

Defining and organizing information.

  • Is the information grouped in a way that makes sense to users?
  • Does the hierarchy provide obvious pathways for the user’s goals?
IXD = Interaction Design

Defining how a user will access and manipulate information.

  • Do the controls make sense?
  • Does the service or product follow best practices?
UCD = User-Centered Design

Goal-oriented lens examining user needs, wants, and constraints for products, services, and processes.

Bonus Definition: User

‘User’ is a broader term than is generally credited. They are discovering and engaging in a service or product. Examples can include:

  • Point of purchase
  • Attending an event
  • Buying a coffee
  • Eating a meal
  • And, yes. Of course, browsing a website

The next time you are in a meeting that feels like hot acronym soup, challenge yourself to be more descriptive. Let’s reiterate what we ‘think’ we know and create shared understanding.

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