In trying to understand what these terms mean, one of the main challenges is that there aren’t actually any official definitions. If you Google the terms, you’ll find a variety of definitions proposed by hosts of experts.
While I’m certainly not the ultimate authority on these subjects, I have spent two decades consulting with many different brands on digital commerce, and therefore I’ve tried to explain my definitions of UX, UI, and CX within this article.
UX vs UI vs CX
In trying to consider each of these terms, it can help to visualise them as concentric circles, starting with UI in the centre and working outwards into UX, then finally into CX.
This visualization defines UI as a subset of UX which, itself, is a subset of CX. They are definitely different things, but are very closely related to, and have a dependence on, one another.
UI is part of UX is part of CX
UI, UX and CX are very different to one another, but are intrinsically linked and wholly dependent on one another.
A customer experience is the sum of all touchpoints and user experiences that a customer has with a brand. User experiences are contained within a single channel, so most brands will provide customers with multiple user experiences.
A UI is simply the interface with which the user will interact with a brand at a particular point of a journey. Most user experiences will involve multiple user interfaces and a customer experience will be made up of all touchpoints and user experiences across all channels.
In summary, when it comes to UX vs UI, you can’t have a good CX without a good UX, and you can’t have a good UX without a good UI.