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UI/UX Explained and What It Means for You

March 18 2013

200px ipad confusedWhile UI and UX may sound like fancy new age acronyms, their relevance actually dates back to the Renaissance!

UI stands for User Interface, while UX refers to User Experience. Both terms refer to the ways in which we, as humans, interact with machines. Just like machines have progressed from the wheel and axle to automobiles and to supercomputers, our terminology for the human interaction with them has also advanced.

As a busy agent, UI and UX are probably not terms prevalent in your day-to-day vocabulary. However, their meanings are 100% relevant to the technology products you consume. When shopping for a new technology based tool, a basic understanding of UI and UX will make you a smarter tech consumer, personally and professionally.

User Interface

UI refers to the space in which we interact with machines. It's the interface between our physical bodies and our computers, tablets and cell phones. UI represents the laying of our hands on a keyboard or the picking up of a device and touching the screen. It's easier to understand the concept of UI in the physical space, meaning your actual hands touching the machine. However, the concept of UI is equally relevant in the digital space. This means that your CRM, CMA, and email marketing programs all have a user interface. Every click, scroll, drag and swipe are elements of the program's UI.

From a creation standpoint, great UIs are approached from a "less is more" mentality. What can be taken away from this interface, yet still allow the program to be functional and intuitive? Needless to say, UI shapes the UX.

User Experience

UX refers to the emotions associated with using a product, service, or system. In the physical world, this is the excitement and joy experienced when using an ergonomically designed keyboard, or what you felt the first time you used a touch screen.

In software, the UX means the same thing--how you feel after using that piece of software. A positive UX is paralleled by feelings of comfort, excitement, and productivity; the emotions that bring you back to use the product time and time again.

The user experience provides a tremendous amount of information to program creators. For example, how likely are you to remain a customer of a web-based software product if you're left feeling frustrated, like you've wasted time, and or did not accomplish your end goal? Not very likely. Progressive software products understand this principle and spend a great deal of time strategizing, assessing and continually re-assessing how a user experiences their product.

Ideally, your software products should have a streamlined UI and yield a positive user experience. While UI is presented consistently to every user, the UX is unique to every user. Your emotional impression of a piece of software may be different than your office mate's, so there's some room for interpretation on UX.

Again, you'll probably never have to explain UI or UX to your clients, but this basic understanding empowers you to consume technology wisely. Choose products that function intuitively to you and help accomplish your goals easily and efficiently. When your time is in such high demand, don't let a complicated web program take up more than necessary when, chances are, there's a well-designed alternative on the market.

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