If you’re in the world of digital commerce or to be honest delivering anything via the medium of digital, you’ve no doubt heard these 3 terms before. These are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different people.

The news here is that they aren’t but when you look at things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work with these things every day, it’s easy to see how people get confused with terminologies that have similar meanings yet are fundamentally different.

So, were here to clear up any confusion. We’ll explain these terms individually and show up how they are related.

 

CX or Customer Experience

We’ve talked about Customer experience before in some detail, but we’ll give a quick overview here for context.

Customer experience (CX) is closely linked to user experience (UX), but there is a difference. Unlike UX which focuses solely on a customer’s satisfaction with a product or service, CX is centred on the customer’s entire experience. Think of it as a large circle that wraps itself around UX.

It is fundamental to user experiences in different places and at different times. A consumer can have a bunch of different experiences with the same brand. CX is a combination of all these, across all channels where you as a brand engage with your customers.

Because customer experience covers all these different user experiences, it doesn’t just concern your online channels, but in-store ones as well. Great brands often go the extra mile to establish a good CX, aligning different channels such as social media and customer service.

A thing to note here, as we mentioned in a previous blog, customer experience is not customer service. Customer service is a user experience that falls into the customer experience circle.

 

UX or User Experience

The term user experience has an interesting history.

It first appeared when Donald Norman, the acclaimed UX design expert wrote about it in his book, The Design of Everyday Things. It was first published in 1988 and marked a shift from the previous term “user-centred system design” where instead of focusing on the system itself and the aesthetics of the interface, Norman concentrated on the needs of the user.

It wasn’t until the early 90s when Norman joined Apple Computer first as a fellow, and then as a “user experience architect” that the term made its way into a job title.

According to Donald Norman “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Looking at that definition it doesn’t make mention of tech or the internet. It’s not surprising really because the world wasn’t so digitised back when it was defined. While in the original sense of the definition UX could include any engagement of prospects and customers with a brand, its definition has become strictly digital. It is pretty clear to now see how the confusion between UX and CX can come about.

If we take it to the brass tacks, user experience (UX) at its core has the purpose of optimising a product or service to the total satisfaction of the customer. It achieves this goal by enhancing the usability, accessibility, and enjoyment of whatever is being offered.

UX should create a smooth journey for customers. This journey will encompass your customers visiting your website, browsing around, selecting a product, and navigating to the checkout. But it doesn’t end there. It also covers the confirmation of the order, delivery, and customer services. Again, when you look at this you can see how the confusion with CX can happen.

Fundamentally, UX is what helps users accomplish their goals and solve a particular problem they might have.

 

UI or User Interface but also User Interaction

We’re going to need you to stay with us a little here as we’re about to go down a bit of a rabbit hole.

When you look up UI, you may be faced with either user interface or user interaction as the answer. They are not the same thing, but they’re very very closely related. Essentially you can’t have one without the other, but you can alter one without having to touch the other.

User interface design focuses on the design of the visual interface, user interaction design focuses on the design of the global interaction behaviour of the system.

To add in a further complication some people have started to refer to user interaction as interaction design or IxD. Either way, we will explain what they both are and how they link right now, and we’ll attempt to simplify it as much as possible.

 

Let’s start with User Interaction

As the name suggests, it is concerned with how a user interacts with something. As an example, if you look at a website or an app the user interaction would be things like deciding if the user should swipe, tap, press, or maybe even hold to achieve an outcome.

Think Tinder with the interaction of swiping left, right or up. The user interaction or interaction design here was about being able to achieve a result, quickly and easily without the need to find the button on the screen. At this point, it is not about what it looks like but how the person is going to do what needs to be done to achieve a goal.

 

Now Let’s talk User Interface

This is where the visual aspect comes into play. You may have designed a great interaction but if the design of information on screen does not lend itself to the interaction that has been designed, you’re going to be delivering a poor user experience.

The UI should be putting the relevant information in a place that makes sense and is easy to read and understand. It should be making sure it is accessible and that colours and fonts are not creating issues for users making it unusable.

It’s about layout, imagery and animations coming together in a coherent design formula that when supported with intuitive user interaction make for an exceptional user experience.

If we go back to Tinder as the example, the user interface of having the large image front and centre with the information you need to make a quick decision on the front page make the interaction of swiping left, right or up easy.

The addition of tab indicators across the top of the picture let people know there are more pictures to see and that tapping on the left or right of the image moves the user onto the next.

Without that piece of user interface design, the interaction is dead. There would be nothing to tell a user that the tap is the key to more information. And at the same time, they have added a small icon to indicated that there is other information hidden within the profile.

Giving it a tap opens it up but if the icon was not there and you were a first-time user, you may completely miss that interaction or possibly stumble upon it by accident.

 

Bringing it all together

Hopefully, we’ve managed to offer a clear explanation of each of the elements and how they link together. It is easy to see how they can be confused but when you understand that they all need to coexist in harmony and that they all hold an equal weight of importance you’re able to harness them and create truly special things for your customers.

Just remember that UI is a part of UX, which is a part of CX. All of these are dependent on one another, and you can create an engaging experience when they’re in sync.

Exceptional customer experience needs exceptional user experiences, which requires an exceptional user interface and interactions.

And at Eclipse, this is exactly what we do. We make good things happen by putting data and your customers at the heart of every strategy, design, and experience decision to create more personalised experiences that make a genuine difference.

If you need a hand with any of these elements, we’re here to help. Just reach out to our Experience team and we can get to creating exceptional experiences together.