UI is not UX

A quick note to reflect on user experience – that most illusive of goals. A good user experience, that is. Bad ones are falling from the skies.

When I was on the buyer side of the technology divide, a customer of the technology vendors, I was often told that the user experience of a given system was paramount. I was told that the latest release had a number of design improvements to help users use the system. What these comments invariably referred to were cosmetic design changes, often to the home page alone, of systems designed to manage a process. (I suspect that account directors could tick off an action point on their objectives for the year and move on).

The burden on the user was the same. The process and action required by the user was the same. The start point had been tidied up a little. Often w white background was introduced. Some nicer graphic and typographic touches and some layouts to make it look modern. This is the estate agents trick of photographing the house on a sunny day with no cars parked outside.

A god user interface (UI) is vital to a good user experience. It is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. A good UI alone will not guarantee a happy user. A happy user is the result of the entire experience working for them and supporting them to their goal. If it looks good, great. If not but it still works well than, OK.

So, if your vendor ventures to describe important design changes…beware! Remember to visit the house in the evening too and when the agent is not there. Also, take a few users with you. They are the ones who have to live there.


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