UI vs. UX: The difference and why it matters

Posted by Chris Fisk on Jul 30, 2015 12:30:00 PM

IntronisECHOplatform_DashboardAs a UX designer at Intronis, I often find the need to explain the difference between User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). What I usually tell people is that UI design is all about the look and feel of an interface, whether it’s a video game (the industry I worked in for years before joining Intronis) or a data protection management portal.

The UI process involves arranging information within a workspace, placing buttons and fields so they’re intuitive to use, and applying color in a way that both facilitates the task and promotes the brand. The goal of UI work is to simplify processes by clearly informing users what they need to do and how they need to do it.

UX design, on the other hand, is more comprehensive and takes into account the larger context of the users and their environments. At a minimum, designing the user experience starts with an understanding of the intended users and their motivations and challenges, including any time constraints they might need to contend with. The UX process typically involves multiple decision trees, prototyping, and beta testing, allowing for design tweaks (and the occasional trip back to the drawing board) at each step of the way.

UI in action at Intronis

Our recently announced Intronis Summer Release ’15 offers a tangible example of the distinctions between UI and UX. The product management team I’m a part of are proud to have led the UI design for the two innovations we featured in our announcement: our new, ergonomic dashboard and our automated Executive Summary reporting capability. Both of these innovations — the first of many that make up our big partner experience optimization initiative — leverage design tenets I picked up as a game designer, while drawing from other domains as well.

I should add that these changes weren’t just cosmetic. To power the dynamic dashboard display and point-and-click navigation, our engineers completely rearchitected the workflow logic and number-crunching algorithms that power them. Then we applied the same visual vocabulary to the Executive Summary reports to let partners take advantage of its graphical efficiency to showcase their value to their customers.

UX enhancements

As for the UX impact, my colleague and Senior Support Engineer, Jayne Haggard, explains this in the brief video below. Jayne works closely with new partners to make sure they get the most out of their Intronis ECHOplatform experience. She strives to make sure that partners successfully integrate Intronis services into their day-to-day operations in a way that maximizes value to clients and minimizes cost.

According to Jayne, the early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, this is welcome news to a UX designer. I feel good knowing that our team has significantly simplified backup and recovery operations for our partners. This is just the beginning, though, and there’s certainly more we plan to do on this front. I look forward to sharing more about this work with you in future posts.


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