A no bullsh%$ explanation of CX, UX, and UI

The technology and design world loves acronyms. We often find ourselves buried in new terminology and methodologies that seemingly bubble up from nowhere.

The technology and design world loves acronyms. We often find ourselves buried in new terminology and methodologies that seemingly bubble up from nowhere. These new terms more often than not mean different things depending on who you ask. This is why there is sometimes confusion in the actual implementation of good methodologies, resulting in poor outcomes *cough* agile *cough.*

So let’s dive into the top three in our industry.

Customer experience or CX as it’s commonly referred to; is defined as a customers interaction with an organization through one of three experiences:

  • The customer journey
  • Brand touchpoints
  • Environments (online, offline)

CX is often referenced in the tech and design world but the overall strategy should be a core pillar within organizations. It has much more to do with branding, positioning, service design, user journeys and organizational culture than design alone.

The merging of the marketing and branding function with CX and digital channels is more of a recent development (read more here).

CX has become an increasingly more popular search term as of late. However, it’s been around for a long while. It’s a term we have been hearing more often within organizations over the last few years as the customer journey and brand touchpoints have started expanding into the digital space.

The graph below shows the global search popularity of CX, UX, and UI over 5 years.

It’s interesting to see that CX as a search term in popularity has been steadily increasing over the last 5 years and actually is a topic that's searched significantly more than UX.

Blue: CX  /  Red: UX  /  Yellow: UI

Global search popularity through Google

User experience or UX for short is mostly associated with one interaction as opposed to a customer’s lifetime relationship that spans multiple touchpoints (brand, person-to-person, app, phone system). Good or bad, each touchpoint has UX baked into it, and reinforces the global CX of a brand.

UX is especially important for any digital product and an important differentiator for any CX that is facilitated digitally. UX informs usability, which is crucial in scenarios where there is no human to help guide a user through their particular use case.

If the product is not intuitive, and your users are finding the information they are looking for, then the likely result is friction and eventually attrition.

"People ignore design that ignores people".
—Frank Chimero

UI stands for user interface design, another very important component to any digital experience which works hand in hand with UX. While UX focuses on usability or tasks of a product or service, UI represents those buttons and levers that a customer uses to interact—inputs and outputs essentially.

UI is a blend of human-computer interaction (HCI) and graphic design. It focuses on the look-and-feel, design, interactivity, iconography, text, notifications, and navigation. These are the most granular components that drive the user experience. UI should be informed by the overall brand, CX, and UX strategy of an organization.

Let’s take Uber as an example. CX would be the end-to-end experience of getting from A to B, UX would be represented by specific actions taken when using the app, and UI represents the design of the apps interface elements. We have mapped this out below and highlighted each component as either CX, UX, or UI—consider this a bit of a cheat sheet when thinking about these three terms.

  • The potential customer hears of Uber through marketing (CX)
  • Research, who/what Uber is via the website (UX)
  • The first impression of the site (UI)
  • Discover what Uber is (UX)
  • Download app (UX, UI)
  • Open the app (UI)
  • Profile setup and flow (UX)
  • Navigation (UI)
  • Ordering an Uber (UX, UI)
  • The driver waits for a passenger to request (CX)
  • Wait for the driver to arrive (CX)
  • Passenger experience (CX)
  • Trip completion (CX)
  • Rating request and tip (UX, CX, UI)
  • Customer complaint (CX)
  • Cost (CX)
  • Billing (CX)
  • Marketing and promotions (CX)

As we see new forms of technology coming out augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) these definitions will also start to blend into design methodology for those mediums which at this stage involves a lot of exciting exploration.

The key in leveraging al these concepts is conceptually planning and leveraging each strategy holistically as apart of the larger brand, organization, and ecosystem of an organization and not in isolation to your overall business.

70% of enterprise CEO's surveyed in 2019 by Userzoom see UX and CX as a competitive differentiator.
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Meet the Author

Marcello Gortana
Executive Director

Working with business leaders to leverage design and technology to make change within their organizations.

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