Posts Tagged ‘interface’

The difference between UX and UI and what it means to your customers

Posted on: July 27th, 2012 by Fransgaard 1 Comment

The original version of this article can be seen at the award-winning Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

For this article I’ve enlisted my boss Windahl Finnigan, who heads up the Capgemini UK UX team and we’ve been discussing for a while about how to best describe the difference between User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) as the two are often confused with each other but they are vastly different entities.

A well-used example is that riding a horse is the User Experience while the saddle, the bridle, etc is the User Interface.

However, riding the horse is actually better described as an Activity that forms part of the overall User Experience.

The User Experience is everything that covers the full experience and everything related before, during and after the ride: The track, getting to and from the track, the thrill of the cheering crowd , looking at the photos of you flying off the horse days after the actual ride and so on.

Riding the horse may have been great and getting thrown off was a fun (and somewhat humiliating) lesson that made you respect skills of seasoned riders.

But two weeks later your leg still hasn’t recovered from the fall, you call the stables but they won’t even listening to you quoting disclaimers you signed when mounting the horse… Suddenly the User Experience of the ride is quite different.

However, the User Interface (the saddle, bridle etc) remains the same as before the change in perception of the User Experience. The materials and tools haven’t changed.

The best way of describing a User Experience is you cannot perceive it while you are in it. Only after it is over can you comprehend and review the User Experience with the benefit of hindsight.

What it means to your customers

A good User Interface creates trust. Trust that the site will work, trust that the company offers a professional User Experience as promised by the professional looking User Interface. But without applied User Experience Design it only forms a single step in a what is a multi-step process. Not having the other steps can leave the user feeling unengaged and with no clear direction or encouragement.

A good User Experience nurtures customer loyalty by creating a consistently good experience throughout the user’s journey no matter what path they may follow. The User Experience delivers on the promises of the professional looking User Interface.

Why User Experience has emerged as such an important craft

In the early days of the web Graphic User Interface Design, User Experience Design, Information Architecture, Frontend Development and more were all the responsibility of a single role: The Web Designer.

Today, the tasks are split out into a range of roles for a number of reasons:

  • The digital industry has grown immensely in a short period of time. So has the digital projects and their importance to the businesses. Where a digital presence used to be a fringe investment, it is now part of the core business model.
  • Each area of expertise has grown ever more complicated to accommodate for the explosive growth of the web estates. No need to look further than the backbone of the web: HTML. The first version had only 50 tags in total! Today we have a much more extended toolset in HTML5, CSS3, Ajax, Javascript and serverside scripts like PHP and ASP etc. It is a full-time job to learn and keeping up with just this single facet of the industry.
  • In the early days the User Experience was limited to a single website. Today it extends across a range of delivery mechanisms and channels: Websites, Digital Marketing, Social Media, not to mention Mobiles, Tablets, Interactive TVs, Games stations, Touch Screens etc. As such maintaining a consistent User Experience across is a complex task involving Creative Skills, Strategic Thinking as well as Psychology, User Research and much more.
  • And last, but absolutely not least, there is the expectations of the Users. While the web has grown ever more complicated, the Users have equally grown more impatient and demand simpler and faster experiences. As Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

So what about Customer Experience vs User Experience?

The term “User” has become associated with digital interfaces where the word “Customer” feels more at home in traditional marketing/CRM/PR terminology. But the fact is due to the impact and integration of the Internet with everything, the experiences on- and offline are naturally flowing together into a single Experience.

In practical terms Customer Experience and User Experience are for most parts interchangeable. The main difference being User Experience has a wider reach as a Customer is automatically a User of the Experience, while a User may not necessarily be a Customer (they could be a competitor, a colleague, a partner etc).

The important takeaway from this article is the difference between User Interface and User Experience as the former is only a single step of the full path that is the latter.

The future of social work interfaces: Embedding personal networks

Posted on: July 10th, 2011 by Fransgaard No Comments

The original version of this article can be seen at the Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

19th Century: “Work” and “Private” become two separate time zones defined by when people clock into the mass production conveyor belts and when they clock out again to go home to some highly needed and well deserved sleep.

21st Century: Mobile and nomadic work patterns are spreading like wild fire. We get access to our digital work spaces in the cloud. We are expected to be connected to our professional lives 24/7 through mobile phones, emails and other channels.

We all know when we are at work, but we are starting to ask: When are we not at work?

…but is that actually the right question? Or is it a redundant echo from a time when we clocked in and out of factories?

Perhaps the terms “Work hours” and “Spare time” should be replaced with the word “Life” like it used to be before the industrialisation, but to reach this forgotten harmony we need to start embedding our private lives into our work spheres as much as we have already done the other way around.

A next generation digital life space

From a digital user experience point of view it means giving the users a digital interface that covers both work and personal content. Imagine an intranet that embeds your social profiles as well. A mixture of work tasks and friend alerts. A melting pot of information and communication.

Does it sound like a potentially confusing environment? It is! At least to those of us who did not grow up with computer screens and mobile phones next to our teddy bears.

But for the digital native generation, Generation C (as in connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented and always clicking) this is just ordinary life. They can digest information from several channels. As they watch a movie on the TV they chat away with friends on their laptops and fire of TXTs left and right from their mobile phones… and making sense of these bursts of information as individual conversations streams comes natural to them.

They will expect a work environment enabling them to consume personal content while engaging with work content without boundaries. A traditional environment with more linear and segmented communication will feel old-fashioned and will in reality actually slow them down and be counter-productive.

As digital designers we need to start thinking about work environments that takes into account the next generation work force’s ability to digest multiple streams of communication no matter what content. If we don’t, the interfaces will become increasingly irrelevant and we will lose Generation C to their smart phones.

The question then becomes: What’s in it for the business? It could be building on the private relationships and turn them into private customer relationships. It could also enable much quicker trouble shooting; quick, informal target group reviews and a real collaborative environment of friends and colleagues driving and crowd-sourcing innovation. But there may be many unforeseen benefits we simply cannot see at this point in time.

While the traditional digital dangers such as posting classified content to the wrong channels remains, I believe the digital natives are better equipped to handle this in a responsible way as they are more aware of the impact both to their professional career as well as their social status amongst their friends. And they understand the etiquette (and benefits) of online communication much better than the majority of the current work force.

We need to plan for future adults who will find it amusing how we differentiate between online and offline communication as much as they will struggle to understand the distinction between work and private life.