U, UX, UI … OMG?!

Working at Testbirds for several months now, I have to admit: you really become sensitive towards certain topics. The misuse of terms and buzzwords, for example, which fly around the web, in external meetings and in news magazines. If you would have asked me a year ago, what User Experience, Usability and User Interface truly are….I would have thrown my hands in the air and have asked with a thin, high-pitched voice: “It’s all the same?”

Well, it’s not. Although the usage of the terms has become so inflated nowadays that only a small minority really knows their true definitions. Many complications and misconceptions exist mainly because the issue is heavily fractured and intertwined. So here it is, ladies and gentlemen, from a person who had to learn all these terms from scratch: the differences between the tricky “Use-terms”.

Let’s start with UI – the User Interface. Simply put, it is the part of the product that faces the user when he looks at the website or app, the point of contact between human being and machine. It is all about the looks, about what we can see: navigation, side-bars, icons… However, that doesn’t mean things have to simply look pretty. “Form follows function” is the motto here. A good interface is characterized by high levels of Usability. Design plays a role, as does easy and intuitive use. The final acronym is UX. UX stands for User Experience. We are talking about emotions here: How does the app or website feel when it is being used? That feeling not only relies on how usable it is, but also involves everything from expectations to memories.

Moving on from the basics, we can now try to create an analogy for these definitions to better understand the differences. In this unstable weather, where I have to dress everyday according to the layered principle, I like to dream about being on sunny beaches and next to the sea. So, a hot topic today is surfing. Imagine what a surfboard looks like: its shape, which helps it turn on waves, is a good example of User Interface. User Experience, on the other hand, is the feeling of the surfboard effortlessly gliding through water, which to quite an extent works thanks to the shape.

What can we take out of this? The entire package is what makes a good UX, whereas a good UI is always a very important element of it. We can think of UX as the umbrella that summarizes all points that make up the experience: the past, the present, and the future.

However, isn’t the digital age more about looks anyways? Are 2D websites and apps really providing us with an emotional experience? Is user experience even important? It is, if you try to get people to be fascinated by your product, or if you try to make people understand you, or if you try to get people to listen to you, or if you try to make people spread your message. If you are trying to get people to do pretty much anything, then yes, it is very important.

The significance can also be noticed if we leave our surfboard at the sunny beach and return home to the software world. Imagine the Testbirds crowd testing the app of a flower delivering service. During the actual use of the app, everything looks good, feedback regarding the ease of use is positive and the design is perceived as appealing. But imagine the disappointment felt if the flowers arrive wilted! This, my dears, is the User Experience. It rises beyond the borders of app and website usage and arrives at a more holistic view of the entire process.

Crowdtesting, more than any other testing method, makes the testing of user experience possible in a unique way. Tailored to the needs of the exact target group, a Usability- or BugAbilityTM-Test (which additionally tests for functionality) delivers not only feedback and concrete recommendations for action regarding usability issues, but also finds out how the potential end-users really feel about the product.

It’s not all about the looks – you have to feel it, too.

Franzi

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