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UI is not UX. How is that possible?

Hello Everyone.

Recently, in an online video on User Experience( by Google ), the host stated that UI is not UX. The statement seemed innocuous and left me wondering (for a while) the idea behind this title. It did seem like the intention of the title was to break an existing belief system. If it was so, then did we actually believe that UX was all about UI.

UX as concept is being addressed from past 1 year and it has caught up really fast. In my first experience of UX(6 months ago with UI5 and Fiori), I saw lots of sleek screens with smooth transitions. The screens were flashy(I do not mean Adobe Flash) and had a feel of awe. If I rewind my thoughts back to that initial experience, my first impression of UX was its a new kind of UI. The UI which is better than existing ones and a UI which is based on JavaScript. Infact , I did believe that UX was UI. The good part of it was, If Google of all educates that UX is not UI then the belief system existed across many more people in the software community.

The belief that UI is UX is more among the developers. As software developers, we look at UI as the part which interacts with user and every experience is linked to it, apart from the roundtrip to servers for data exchange. We tend to work on UI and fiddle with the user interface elements. Everytime a new version of the platform/framework is released, we cry to lay our hands on those new user interface elements. Ahh! that flash islands in WDJ; a scrollable table in WD; and so on. As with tech gadgets, the excitement gets its quick death once we actually get to work on it.

Once we deliver the product, if the testers/customers provide their feedback to improve the experience, we feel we need to change the UI. As a developer myself, we tend to say to stakeholders: “Please upgrade the server to new version. Its not in our capacity to improve the user experience. We have done our best and the customer has to live with it. (Now the best part) It’s standard SAP offering.”

User Experience or UX, is an experience. The visual experience i.e. UI is just one part. UX involves both physical and emotional aspect. The emotional feeling of walking into an Apple Store and feeling the new iPhone is something which is specific to each individual. It could be pride, status, sense of superiority, excitement, symbol of achievement, power, etc. Its not restricted to the tech gadgets. Everytime, you use your favorite travel site and you are able to book a flight/hotel without any hassle, you emotionally feel good. We are always in the pursuit of happiness and software like other things are means to feel it. Happiness cannot be captured, it can only be experienced. UX is meant to strike that balance where the user experience the joy of usage. User, should feel that he taken care of by the software. User should feel that he is treated as unique and at the same time have him/her dealt without bias. User should feel the trust and transparency to persuade them to share/consume data with the software( or appware 🙂 Its a challenge. Every product in the market targets these aspects to grab the attention of the user and more importantly to be used by the user.

As a concluding thought, UX is much more than UI. UI is definitely the big part of it but other physical(backend, servers, network) and emotional(packaging, data transparency, trust, convenience,..) make the whole. As always, the whole is bigger than the parts.

Thank you for your time and would welcome your thoughts.

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      • Hi Sharath,

        please, I am not a guru, I am learning every day, and I know there is more I don't know than I do know.

        Talking about UI and UX, and now onto Apple (and for the record I'm an Android fan and not an Apple fan), I visited a friend last year and we were talking about User Experience and he said, when I buy things/stuff, I never keep the packaging, but, he said, look at this, I bought this iPhone and I kept the box, and he said, look at the box, isn't it beautiful, look at the packaging, the presentation, the experience of receiving it, opening it, discovering what is inside, absolutely beautiful, that for me is an example of the User eXperience the whole life cycle of interaction with the product or service, the iPhone itself being part of the UI in this case.

        This is a very interesting and huge subject where we all have so much to learn and where we can see, even with the greatest UI, there is no guarantee that the UX is also the greatest.

        What do you and others think ?

        Best regards,


        • Its also quite spiritual. I understand that Steve Jobs was on a spiritual journey during his youth and there is a bit of spiritual aspects in his products. The sense of simplicity in the appearance, white color and so on. Like he mentioned that a class on calligraphy which contributed in the design of fonts.

          Also, about walking into the store. couple of years ago, I was in Zurich with my life partner. It was a vacation in the middle of my assignment in Germany. We saw this queue in front of the Apple store near the railway station. The new version of iPhone was released. We had no intention to buy but stood in the line to have look at the device. We were given water bottles by the staff. We were walked into the store by one executive. The next moment he handed the device pack to me and said you can take it and pay at the counter. I was there to just see it but holding it in my hands, we could not let it go. But, 599 euros was too high for my heart to overrule my mind and I had to let it go.

          As you rightly say, the emotions rule our decisions far higher than facts.



          • Thank you JJ, for those encouraging words.

            With CEM, we should be able to bring the retail UX into the software world. This was long overdue.



          • Hi JJ and Sharath,

            thanks for the confirmation and Gartner information.

            Can we use this article and subsequent discussion to pin down and define what exactly UX is ?

            Looking forward to your definition.

            Best regards,


          • Hello Andy,

            There are several attempts possible to explain UX vs. UI. I guess - depending from which direction people come from - the explainations might a bit different. 🙂

            I can tell you that I usually start my presentations since some time with the question whether everybody knows the difference. And many people say "no". What I'm showing and explaining to the people then is what you can find in the following presentation: My own UX strategy (see page 2 of the version with speaker notes). This usually gives a good idea about what is is just by looking at it. With some explainations (see speaker notes) people typically agree to this perspective.

            By the way, we also have this question answered since a longer time SAP UX Explorer: SAP UX Explorer. Maybe also a good source for you to search for topics and questions around SAP UX and SAP UI.

            All the best, 🙂


          • Hi Esther and JJ,

            thank you for the links I'll check them later.

            But for now, for today, today's challenge, open to the whole SCN Community, is....

            (remember small is beautiful)


            can write in the comments in this threa, the shortest most concise self explanatory description of, what is UX and without including external supporting links in the description.

            Whoever can do that, will be awarded an informal badge which they can wear with pride and show to the world that they are the one who was able to describe UX in the most concise way.

            How's that.

            The floor is now officially open.

            Best regards,


          • Hi Robin,


            So, I think you go straight in at number 1 with shall we say the concise description of what UX is.

            That still leaves the other categories open, who can write what UX is using two or three sentences ?

            Best regards,


          • Hi Andy,

            I'll leave those categories to other members to come up with, but regardless of the outcome, I believe in the end it all boils down to the two keywords I mentioned

               Interaction, and what it feels like.

            (where IMO feel is by far the single most important keyword)

    • Thanks Simon, for sharing the article.

      In fact, I find that this concept of UI not UX is catching up. I now see a lot of articles on this topic alone. Seems like it is a deep rooted belief system and has been a roadblock in achieving the real UX, desired by users.



    • The blog which you shared was educative. The point which strikes the cord is the first line:

      "UX is the intangible design of the strategy which brings us to a solution".

      Many aspects are intangible and hence the mystery behind UX. Most of the concepts are already being handled but they were not put in process and UX concept puts all in one umbrella.

      We should however be careful to not brand UX as the next big thing. It has existed long before. Its just that the impetus was lacking and also the process.



  • The best summary I have heard between UI and UX is the "presentation experience" ?

    Powerpoint is the User Interface (UI) ... and the Presentation User Experience goes beyond the quality/beauty of the powerpoint.

    The most important is that the content should fit with the audience expectation.

    How many times have you attended boring presentation despite the use of nice / flashy powerpoint ?

    Of course I am not referring to any SAP Marketing and Sales presentation.

    When you look at TED you will see they are not using any powerpoint !!!

    • Yes absolutely. Its about tailoring the content according to audience and keep it adaptable in real-time. More runtime stuff than design time 🙂

      Nice analogy.



  • I am not a SAP employee ....

    I would recommend to go in this SAP website :

    It includes for example what is UX in 500 words.

    Of course there is some SAP specific presentation but it includes also generic presentation on UX, UCD, .... Wortwhile to read for self education it requires to select the right presentation to read,

    • Hi Patrick,

      thanks for the reminder about

      I went on there and couldn't immediately find the 500 word description, and besides,

      is anybody here able to describe in one sentence what UX is 🙂

      That's the challenge.

      Best regards,


      • Hi Andy,

        In one sentence... I'd steal from Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman

        Summary: "User experience" encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

        We focus on UI because we are visual creatures and it is IMO the most obvious bit. We are too quick to jump to new tools and flashy visuals (me included). To take things to the extreme a great user experience may include no UI at all.

        I love this conversation 🙂

        • Hi Simon,

          thank you, very nice.

          We've got to the point, where I must admit, I am not qualified to be the judge between yours and Robin's.

          Definately yours and Robin's will help me to summarise for others. As further reading I'll be looking at Esther's links.

          I totally agree, UX does not have to include a UI.

          Anybody else interested to compete for the title of the two and three sentence categories 🙂 ?

          Best regards,


          • Yeah, Don Norman is really good!

            Here are the first few sentences from my definition, which I limited to business and consumer software, "User experience (UX) refers to the overall interaction that people have with a product and, most importantly, how they feel about that interaction. In other words, was the user frustrated, delighted or something in between? User experience is a broad concept covering many aspects of the interaction between the user and the product. It goes beyond the narrower concept of usability, although good usability is widely considered the most important factor in reaching a good user experience."

            What do you think?

      • Teasing : are  you a manager ? 😆

        That's the current trend I see too often :  could you summarize a subject - here a discipline - in one line ?

        Could you summarize what is SAP in one sentence ?

        Why do we need to summarize everything in one line ?

        • he he, no, I'm an Architect 🙂

          the reason I asked for one sentence is I am 41 and it's getting harder to remember paragraphs and page long descriptions these days not to mention for the last 15 years in the SAP Basis area I've been working with TLA's (that's Three Letter Acronyms) and hence purely selfishly I am interested in seeing if this huge subject can be condensed into a short description.

          Can I summarise what SAP is in one sentence ?

          That's an easy one.

          SAP is an ERP system.

          Best regards,


          edited and added:  Giving more thought to your point, I believe that if somebody is an expert then they should be able to explain a subject in a clear and concise way which is understandable to others and maintains the attention of others

          • Hey Andy,

            Great job of starting an engaging conversation. That's being creative.

            To me, UX is being creative to provide the user the best experience with the available tools at hand. Its a sense of perfection, in each aspect of the product.