UI and UX: History and Their Differences

Sunny Samanta

18th Feb'21
UI and UX: History and Their Differences | OpenGrowth

If you are somewhat tech-savvy or are working in a corporate space then you must have often heard the terms like UI and/or UX while discussing a smartphone or any website. And a lot of times, most of us wouldn’t have noticed the difference between the use of UI and UX in a sentence. It is because, a lot of us have a wrong notion that both UI and UX are the same thing but in reality, as the difference in term suggests both have a different meaning and purpose.

So, let’s start looking at both UI and UX separately at first and then together and see the difference between the two.

What is UI?

The term UI stands for User Interface and refers to the ON Screen and visual elements such as icons and buttons that are designed to enable a person to interact with a product or service. In a simpler word, UI is anything that a user can use to interact with a product or service digitally. UI includes everything from both screens and touchscreens to sound, keyboard, and even lights. We can learn a bit more about the UI by getting a look at its history below.



User Interface’s Brief History

When our world was introduced to the computer in the mid-1970s, people then had to use the command line interface to interact with it. The programming language was a must to be able to communicate with the computer as the graphical interfaces then were available commercially.

But with the entry of the 1980s, things changed when the first Graphical User Interface (GUI) was developed by then computer scientists working at Xerox PARC. This was a major groundbreaking invention as with the implementation of the GUI, users for the time we're able to interact with computers simply by submitting commands through icons, menus, buttons, and checkboxes virtually.

With this groundbreaking invention, the science around the world understood that this is the direction they must continue meaning anybody can use the computer as commands were no longer required for interaction.

Macintosh released by Apple Computer in 1984 turned out to be the first commercially viable computer to have a GUI. This personal computer had a point-and-click mouse. With this more computers started to get designed with the users in mind. A general belief was established amongst companies and their developers that without the user’s scope for interacting with a computer, they will most likely not buy their built computers.

Thus, with the growing technology, the UI designer’s role has come of age in terms of expectations, preferences, and systems. Eventually, the role UI progressed from computer to our smartphone and other smart home devices.

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What is UX?

UX is a term that stands for User Experience can be said to be a byproduct of UI. As once UI was developed people were able to interact with computers and now with smartphones and other smart home devices as well. But the feeling or the experience felt by the users while interacting with their computers, smartphones, etc was term as the user experience or UX in short.

User Experience’s Brief History

The term “User Experience” was coined by a cognitive scientist named, Don Norman in the early 1990s while he was working at the Apple company. He defined UX as the “User experience that encompasses all aspects of the end- user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its product.” In short, it meant that the digital experience isn’t the only interaction a user can have with their computer or other smart devices.

Some started referring to this as the customer experience. However, most acknowledge the Normal original definition of UX as the ultimate one.

Difference between UI and UX

To understand the main difference between UI and UX, there is a famous analog to express exactly that.

“If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which gives it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions. And UI design represents the cosmetics of the body; its presentation, its senses, and reactions. “

However, here are some key difference between the two,


While the UI’s experience is only limited to digital products, the UX can be applied both physically and digitally as well.


The focus of the UI is only there for visual touchpoints that allow users to interact with their product whereas the UI is focused upon providing the whole experience to the users, starting from first till last.


Combinations of typography, buttons, animations, color patterns, etc are marked as UI’s creation whereas UI is known for creating structural design solutions for a pain point that are experienced by users anytime during their journey with the product.


UI results in pleasing its user through its aesthetic appeals, where UX relies on providing delight to its user through effectiveness.

This is all about the difference in UI and UX alongside their brief histories to finally clear out any difference you may have while overhearing or discussing either of the two.

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A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.