What Is CX, And How Does It Differ From UX/UI?

What Is CX, And How Does It Differ From UX_UI_ - MediaOne Marketing

The words UX, UI, and CX, get tossed around a lot these days, sometimes used interchangeably, despite having vastly different meanings. 

While you may still get the gist of what is being said, it helps to know what each of these expressions means and how they differ. 

UX/UI were the two first terms to arrive on the scene. UX stands for User Experience Design, and UI stands for User Interface Design. 

However, advances in technology have pushed us to rethink this idea of user-centric design from a more holistic point of view. Enter CX — Customer Experience.

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What’s CX?

CX stands for Customer Experience. 

It’s a term designers use to describe all the interactions a customer is likely to have with a brand or product. 

It goes beyond a user’s interaction with an interface and incorporates the entire customer journey.

It’s a practice that involves gathering data from different customer touchpoints, such as feedback surveys, website visits, phone calls, emails, and social media interactions. 

The Concept of CX

The concept of CX is about creating a positive and consistent experience for customers, from when they become aware of your brand to their final interaction with your product. 

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It goes beyond providing a great UI and delves into the psychology behind why customers make certain decisions and interact with your product in certain ways.

It’s about understanding customer needs and crafting experiences that meet them, resulting in a more satisfactory experience for your customers. 

To understand the term CX and its confusion with UX, let’s hop into a time-travel machine and take a trip back to when it was first used (in the late 1990s):

The story goes that the term CX was invented by Don Norman, the renowned UX designer who coined the term UX. 

He argued that UX encompassed all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product, from the physical to the emotional, which sounds much like CX.

However, as time went on, the term UX took its own shape, defining the interactions between a user and an interface, while CX took over as the broader term encompassing all aspects of customer experiences.

So, What’s UX (User Experience)?

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UX stands for User Experience and encompasses a user’s entire experience when interacting with your product. 

It’s about designing an interface that is both intuitive and easy to use.

In simplest terms, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for users to accomplish what they came to do. If users come to your site or app to buy a product, your goal is to make it as straightforward as possible for them to complete the purchase. 

What’s UI (User Interface)?

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UI stands for User Interface. It’s the elements of a design that users interact with directly, such as buttons, menus, images, fonts, and other visual elements.

The UI is about how things look and feel when users interact with them. It combines visuals, interactions, and feedback the user gets when interacting with your product. 

UI design aims to create an interface that looks great and is easy to use. 

So, when it comes down to it, UX focuses on the overall experience of interacting with a product or brand, while UI focuses on the look and feel of the interface itself. And CX is the broader term encompassing both, taking a holistic approach to understanding customer needs and crafting experiences that meet them.

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Goals of UX, UI, and CX

Another easy way to understand the difference between UX, UI, and CX is to look at their individual goals. 

UX Goals

For UX designers, many of their goals and responsibilities revolve around creating an intuitive, user-friendly product. That means ensuring users can accomplish their intended tasks quickly and easily.

Some of the Goals a UX designer may have include:

  • Creating a Seamless Intuitive User Experience: Ever visited a website or app and felt overwhelmed? That’s the opposite of what a UX designer is trying to achieve. 

Every design element should be intuitive and usable, creating a pleasant user experience. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out what to do next.

  • Reducing User Effort: In UI design, the goal is often to make something look good. But with UX, the goal is to minimize user effort. 

Everything is driven by KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple), ensuring users can reach their goals with minimal effort. Reduce the number of clicks, the time it takes to figure out what to do next, and the number of steps needed to accomplish a task.

  • Accessibility and Usability: Accessibility is about ensuring everyone, whether a kid or adult, disabled or able-bodied, can use your product. Usability is about ensuring people can accomplish the tasks they set out to do.

Your goal as a UX designer is to make sure anyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, can use and understand your product. Make the learning curve as shallow as possible so that even a novice user can make sense of the interface.

  • Keeping the User in Control: UX is also about giving users control. As much as possible, the user should be in control of their experience and be able to explore freely. They should be the ones controlling their moves.

You don’t want to shut them down with a strict path they must follow. Instead, give them the freedom to explore and experience your product as they see fit.

  • User Satisfaction: Ultimately, the goal of UX is to create an experience that users find satisfying. If you can make a user’s life easier and more enjoyable, you’ve done your job. 

UI Goals

UI design is focused on creating an interface that looks and feels great. That includes everything from color palettes to fonts, images, buttons, icons, animations, and more.

The Goals of UI design are to: 

  • Create Visual Appeal: Every interface element should look aesthetically pleasing. That includes the color palette, fonts, icons, images, animations, and other visuals.
  • Provide Clear Interactions: The UI should make it easy for users to interact with the product. Users should clearly understand every click, swipe, and tap. You don’t want to make them guess what’s going to happen. 
  • Create a Consistent Look and Feel: The look and feel of users interacting with your brand via the app or website should be consistent. Everything should look and feel like one unified experience.
  • Be Accessible: UI design should also strive for accessibility. Ensure all visuals, including text and images, can be easily understood by all users.
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CX Goals

The goal of CX is to create an overall experience that meets user needs and exceeds their expectations.

CX focuses on the entire customer journey and is not just about the product. It’s about increasing the company’s overall user experience and customer retention. 

The Goals of CX are to:

Ensuring Customers Have an Enjoyable Brand Recognition and Experience: CX focuses on creating an experience throughout the customer journey, from first contact to after-sales service. It’s about ensuring customers have an enjoyable experience with your brand.

Reducing Churn and Increasing Retention: CX helps create loyalty with customers. It focuses on reducing churn and increasing retention by creating a positive experience that keeps customers returning. 

Improving Customer Satisfaction: CX focuses on understanding customer needs and ensuring they are met. That includes ensuring customers get the best possible experience with your product and finding ways to improve it.

In summary, UX focuses on ensuring users can easily interact with the product, and UI focuses on creating an interface that looks and feels great. CX focuses on creating an overall experience that meets user needs and exceeds expectations. 

Processes and Strategies

The difference between UX, UI, and CX also narrows down to the processes and strategies used in each field.

UX focuses on user research, usability testing, and iterative design, while UI focuses on wireframing, prototyping, and creating user flows. CX focuses on customer journey mapping, customer experience surveys, and personalizing the customer experience.

UX Processes

A process in UX is everything, UX without a process is nothing | by Łukasz Kowalski | UX Collective

The UX design team works closely with the product team to create an experience that is easy to understand and use. The process typically includes:

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  • User Research: This involves understanding user needs, goals, and behaviors to create an experience that meets their needs.
  • Empathize: Consider the user’s emotions, feelings, and thought process and create an experience that resonates with them.
  • Define: This step focuses on defining user problems, creating user stories, and defining design objectives. UX designers create user personas, journeys, and user flows at this stage.
  • Ideate: This step involves generating ideas, brainstorming solutions, and creating user flow diagrams.
  • Prototype: Create low and high-fidelity prototypes that can be tested with users.
  • Test: Test the prototype with real users and make changes based on their feedback.

UI Processes

The UI design team works closely with the UX designers to create an interface that looks and feels great. The process typically includes:

  • Wireframing: This step focuses on creating a wireframe of the user interface and defining the overall layout. 
  • Prototyping: Create a high-fidelity interface prototype that can be tested with users.
  • Usability Testing: Test the interface with real users and make changes based on their feedback.
  • Graphic Design: Create visuals that look and feel great, such as icons, colors, fonts, and illustrations.

CX Processes

The CX design process begins earlier than UX or UI and focuses on understanding the customer’s needs throughout the customer journey. The process typically includes:

Customer Research: This involves understanding customer needs, goals, and behaviors to create an experience that meets their needs. 

  • What do they want? 
  • What are their pain points?
  • What kind of experience do they expect?

Customer Journey Mapping: This involves creating a map of the customer journey, from initial contact to after-sales service.

Customer Experience Surveys: You can conduct surveys to understand customer satisfaction and identify areas of improvement.

Personalization: Personalize the customer experience by offering relevant content, recommendations, and discounts.

Bring Your Products to the Market, Learn, and Refine: Your job as a CX designer doesn’t end with the product’s launch. It’s your responsibility to pay attention to customer feedback, refine the experience, and improve upon it over time. 

As you can see, UX, UI, and CX are three distinct disciplines with many intertwining processes and strategies. 

The Metrics That Measure Success 

A metrics-driven approach to evaluate success of UX design | by Taylor Nguyen | UX Collective

The three might seem similar, but each field has its own set of metrics for measuring success. 

You can tell if your product or brand has a killing in each department by assessing the following metrics:

UX Metrics:

UX metrics for measuring success include:

  • Conversion Rate: Customer conversion rate measures how many people complete the desired action after viewing your product. While it also evaluates the effectiveness of your marketing and sales strategies, at the core, it reflects the UX.
  • Time Spend on a Particular Task/Task Success Rate: This measures the time taken to complete a particular task. The lower the time, the better the experience, and vice versa.

If users land on your website and, within a few seconds, they’re able to do what they came for, that’s a sign of good UX.

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  • System Usability Scale (SUS): A 10-item questionnaire used to measure user satisfaction with an interface. It’s one of the most popular and reliable UX metrics.

It essentially measures the UI’s ease of use, efficiency, and satisfaction.

Here are some of the questions asked in the SUS survey:

  • I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this system.
  • I found the system unnecessarily complex/cumbersome
  • I felt very confident using the system.
  • Bounce Rate: The bounce rate measures how many people leave a website after viewing only one page. It’s usually used to measure the effectiveness of your landing pages, but it can also measure the quality of your UI.
  • A/B Test Results: A/B tests measure the effectiveness of design changes by comparing different versions of the same page. The results help you determine which version works best and why.

UI Metrics: 

UI metrics for measuring success include:

  • Usability Testing Results: Usability testing measures the ease users can interact with an interface. It’s usually done by having users perform tasks while being observed, and it provides valuable insights into UI design flaws or successes.
  • Task Success Rate: Task success rate measures how easy it is for users to complete a task using your interface. A high task success rate indicates that the UI is designed well and has no major usability issues.
  • Time on Page: Time on page measures how long users stay on a page. It helps you understand how engaging your UI is and whether they’re spending enough time to complete the task.
  • Error Rate: The error rate measures how often users make mistakes while using the interface. It’s a good measure of how intuitive and user-friendly the UI is. 
  • Click-Through Rate: Click-through rate measures how often users click on elements in your interface. A high click-through rate indicates that users are engaged and find the interface easy to use.
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CX Metrics: 

CX metrics for measuring success include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): A popular customer satisfaction metric measuring customer loyalty. It focuses on customer experience, which makes it a powerful tool for understanding how customers feel about your product or service.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): CES measures the effort customers need to put into using your services. If you want to keep customers loyal and receive repeat orders, it’s crucial to ensure that the customer experience is as effortless as possible.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): CSAT measures how satisfied customers are with a product or service. It’s usually measured on a scale of 1-5, and it helps you gauge customer sentiment toward your brand. 
  • Customer Retention Rate: As the name suggests, customer retention rate measures how many customers stay loyal to your brand. It’s a key indicator of customer experience and how well you retain customers.
  • Customer Lifetime Value: Customer lifetime value measures the total amount of money a customer spends on your product or service over their entire relationship with you. This metric is used to measure the effectiveness of your CX efforts.
  • Brand Recall and Recognition Rate: Brand recall and recognition rate measures how well customers recognize your brand. Do they remember the name and logo? Do they know what you stand for? This metric gives insight into how well your CX efforts are working.

Real-Life Examples of UX, UI, and CX in Action

Let’s look at some real-life examples of UX, UI, and CX in action. 

UX Examples 

  • Netflix: Netflix makes it easy for users to find content through its intuitive search and filtering system, which helps them discover new movies and shows.
  • Amazon: Amazon is an excellent example of how UX can shape the customer experience. Its intelligent recommendation engine suggests relevant products based on previous purchases and browsing history, making it easier for customers to find what they came to look for.
  • Squarespace: Squarespace makes it easy for users to create beautiful websites without coding knowledge. Its drag-and-drop interface simplifies the process and allows users to launch a website quickly. It minimizes the effort and time needed to create a website, making it an excellent example of UX.

UI Examples 

  • Uber: Uber has an intuitive user interface that makes ordering rides easy and fast. It uses colour coding and visual cues to help users navigate the app quickly.
  • Google Maps: Google Maps uses a simple UI and clear visuals to help users find their way. It simplifies the process of navigating directions, making it easy for users to get from point A to point B. 
  • Instagram: Instagram’s user interface makes it easy for users to upload photos and videos, add filters, comment on posts, and share content with their followers. Its intuitive design helps make the user experience enjoyable.

CX Examples 

  • Starbucks: Starbucks is an excellent example of how CX can create a loyal customer base. It offers loyalty programs and rewards that incentivize customers to return and make more purchases. 
  • Apple: Apple offers personalized customer service, which makes it easy for customers to get help with any issues they may have. The company also provides free workshops to help customers learn more about its products and get the most out of them.
  • Zappos: Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service, including an easy return policy and 24/7 customer support. It goes the extra mile to ensure customers are satisfied with every purchase. 

The Profession: The Roles, Responsibilities, Skills, and Salaries of UX, UI, and CX Professionals

UX Designers

  • Roles & Responsibilities: UX designers are responsible for researching user needs, creating user personas and journey maps, designing wireframes and prototypes, conducting usability tests, and analyzing data. 
  • Skills Needed: UX designers need to be knowledgeable about user experience, user research methods and tools, wireframing software, prototyping tools, analytics software, usability testing techniques and more. 
  • Salary: UX designers typically earn an average salary of $97K annually.

UI Designers 

  • Roles & Responsibilities: UI designers are responsible for creating attractive and user-friendly interfaces. They create visual designs, test layouts, design icons and illustrations, test usability, and analyze data. 
  • Skills Needed: UI designers must be familiar with the user interface best practices, prototyping tools, graphics software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, and coding languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and more. 
  • Salary: UI designers typically earn an average salary of $86K annually.

CX Designers 

  • Roles & Responsibilities: CX designers are responsible for creating customer-centric experiences. They research customer needs, create customer journey maps, design customer touchpoints, and measure customer satisfaction. 
  • Skills Needed: CX designers need knowledge of customer experience management best practices, empathy research methods and tools, analytics software, communication strategies, and more. 
  • Salary: CX designers typically earn an average salary of $105K annually.

UX Vs. UI Vs. CX: The Differences 

UX, UI and CX are all key components of user experience design. They may overlap in many ways, but their differences are as clear as day.

    • Basic Concept: UX is the overall user experience, UI is how users interact with an interface, and CX is customer-centric design.
    • Process: UX focuses on research and analysis, UI focuses on visuals and performance, and CX focuses on customer satisfaction. 
    • Outcome: UX aims to improve usability and accessibility, UI aims to make the product visually appealing, and CX aims to create loyal customers. 
    • Tools: UX requires research methods and analytics tools, UI requires prototyping tools and graphics software, and CX requires customer satisfaction measurement tools. 
    • Professionals: UX designers focus on user needs, UI designers focus on visual designs, and CX designers focus on customer satisfaction. 
  • Salary: UX designers earn around $97K, UI designers earn around $86K, and CX designers earn around $105K.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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