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SD, CX, UX and UI – don’t get lost in the world of different concepts

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The field of design is rich in terms and acronyms that give the impression of being similar or identical. You may have heard of some of them, some you know or suspect what they may mean, and others are completely new to you. It’s a fact: it’s easy to get lost in this world. And this is not challenging only for people entering the design industry, but, as it turns out, also for specialists. In this article, we will try to break down the concepts of Service Design CX, UX and UI into prime factors and help you understand what is behind them.

In this article you will learn …

  • Service design, customer experience, user experience and user interface – what do these terms mean?
  • What are the differences between SD, CX, UX and UI?
  • Where to start so you don’t drown in a sea of different meanings?

Designing experiences and introducing them to the world of concepts

Much is being said about experiences, from many different perspectives. Designing impressions, that is, how the audience interacts with our organization, has become one of the key areas of concentration of business and, increasingly, also of the social sector. By recipients we mean not only customers or users, but often also employees, stakeholders and associates.

“Experience design is about creating opportunities” 

– Gill Wildman

Why is conscious and consistent shaping of experiences so important? The numbers explain it all: 73 percent of consumers say a good experience is key to building brand loyalty (PWC). Speed, comfort, competent help and friendly service – according to the respondents, this is what makes them feel positive about the company. The PWC survey conducted among 15,000 people also shows that 1 in 3 customers will leave their beloved brand after just one bad experience, and 92% will abandon the company after 2 or 3 negative interactions.

SD, CX, UX, UI – what do these acronyms mean?

Service design, customer experience, user interface are just some of the concepts that we focus on in this article. Before we go into explaining each of them, it’s worth mentioning the similarities. All of them adopt a human-centered design approach, which is a human-oriented view that puts the needs of the client or user at the center of their activities. SD, CX, UX and UI all pursue similar goals, i.e. solving customer problems, responding to their expectations and delivering value in the form of positive experiences.

Rola SD, CX, UX i UI w projektowaniu

Service design

Let’s start with the concept of Service Design. It encompasses conscious and multidisciplinary activities involving the customer and service provider perspective. They concern the planning and organization of people, infrastructure, service components, the communication process, as well as continuous testing and analysis.

The purpose of service design is to improve or enhance the quality and efficiency of interactions between the brand, employees and customers. This is done by involving each department of the organization and thus building a coherent experience in the eyes of recipients. The synergistic interaction is key here, which is why it is so important to include different stakeholders in all channels and in all contact points.

Example: Selling the product alone is no longer sufficient. This can be seen in the automotive industry, where during the pandemic it has become more and more common to offer a special, contactless procedure for issuing cars, as well as purchase of a car with home delivery. In gastronomy, restaurants also go a step further – instead of the standard menu, they offer catering services or placing orders for special occasions.

Customer Experience

CX, or customer experience, is the sum of all customer interactions with a given company. The sum of what the client expects, does, sees, thinks, feels and prefers. These interactions put customers at the center of the entire product or service path. Their feelings and perceptions of experiences at every stage influence his behavior and fuel brand loyalty. Importantly, they are not only related to the product or technology. They accompany customers from making a purchase, through using the product, to watching advertisements. Therefore, they refer to a wider dimension of the organization’s activities: marketing, advertising and promotion, the sales process, pricing strategy, customer service or product delivery.

Example: The response time to the customer’s inquiry that goes to our mailbox and the method of communication (courtesy, empathy, showing understanding) are one of the examples of aspects where CX plays a significant role. The manifestation of CX can also be well-thought-out advertising campaigns telling a story, with which brand recipients identify themselves, e.g. IKEA spots.

User Experience

UX covers all the experiences that accompany the end user when using the product. UX design focuses on making the overall feeling and experience as good as possible emotionally, socially, culturally, psychologically and physically. When we want to turn on the light in our room, we interact with the light switch. The design of the switch, including color, material and physical appearance, can significantly affect how we perceive interaction.

Example: If you, as a foundation or association, run your own website or platform, UX design refers to aspects such as the layout of sections on the page, giving specific meaning to buttons and their placement to make them easily accessible and intuitive. 

User Interface

UI, or user interface, is a space where the user interacts with the computer or system in order to perform specific tasks. UI design is the interface building process that focuses mainly on the visual layer: appearance and style, but also the voice layer. The goal of UI design is to visually guide the user through the product interface. It’s all about creating an intuitive environment that doesn’t require the user to over-think.

Example: The color of an event button or icons that you use to present your business as a foundation, using photos that imitate reality or using illustrations – all these elements and decisions make up the UI.

Differences between the concepts

Concepts and definitions help us represent reality, communicate between teams and achieve a common understanding of the areas in which we operate on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why it is important to discover the meanings, learn about the differences and similarities of individual terms and, as a result, translate them into practice.

While noticing the differences between service design and the rest of the concepts is not complicated, dilemmas appear most often when comparing CX and UX as well as UX and UI. Where are the boundaries between them? What results from what? How do these concepts complement each other?

CX a UX – jakie są różnice?

CX and UX – what are the differences?

UX focuses on a single point of contact, e.g. a website or application, and thus forms an important part of CX regarding the usability of a specific product. In turn, CX covers all channels on the customer’s path and comprehensive interactions, such as a conversation with customer service, a meeting with a sales representative, advertisements displayed on the web or social media communication.

When it comes to UI and UX, the differences are easiest to present with a real-life example. All you have to do is look around or think about the devices you use every day. A mug, an armchair, a desk, a shopping basket or a TV remote control. The comfort of using these items relates to the UX, and the aesthetics of their performance is part of the UI. So user experience is about the purpose and functionality of a product. The user interface relates to the quality of the end-user interaction with the product.

At the end of the day, it’s our audience that matters

As you can see, designing is a very broad concept and it’s not a domain of just one department. It affects many areas of the organization’s activity, penetrates every level of its structure and requires the involvement of all teams. All design disciplines aim to create better experiences. The difference, however, is in the type of experience and whose experience we are trying to improve. Designing experiences, therefore, does not focus on the things that we create (design as matter), but mediate them in the delivery of value and the way they shape our experiences.

Which of the disciplines did you find most interesting? How do these individual domains relate to the challenges you are currently facing as an organization? Answer the questions and start with… action. Stay close to your audience, chat with them and watch them interact with your products. Above all, learn from it.

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Kasia Łachajczak – Junior CX Specialist UX/UI designer

Associated with the design industry for 4 years. An enthusiast of strategic thinking and creative workshop methods. In her daily work, she deals with improving customer experience and designing processes supporting activities in the spirit of customer centricity. She puts people first, which is why she believes that listening and observing are practices that are at the basis of solving even the most complex problems, as well as adding value. Her guiding principle is: think more, design less.