2141: UI vs UX
|UI vs UX|
Title text: U[unprintable glyph]: The elements a higher power uses to bend that moral arc. U[even more unprintable glyph]: The higher power's overall experience bending that moral arc.
UI vs UX is a discussion in software engineering of the differences between user interface design (UI) and user experience design (UX). As explained in the comic, UI design is typically concerned with the elements of the interface that a user encounters, while UX design is more concerned about the user's overall experience in using such interface. UX design can be seen as more holistic & abstract than UI. This comic extends the idea, adding increasingly all-encompassing, abstract & fanciful design perspectives.
To start, the the two real categories are:
- UI - Elements of the interface that the user encounters
- This standard software engineering practice involves trying to come up with a user interface - icons, colors, placement or text and elements, etc. that works well together, that isn't confusing, and that hopefully makes it easy for the user to view the information they need to digest, as well as make whatever choices the user is expected to make. They also look at things like how long it takes to move from one screen or task to another, etc.
- UX - The user's experience of using the interface to achieve goals
- Sometimes a UI designer makes choices that they think are easy for the user, but it turns out not to be as easy as expected when it comes to real users and practical situations. So the UX designer focuses on observing how a user uses a product, both how they use the user interface as well as other less technical aspects of their experience such as how they come to find out about the product, what they tell others about the product, etc.
The comic takes this to absurd levels by adding these additional categories:
- UZ - The psychological roots of the user's motivation for seeking out the interaction
- The comic says that UZ is the investigation of the psychological roots of why the user even wants to use the interface. This is not normally something that computer programmers do, and is usually best left in the hands of psychologists .
- "The psychological roots of motivation" is a buzzword phrase from management theory which may not have a particularly well-defined meaning. Motivation is itself the psychological root of behavior. While motivations certainly have causes, they are usually not clear enough to meaningfully treat in formal or clinical contexts.
- Uα - The user's self-actualization
- "Self actualization" is the most abstract, immaterial form of motivation, meaning the need to find comfort in one's own goals and achievements. Available only when more material needs such as those for food, shelter, warmth, security, and a sense of belonging are met, it forms the pinnacle of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
- α is alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. It's often used to show the "beginning" or "first" of something (including in philosophical contexts). And as the first Greek letter, it can be thought of "beyond Z" in a sense; the Atlantic hurricane name list uses the Greek alphabet this way, for example (as xkcd 944 alludes to).
- UΩ - The arc of the user's life
- "The arc of one's life," means the overall thematic elements present in a person's existence. It occurs in the philosophical humor novel The World According to Garp, which remarks on how easily the arc of any human life can turn on a single sexual relationship.
- Continuing the philosophical theme, Ω is omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet. As such, it's often used to show the "last", "end", or "ultimate" of something.
- U∞ - Life's experience of time
- "Life's experience of time" is a very rare phrase which does not seem to have a coherent meaning across the handful of times it occurs.
- ∞ is the mathematical symbol for infinity, again furthering the philosophical abstraction.
- U⬤ - The arc of the moral universe
- "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," is a famous line from a speech by Martin Luther King, referring to the slow pace at which social progress is often achieved, and paraphrasing parts of a 1853 sermon by abolitionist minister Theodore Parker: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." President Obama had the sentence from King's speech woven into a rug in the Oval Office.
- The ⬤ is a filled-in circle the size of the letters around it, represented here by the Unicode "black large circle" character (U+2B24). Continuing the philosophical abstraction, it comes well after the Greek alphabet and most mathematical symbols in Unicode, and is especially unlikely to be used as a text character in its own right like this.
The title text refers to a higher power bending the moral arc, but mirrors the UI and UX categories, with the implication that the list continues in a spiral through ever more rarefied levels of higher powers, with even less likely symbols denoting them.
- U[unprintable glyph] - The elements a higher power uses to bend that moral arc
- Essentially UI for the higher power's moral arc bending utility.
- U[even more unprintable glyph] - The higher power's overall experience bending that moral arc
- Essentially UX for the higher power's moral arc bending utility.
- [Two underlined headings are above two columns of text with seven lines. The left "symbol" (labelled "Designer") is explained by the text to the right (labelled "What they are responsible for").]
- UI: Elements of the interface that the user encounters
- UX: The user's experience of using the interface to achieve goals
- UZ: The psychological roots of the user's motivation for seeking out the interaction
- U∝: The user's self-actualization
- UΩ: The arc of the user's life
- U∞: Life's experience of time
- U⚫: The arc of the moral universe
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