How a Bad UI Doesn’t Always Equal a Bad UX

Alyssa Thumb

Alyssa Scavetta
08.25.16

Combing through Twitter the other day, I noticed something striking. Popular sites like Reddit and Craigslist look totally outdated, don’t they? People who share links from Reddit, Craigslist posts and more on my Twitter feed are not just outliers hanging out on long-forgotten forums. These are just some of the millions of people who frequent these sites everyday -- sites which have historically awful interfaces.

For the sake of the laymen, here’s a quick run-through of some key differences between UI and UX. A UI (User Interface) is usually the method or means by which someone interacts with your website, app, or software -- usually hinges more on the development/design strength. The UX (User Experience) is usually, well, the users’ experience as they browse through your site, app or software, how they view it, how easy it was for them to enjoy, etc.

So let’s take a look at Reddit, for example.

Reddit

According to Statista, as of April 2016, Reddit gets 243.63 million visitors per quarter on average. For reference, we ran Apple.com through SemRush.com to compare general site traffic and saw that they receive an average of 360 million visitors per quarter. So while Reddit doesn’t quite reach that number, the fact that they come close at all to one of the largest companies in the world, operating off of their current UI, is astounding.

And don’t even get me started on Craigslist.

Jared Newman over at Techland, the Time-affiliated blog, did a little digging through the Wayback Machine to the year 2000, and compared that version with today’s version of Craigslist. They noticed that there were almost no changes, but did offer a possible reason as to why the stalemate.

“As TechCrunch notes, Craigslist isn’t likely to make any drastic changes to its look and feel. The site is largely unchallenged as the premier place for online classifieds — it clocks 30 billion page views and 50 million ad postings per month — and major redesigns tend to upset people,” says Newman. “Here’s hoping Craigslist can keep the regulars happy while giving newcomers and occasional visitors more reasons to return to the site.”

Here’s a list of total visits from July 2016, alone -- thanks to SimilarWeb.

Craigslist

So what do we make of this?

While a great UX doesn’t always equal a great UI, a great UI almost always equals a great User Experience.

This seems a little obvious - but the two are not necessarily connected. A really great User Interface hinges on the ability to be one-part streamlined, one-part simple, and two-parts powerful in communication design. Some great examples are:

1. Mailchimp’s dashboard

Mailchimp Screenshot

2. Google’s recently revolutionary application of material design

Google

3. Instagram’s infamous design update

Instagram Black And White Update

All of this to say, while the two are not necessarily connected, User Experience and User Interface design both inform each other in ways that are hard to discredit. And while on a good day, places like Reddit and Craigslist are communal hubs for news, exchange of goods, and other content pieces, they don’t hold a candle to ever-growing apps like Snapchat -- projected to overtake Pinterest and Twitter by the end of 2016. Especially not while on platforms that are inherently, well, a little outdated.


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