This probably falls under the "If you have to ask, then you obviously don't understand" category, but I've always wondered what the difference was between UX and layout. Or even if there is one. I'm guessing that layout is a subset of overall UX design, and that things like, say, AJAX (since I come from web development) wouldn't count towards layout, but would be considered when designing the overall UX.

Am I on the right track? Anything else to know or consider when it comes to the overall idea of what UX is and isn't?

  • 3
    Yeah, this is kinda like asking "What's the difference between web development and web page layout?" ;) Apr 26, 2011 at 17:15

5 Answers 5


User experience involves the entire workflow of a system. It includes how the pages are laid out, but it also includes things like how pages interact with each other.

It also includes aspects of the process that aren't inherently screens. For example, if you have an eCommerce system, user experience would also include how and when emails are sent out indicating that:

  • you submitted an order
  • the order was processed
  • the order was shipped
  • etc.

Things like customer service (even how people are treated on the phone if they call you) are also part of user experience. Although, admittedly, "offline" aspects like this are often not addressed by the user experience group on a project.

Basically, any touch point between the user and the system is part of the user experience and should be addressed accordingly. Like you said, the screen layout is just a small part of that.

  • +1 for pointing out the "aren't inherently screens" aspect, part of a site's UX that is easily forgotten.
    – gef05
    Apr 26, 2011 at 17:15
  • 1
    +1 for "any touch point between the user and the system is part of the user experience". One thing that is often forgotten is copywriting.
    – Phil
    May 16, 2011 at 12:06

The definition of User Experience is actually quite literal and exactly what you might expect - how the user experiences your product or service, whether that experience is good or bad. It is the culmination of every aspect of what you offer to the customer. So User Experience Design is the intentional engineering of this experience, generally focusing on ways to make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible for the target audience.

Layout design affects the user experience, but user experience does not end there.


Have a look at this diagram:

enter image description here

It talks about the many things that user experience covers.

  • The book The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett that this diagram comes from is a short description of User Experience and how the many aspects of design (importantly not just graphic or layout design) come together to deliver an experience. May 16, 2011 at 7:44

What differs is the reasoning that goes into laying out design. Rather than being purely a visual design (typographic) approach, the user and his task flow are kept in mind. If you designed something with a user rationale and had some sort of evaluation to validate the design with the final users we are talking usability.

And if you designed something keeping in mind the quality of overall user experience that the user undergoes using the product or service we are talking user experience design.


In web development, the UX stage is represented by the wireframing process (crafting the logical structure of the website according to the user's needs), while UI stands for the choices we make with regard to layout, web-safe fonts, themses and color palettes. Though they are distinctive forms of accomplishment, they represent a continuum.

They usually separate these roles (UX and UI) because the UX specialist operates on a broader and more strategic basis, while the UI designer is more focused on making the interaction clear and pleasurable.

The UX expert must surpass the design approach by thinking outside of the digital space, considering the whole context of the user.

In conclusion, layout design is just the visual embodiment of the logical structure derived from the user's needs, which is representative fot the UX process. UX stands for the bones of the system, while layout design is the skin.

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