What’s the difference between UI, UX and CRO?

These acronyms are all used when talking about making website improvements, but they all mean different things. Here’s how to know what you’re talking about.

UI (User Interface), UX (User Experience) and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) are all elements that can be improved to either give a user a more straightforward, enjoyable journey or to improve the likelihood of them taking a desired action on a website. Let’s break them down.


What is a user interface (UI)?

Basically, a UI is made up of the visual and interactive elements of a website – the pages, the blocks that make up those pages, every little animation or button that can be pressed. It’s the anticipation of everything your visitor wants to do and see on a website and putting elements in place to facilitate it.


So what’s user experience (UX)?

There’s a bit of overlap with UI, which is why you’ll sometimes (wrongly) see them used interchangeably. UX design considers the way that a person navigates through and interacts with your site – how they interact with those elements determined by UI design above.

UX is totally user-centric, taking into account different users’ preferences, requirements, journeys and accessibility requirements. Every time a new element is added to a site, any impact and benefit to the user will be considered, and – you’ll see these words time and again – they must be meaningful and relevant. No buttons for the sake of buttons, dead ends or 404s here, thank you.

Where does CRO come in?

CRO isn’t quite the anti-UX, but it is less user-centred than UX. CRO is optimising conversions – trying to convert as many people who come to your site as possible, making that process easy and removing barriers – enticing the user to take an action you want them to take. This could be anything from adding calls to action (CTAs) to contact you, rewording them for a more attractive proposition, changing up colours to grab more attention, or adding a timed pop-up for that free download.

 Considering UI, UX and CRO from the start

If you don’t yet have a website, firstly – it’s amazing that you’re reading up on this! I can’t recommend this enough – keep that user journey simple. Have brand guidelines and stick to them like glue. Develop buyer personas and approach your planned site from as many different angles as you can – stakeholders with different pain points, people at different stages of the buyer journey, thinking of what they expect to see, how they will want to navigate and ways they can convert. Do not just work from your own opinion, as we inevitably can’t see the holes in our own plans, and you have nothing to test… yet.

When you do launch, don’t assume that’s it done. People change, technologies change, your brand will probably develop, and the assumptions you made evolve.

Making website improvements

If you are working with an existing site, there’s plenty of ways you can make site improvements, but I’d start with getting hard data to back up your assumptions.

Visit the user testing or heatmap tracking blog to learn more about And Marketing‘s recommended processes, and how and why it’s important to test your theories before making site changes.

Need some help?

Want to talk UI, UX or CRO? I’ve worked with clients of all sizes who want to invest in their websites to optimise the experience for both themselves and their users. Why wouldn’t you want happier site visitors and more conversions? Just give me a call or drop me an email.