The difference between CX and UX - and why it matters

As a consultancy whose expertise is CX, UX and digital strategy, we’re passionate about both UX and CX.

You care about the experience, right? But which experience do you care about: user or customer? 

It helps to understand what customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) mean, so when you want to improve your products or services, you know what experience you want to change, why, and what the impact will be.

Here at Purple Shirt we’ve got a definite point of view about what UX and CX mean to us and our customers. That doesn’t mean we’re going to chastise you if you don’t agree - far from it, we’re all learning - but it does mean we’re clear about what experience we’re improving for our customers, and why. As a UX and CX consultancy, understanding and defining the difference between UX and CX makes sure we deliver value for our clients and their customers by communicating: 

  • what experience we’re improving
  • why we’re improving it
  • how we’re improving it
  • what the impact will be
  • what success looks like.

User experience (UX)

UX is primarily about a user’s experience when trying to achieve a specific task, often through a single touchpoint like applying to a university through their website. The focus here is on optimising the experience, interactions and task completion on a single channel. UX considers things like ease of use, accessibility, and the feelings of fun, simplicity or clarity within the experience. It encompasses visual design, information architecture, interaction design, and user flow.

Good UX means that people can effortlessly navigate a product, find what they need, and accomplish their tasks smoothly, with minimum frustration. And we’re all about maximum joy and minimum frustration! 

Customer experience (CX)

CX is about the wider experience for achieving one or more broader goals. It usually involves multiple touchpoints, such as going to university - prospective students need to decide which university to apply to (they might visit the website, go to an open day online or in person, or speak to people at the university), work out where they might live whilst at uni, apply to study, and then enrol. The focus here is on helping customers achieve their goals across all channels, whilst maximising customer satisfaction. It might encompass service design, digital strategy, or marketing, to name just a few!

For us, CX should go one step further and include the relationship a customer has with an organisation over time, where they try to achieve multiple goals and interact with a brand in multiple ways. Using our prospective student example again: eventually a student completes a programme or course and becomes an alumni - having countless direct and indirect interactions with their university over the course of many years. The focus here is on building customer relationships, building brand affinity, and getting people to advocate for the organisation or business based on the positive experiences they’ve had. 

Differentiating CX and UX

Although both CX and UX aim to increase customer satisfaction, there are some key differences. It helps to understand them so you can explain to stakeholders what you need, and why.


UX focuses on the usability and enjoyment of a product or service at the interface or interaction level, while CX covers the complete customer journey, from the first encounter to ongoing support.


UX mainly deals with interactions happening within a single product or service, while CX encompasses all touchpoints, including customer support, communications, marketing, physical interactions, and more.


UX aims to optimise a user interface or interaction, simplify processes, and enhance efficiency. CX aims to provide a comprehensive experience that goes beyond mere functionality, creating emotional connections and fostering loyalty.

Who’s involved

UX is typically driven by product teams, designers, developers or content strategists, who concentrate on crafting intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. CX demands collaboration across different departments, such as marketing, sales, customer support, and operations, to ensure a seamless and consistent experience across all touchpoints.

Why should you care?

As a consultancy whose expertise is CX, UX and digital strategy, we’re passionate about both UX and CX. We find it helps our clients to know and understand the difference so they can: 

  • identify what experience they want to improve and what the impact will be
  • understand what changes will bring the most value to customers and the business
  • explain to internal stakeholders what they want to achieve and the benefits
  • get the right people on board
  • create a roadmap - either internally or with a consultancy - to take steps toward improving the experience. 

Get in touch to find out how we can help you improve UX and CX in your business, and make a real impact for your customers.

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