It’s a familiar moment of panic: you’re minding your own business in a meeting when suddenly a colleague introduces an acronym. You’ve just gotten comfortable talking about UX (user experience) and now a whole new term – customer experience – is being thrown into the mix, along with its own new acronym (CX). 

Perhaps the inverse is true. Either way, it’s totally normal to wonder what’s going on with these two terms. Where does a user end and a customer begin? Are customer experience design and user experience design performed by the same people, different people on the same team, or entirely different departments? Are CX and UX different, competing schools of thought, or do they work together? 

Wonder no longer. We’ll dive into all of that and a lot more in this article, equipping you to differentiate between CX and UX with ease. 

CX vs UX

What’s the difference between CX vs UX?

CX is a subset of UX. While UX tends to focus on a user’s interactions with a given product or service, CX focuses more broadly on a user’s lifetime and their interactions with a brand. 

When did these terms originate? UX as a discipline has become fairly widespread. First popularized in the 1990s by Don Norman, today it’s broadly used to make sure that websites, software applications, and other products aren’t just technologically sound but also useful and understandable to real people in actual contexts. 

As the field of UX design has matured, people have begun to increasingly consider the way the entire customer journey, from early marketing materials through customer support and even account termination, can impact the user’s overall perception of the brand. 

It’s this broader journey that's come to be called CX, and its design has a measurable impact on broader business objectives. One PWC study found that 32% of consumers will abandon a brand after a single bad experience. 

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Consider the scope of interaction

Another way to think about the difference between CX and UX is to consider a scale of interactions. A user’s interaction with your brand can occur at three levels: 

  • The single-interaction level: This could be a user opening up a piece of budgeting software and reconciling their monthly balances. Was it easy and pleasurable to accomplish this goal? 

  • The journey level: Often a task requires more than one touchpoint. Perhaps the user had to look up guides to perform this budgeting, and the task they started on the desktop app was completed on the mobile app. Maybe they had trouble importing data and reached out to customer service. Did the designs of each touchpoint cohere? Were the support materials written in a consistent tone of voice? 

  • The relationship level: How does the monthly task of budgeting exist in the user’s mind even when they’re not using the software? Does the tool pay off the promises proposed in marketing materials? Is the user open to new services the company may provide based on this relationship? 

UX is typically focused on polishing the first two phases, while CX is more focused on the final phase. But you can see how clearly each level informs the next. Lots of good single interactions likely lead to a positive overall relationship, but nothing should be researched, developed, or designed in a silo. 

Let’s dig into UX and CX a little more to better understand their differences, as well as how they work together. 

CX vs UX

Understanding UX

User experience design is a process by which companies create products that are meaningful, relevant, and useful for their users. This is accomplished by researching user needs, prototyping and iterating designs to fulfill that need, and listening to consumer feedback once a product is released to the public. 

To go back to the example of our budgeting software, it would be of little use to consumers if the product was difficult to use or made the process of budgeting even less pleasant than it already is. For this reason, the UX design team may focus on creating relaxing color schemes and satisfying animations, as well as creating automated onboarding workflows that streamline the process.

They'd care intensely about information architecture (IA), which determines how and when information is made visible to users. Can they always see all of their balances? What about any budgeting shortfalls? Where on the screen makes sense for a list of all accounts? The presentation of this information greatly impacts the user’s perception of the product.

To learn more, check out our guides on UX design principles and Gestalt design principles.

Understanding CX 

CX design maps the research-based, iterative approach of UX to the overall experience a customer has with a brand across all touchpoints and interactions. The term “touchpoints” is used a lot in CX design because in some ways it puts equal focus on all of them, including the upfront marketing, product delivery, and post-purchase support. Even the way a customer ends a relationship can be designed, providing friendly offboarding services to further solidify the positive relationship. 

Let’s stick with the budgeting software as an example. How does it stand out in the market? Is its name different from competitors in terms of being light or serious? What new need is it filling for customers? The CX team will be focused on gathering customer insights and promoting the product’s benefits. They’ll want to make sure automated emails and content strategy (like product blogs and help materials) are in a coherent voice. They’ll work closely to translate core brand values into consistent, positive interactions for users with an aim to foster brand loyalty across products.

To learn more about how to design positive customer experiences, check out our guide to customer experience research.

CX vs UX

Similarities between CX and UX

By now, you’ve got a rough idea of the different areas of focus between CX and UX, and get that UX is a subset of CX, albeit a massively important one. Let’s dig in a little more to some of the key similarities between the two. 


Both prioritize the needs, preferences, and satisfaction of real people, whether they’re being thought of as “users” or “customers.”


Both fields rely on research and data to understand behaviors, needs, and pain points. Shared research methods include surveys, interviews, usability testing, and analytics. 


Both areas seek to improve continuously, using feedback loops to refine and enhance the experience over time. 


CX and UX teams, when separate, can still bring together people from multiple disciplines, including design, marketing, engineering, and customer service. 


CX and UX designers both strive to identify and solve real problems for real users, whether those are related to usability, accessibility, service interactions, or emotional touchpoints with the brand. 


Good CX and UX strive to increase customer loyalty, retention rates, and positive word of mouth. 

CX vs UX

Differences between CX and UX

CX and UX work together. But to understand how, it’s worth diving into their differences in approach and impact, among other things. Here are a few key differences to keep in mind. 

Background and practitioners

As stated in the previous section, both CX and UX are inherently multidisciplinary, and function best in companies that don’t keep them in silos. You actively want your UX and CX designers to have insight into and even a say in the operations of departments throughout the company. 

However, CX designers often come from backgrounds like marketing, business strategy, and customer service management. This experience often leads to viewing customers as moving through a funnel. UX designers come from fields like interaction design, web design, graphic design, and IA, with a key focus on viewing people as users interacting with a given tool or service. 

Single users vs multiple customers

One key difference between the two disciplines is the number of people they focus on. While UX designers may design around multiple types of personas and use cases, they're ultimately interested in improving the experience that a single person has with a product or service. 

CX designers, on the other hand, must design across all touchpoints, which can be many users for an enterprise-scale platform. For example, CX designers may be just as focused on educating a CTO who has purchasing power over the entire tech stack as they are on the end users who manipulate the software the CTO purchased. 


The day-to-day tasks of CX designers and UX designers differ considerably. On a given day, a UX designer may:

  • Conduct user research in the form of interviews, surveys, or usability studies. 

  • Design wireframes and prototypes to help visualize solutions for user needs. 

  • Conduct usability testing with real users to identify issues and areas of improvement. 

  • Collaborate with developers to make sure designs are implemented as intended. 

  • Ensure accessibility and inclusivity for all users, including those with disabilities. 

Meanwhile, CX designers are more likely to: 

  • Map customer journeys that help stakeholders understand all touchpoints in concert with each other. 

  • Analyze customer feedback across various channels, including social media and customer service. 

  • Design service touchpoints so that interactions as varied as in-store conversations and post-purchase support occur according to brand values. 

  • Conduct a customer satisfaction survey to better understand the way people feel about the brand. 


Lastly, CX designers and UX designers are likely fluent with each other’s key metrics, but are held accountable for and focused more keenly on different KPIs. UX designers are likely to be looking at metrics such as: 

  • Time on task: The time it takes for users to complete a specific task can indicate the design’s overall efficiency. 

  • Error rate: The frequency of errors, such as input errors or navigation mistakes, can highlight areas for improvement. 

  • Page views per visit: The quantity of pages a user visits in one session is a key way to understand user engagement and content discoverability. 

  • Click-through rates (CTR): The percentage of users that click on a given link from a page can indicate its success in drawing user attention, which may be desirable when it comes to converting users or completing key actions.

Meanwhile, CX designers look at metrics less focused on individual interactions. Metrics indicative of a customer’s overall relationship with the brand or product include: 

  • Net promoter score (NPS): This score, drawn through surveys following an experience, assesses how likely a customer is to recommend the given product to a friend or colleague. It's used to gauge brand advocacy. 

  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): This score is also drawn from surveys following an experience but focuses more on that specific experience. It's a narrower but still important snapshot into how viewers feel about a specific aspect of the service or product. 

  • Customer churn rate: The percentage of customers who stop doing business with a company over a specific period. CX designers are often tasked with minimizing this dropoff. 

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): This metric attempts to predict the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer, estimating the long-term value of customer acquisition. 

  • Average resolution time: More narrowly, this metric tabulates the average time it takes to resolve customer issues, reflecting the efficiency of customer service operations. 

CX vs UX

How CX & UX work together

CX and UX share similar methodologies and frameworks, and one discipline helps the other. Beautifully designed product experiences help create strong brand affinity. Thoughtful customer journeys create a halo effect around products. 

For smaller companies that don’t necessarily have the resources to invest in both, consider which metrics are most important right now. Product-driven companies likely want to focus more urgently on UX, while service and brand-driven companies likely want to consider CX techniques sooner. 

Ultimately, though, both are frameworks for making the right choice. If you’re focusing on real people, researching their problems and use cases, and iterating your products and services to better serve those users, you’re on the right track. Both disciplines thrive in environments where data is shared appropriately and innovative thinking isn't only encouraged but acted upon. Those are also, not coincidentally, qualities shared by many healthy businesses.

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