I agree with a lot of people here, unless they played the JP version of the game when it first came out, it's **** hard to compare. I started FFXI on PC near NA release, and by then the game was already quite playable in terms of UI, lag, controls, etc, that was already established and running well enough (for the time period it came out in). The other issue here, FFXI was my first true MMO that sunk time into, so I remember it as being a great game. Thinking back though, exp was brutal, soloing was brutal, the menu's worked, but were no where near optimal, traveling was a pain, the list goes on and on. I think what drew me in was the people and the world itself, it looked great and felt alive.
Had FFXIV released in the state it is now (which I think was their intention), with the smooth menu's, little to no lag, some form of search for the wards, I'd say the games were probably on par with each other. You can probably argue a few things here and there for sure in terms of quests, story lines, etc, but I think overall they were similar. I know the game has seen a rough start, but I was one of the harshly critical for months and now find myself playing almost everyday. It's amazing what smoothing out menu's and reducing lag will do for some people, for me, that alone was HUGE and made the game 10x more enjoyable. The other thing, find a good linkshell, that's what got me through XI all those years, it'll be the same for this game.