What is user experience?
A topic with lots of articles on the internet but this one is more or less my own experience with it and how I see it. I noticed there is no clear definition for what User Experience is and it tends to create lots of confusion. What exactly is it and what does it define. Almost everybody has his own definition of it. Some people even confuse it with UI and put it in the same group. Yet, the truth is that UI is part of the UX and they are not near each other. Also, Some see UX designers as people who see the world through a problem-solving lens and a need to keep improving on the solutions they already found.
User Experience is a term that is used mainly in the tech industry. It is the field that studies how a person feels when interacting with a user interface. Those who practice it are called user experience designers and they study and evaluate how users feel about a system. They look at such things as ease of use, the perception of the value of the system, utility, efficiency in performing tasks and so forth.
Unfortunately, the technology industry is growing and advancing so fast that you can’t limit user experience only to how a person feels when interacts with your interface. It’s slowly evolving into a more broad term that encompasses different niches.
User experience is the process of designing with an awareness of every touch point that makes up the experience with your product or service. Joshua Porter, Co-Founder of Rocket Insights
This quote almost sums up what user experience is. But it does not say anything about your users, customers or visitors. Because the end experience you are creating is for them. UX design is so much more than designing easy to use and delightful user interfaces. It’s a mindset and commitment to creating products with your user in mind.
UX design is influencing controllable variables to cause a positive emotional response when a person interacts with a product, environment or brand. — Ben Burns, CD at Blind.com
Now, this is a more close definition to our term. I am a strong believer that people use a product or service, mainly on how it makes them feel. As we are all emotional human beings, we base our decision makings primarily on feelings we have towards that product or service. So a positive emotional response to our product or service is what we all strive for. But to create that positive end result we need the help from other industries in order to create the bigger picture. This visual below sums up the entire UX for me.
User experience is a field that encompasses many more industries. It’s actually a balanced collaboration between all of them. It’s not only the ease of use of an interface but how it sounds, how it looks, what is the text saying and so on. Taking into account all these fields when creating a product or service is crucial because it ensures the end result which we all strive for — positive emotional experience.
So as shown in the visual above, there are a couple of major fields that form the entire user experience.
With the rise of Google Home, Alexa Voice, Apple Pod, there is a demand for sound design. What should Alexa respond when you request to book a meeting for tomorrow, what should she use, what is the tone voice, etc. Because we human beings are used to certain answers that create a clear image for a certain task, that’s why this will become an important part of the user experience.
How does the product feel when you touch it? What materials are used for making it? How does it look? It’s nothing new that we love products that are appealing to our eyes and we tend to choose the beautiful ones over ugly if there is no alternative.
Message / Copy
“The pen is mightier than the sword”. Copy plays an important part of any design or product. It is capable of influencing our final decision making or even create an intention of buying a product. A well-written sentence can sum up the entire product or a user manual or clarify an issue. That is why we will always need people who are good at writing and can understand the emotional layer of human beings. Knowing how to use the words in the right context on your platform, website, e-commerce, can have a huge impact in making a sale or improving the overall UX.
This is“the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.” While the digital side of this statement is true, interaction design is also useful when creating physical (non-digital) products, exploring how a user might interact with it.
Information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it. It is the way of displaying your well-written copy in an effective way. It’s not enough to have a great set of data of your product on your website, but you also need to know how to display it accordingly. This is a term mostly used in graphic design, and information design is explanation design. It is the field that explains facts in a clear manner for the end user.
The most beloved field of almost all designers, and it refers to the visual and artistic part of a product, website or app. It is the field that organizes fonts, colors, graphics, images and another type of content in a structured manner. A successful visual design does not take away from the content on the page or function. Instead, it enhances it by engaging users and helping to build trust and interest in the brand which in the end is part of the UX.
To sum up, in my own experience and understanding, UX is about creating a positive experience for our end user. But this does not mean that you should always strive to create a positive experience for your customers. It’s rather about digging into their mind and find out what makes them click. For example, there are people who enjoy collecting a 10,000 piece puzzle and the process of finding the fitting piece is like meditation for them. Other people get frustrated fast and they quit. So the struggle they experience, the process collecting and finding the perfect fit is what some people love to do. In this case, the struggle can be associated with a positive emotional response too.
And what we do when we see our customers struggling to use our product? We go and try to simplify it. But it’s not always the right decision to make. We have to create experiences that make people feel great when using our product, and not exactly simplifying it. And the great part is that you are controlling only 51% of the equation. Because the other half depends on the customer himself. You can’t always guess how your customer will feel the day he will be using your product. Yet, your product can always be ready to create a satisfying feeling. So how do you start creating a better user experience? By asking the right questions. And the first one will be:
What makes our users feel good?
We want to pursue the positive emotions of your customers. And in the beginning, we always start with guessing, and it’s fine. But that is why we need a strategy and discovery in the beginning. Talking to our customers and finding out what they really want or need. It allows understanding what makes our customers feel great when using the product. Or on the contrary, what they dislike about it. And this brings us to our next question.
Who are you designing it for?
Create a user profile that will help you to have in mind that specific customers that may sump up all your potential customers. Who is your demographic, what is their age, what is their financial situation? How a day in their life looks like? Creating user profiles is a powerful tool, but you should not be limited by it. The lifestyle of your customers may be the same. But the way they think and interact with your product may be different. You want to base all your design decisions on a user archetype. There are a couple main essential questions that will help you create a better user profile:
- What is the user’s goal in this interaction?
- Why are they here on the website, what is their goal?
- Why does the user want to accomplish the goal?
- What tools does the user need?
- What happens if the user can’t finish the mission? What is at stake?
- Are there any other factors that may influence his actions when he is using your product?
We need answers to these questions only for one reason — data. Data is key for a good user experience. Knowing the demographics, all the metrics that are involved, doing the proper research is what will define your end product or service. Because a designer who does research before creating something is a responsible designer.
So how do I create a good user experience all the time?
Validate. Once you validate, you make controlled experiments. You A/B test lots of things. There are lots of companies that offer software that can help you with that. Changing the color of a button, or testing an image with a woman or man. Try a different font. And you keep testing until you get the experience you wish your end user to feel and have. If we keep in mind that User Experience is a journey and not an end result, we will approach it in a different manner.