What Is User Experience? A Brief Handbook for the UX Universe
Forget all those Internet mantras that advise investing your last penny in marketing. In 2020, UX design is the new marketing.
Obviously the Internet is no longer a one-way medium. Things had changed over the years, and we are now living in a world where a product’s success or failure resides in one important aspect: how users perceive it. Today’s users will look at your website and ask themselves how much value does the website provide, how user-friendly it is, or how enjoyable the experiences were. In a few words, this is what we can call user experience (UX).
Donald Norman, a highly respected American professor and researcher in design is the one person who basically created the term “user experience (UX),” and brought it into our day-by-day language. In Peter Merholz’s “Peter in Conversation with Don Norman about UX & Innovation”, Norman explains that he invented the term to cover all aspects of experience when interacting with a product. The goal was to unite design graphics, physical interaction, and the user interface. We can say the idea was a total success because now the term has its own meaning.
What Is User Experience (UX)?
If you think about it from a psychological point of view, User Experience deals with the way a person feels when interacting with a product.
User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to develop products that provide both useful and relevant experiences for their users. It is about integrating the product in terms of design, functionality, and branding. UX is done by a UX designer, a person concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product, a job that starts long before the device reaches the user’s home. User experience designers study and evaluate how effectively the user feels about their experience with the product, its efficiency, and so on.
Their job is also to look deep at sub-systems within a system. They may end up looking into the usage rate of some new features implemented in an app or study the checkout process of an e-commerce website to understand better how the process of buying works. Compared to other disciplines, this field of expertise is relatively new, but more and more people are starting to get into it as companies understand the importance of it.
If you think about it from a psychological point of view, User Experience deals with the way a person feels when interacting with a product. It goes to everything from a website, an application, or a new version of the software for your PlayStation.
According to Steve Diller’s book Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, what experience design seeks to accomplish is developing the experience of the service along with certain points:
- Breadth (products, services, brands, nomenclatures, channels/environment/promotion, and price)
- Interaction (passive- active-interactive)
- Triggers (all human senses, concepts, and symbols)
- Significance (meaning, status, emotion, price, and function)
Why Is UX Important?
If we can agree that the users are the cornerstone of every app, product, or software, we can see why and how user experience is important.
It seems almost futile to justify the importance of designing in a world where we put so much emphasis on website design, graphic design, and interaction design. The importance of UX resides in a simple fact: it deals with the user’s behavior, and if we can agree that the users are the cornerstone of every app, product, or software, we can see why and how user experience is important.
But going deeper into the problem, there was a time when developing a website was not centered around user experience (UX). Dark times, some of you might think right now. These were the times when neither clients nor developers understood the value of user-centered design, and things were happening based on what one thought the development process should look like, what the developers thought to be right, or what they imagined the client would want to see. Everyone was working on a hinge, and products were developed based on what people thought to be working. “If it is good enough for me, it is good enough for everyone else”, right? There was no science and no actual data to back decisions up.
As time passed and the Internet world grew, the transformation became inevitable. Websites become more and more complex spaces, the number of features available on a common website increases day by day, and the need for great user interfaces become higher than ever. In addition to that, developers become aware of the importance of accessibility not only for individuals with special needs but also for those who do not have a state-of-the-art mobile device.
Products that have all the great user experience elements are usually strikingly different from those that do not. We are talking about those great products designed with not only the product’s consumption in mind but the entire process of owning it. There is no generally accepted definition of good user experience (UX), but most experts in this field would agree that good user experience is the one that meets user’s needs in the context where they use the product.
What Do You Need to Know About UX?
In 2020, user experience design is the new marketing. There is no use for a website with great publicity if the users drawn to your domain will be greeted with awful experience.
Most important of all, you have to understand what user experience does and does not.
It would be ignorant of you to assume that all situations would benefit from user experience design. This would mean that we live in a perfect world, where everything can be fixed immediately, and the budget is unlimited. We all know this is a dream on so many levels. What we know is that there are multiple areas that would gain the most from user experience design and the work of UX designers.
If you are in charge of a complex system, user experience design might come in handy, but keep in mind that user research is crucial.
While spending big money on a UX study for a simple static website seems unreasonable, more complex websites, interaction-rich web applications, or e-commerce websites might benefit a lot from a UX design upgrade.
Keep in mind that in a complex user interface, everything should be efficient, so it is important to have a good content strategy. You do not want customers to look at one particular area of your website and ask themselves why you bothered working on it.
Low-budget projects will also greatly benefit from user experience design. Forget all those Internet mantras that advise investing your last penny exclusively in marketing. In 2020, user experience design is the new marketing. There is no use for a website with great publicity if the users drawn to your domain will be greeted with awful experience.
Obviously, projects with longer timeframes and bigger budgets will benefit the most from user experience design. User experience designers could shorten timelines by taking in some of the tasks traditionally assigned to other departments such as Web Design or Research & Development.
What User Experience Design Is Not?
The best we can do is design for specific experiences and promote a set of behaviors, but no one will ever be able to create the perfect solution for every situation.
A very important thing you should have in mind when thinking about user experience is this one: while it is an incredibly useful discipline, it cannot accomplish certain things, and it will not solve all of your problems.
First of all, keep in mind that user experience design will not work in every situation or domain. Generally, there are no solutions that will work every single time, in any given environment. As human beings, we are all different in our own way and so are the communities that we create. The best we can do is design for specific experiences and promote a set of behaviors, but no one will ever be able to create the perfect solution for every situation.
Also, understand that replicating a successful model is not as easy as it may seem, and this certainly is the case with user experience design. User experiences will be altered within user interfaces. The design must be tailored to the purposes and values of the website.
Another common mistake when talking about user experience design is mixing it up with usability. According to International Standards, usability talks about how much a product can be used by designated users to achieve defined purposes with experiences, effectiveness, productivity, and fulfillment in a specified set of uses. We end up talking about usability whenever we refer to any of the tools used by individuals, and we can extend its meaning when talking about all non-digital or digital devices. Therefore, usability is a subset of user experience but not wholly included in its definition. An individual’s capacity to use a system or application is the area where principles of usability meet those of user experience.
Last but not least, in order to fully understand the art of User Experience design, you have to understand UX testing. The fundamental idea behind carrying is to check whether the design not yet in use would work properly for the targeted users. In usability testing procedures, a few things are verified. Firstly, you will want to know if you were successful with the product’s design. If not, it is time to find ways to improve that area because you have to make sure that you are the one to test the design, not the end-user. Secondly, you have to understand that design is evolving while you are working on it, so keep in mind that an important part of the process is to have usability testing after every stage.
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